Parents are continuously struggling to keep up with the technology that their children are using. We’re rather like the federal government in that our policies are often decades behind the technological curve (hence the NSA communications debacle). As such, we tend to treat things like cell phones the same way we would, say, a personal diary. If we’re the type of parent who fundamentally doesn’t trust how our children will interact with the world, then we are perfectly willing to violate trust by reading a diary, right? So, therefore, we should also be able to monitor text messages and other interactions that our children might have using their cell phones.
Here’s the thing though… We’ve spent decades letting our teenagers talk on the phone without listening in on the other line or hovering over their shoulder, haven’t we? The only difference between a phone call and a text message is that the latter makes it EASIER for us to keep tabs on our children. However, I’ve always been uncomfortable with what these actions (reading texts, instant messages, facebook conversations, reading diaries, etc) teach our children. Particularly given broader questions of privacy in modern society.
The Edward Snowden leak of classified documents, as reported by the Guardian on June 5th of this year, absolutely rocked both the American public and, after further leaks, the international community. Those of us who grew up on Cyberpunk novels and/or conspiracy theories, weren’t particularly surprised that cell phone calls were being monitored by the NSA (we’ve been expecting the rest of you to catch up with us), but the fact that our government found it perfectly acceptable to do so and the relative lack of concerted outcry by Joe Public leads me to believe that we’ve fairly happily let our privacy erode over the past few decades. After all, we’re unconcerned by the fact that every credit card transaction is tracked and used to sell us more crap, so who cares of they know who we call, when we call them, and how long we talk to them? I’m one of those people who has embraced this modern reality, probably due to the fact that I’ve spent 20 years online. But does my own complicity with the policies have anything to do with early parental brainwashing on what IS and IS NOT fair game for snooping?
Whether or not my own parents actively engaged in tracking my diary entries (I didn’t really keep one anyway), or notes I saved from passing in school, or my phone calls, it was always understood that they had the RIGHT to do so; they were the authority figure and authority figures are allowed to monitor their citizens. It is known, Khaleesi! Seriously, this just isn’t something I would have questioned UNTIL I caught them invading what I still nominally considered my space. We are taught, constantly, that the Authority has this right, both to protect our national (or family) interests and our personal safety. But I want to say right now – stop teaching your kids this. Stop teaching them that it’s acceptable for the Authority to snoop. Your child has the choice to share whatever the hell he or she wants, but until that information is SHARED it is NOT yours to discover or reveal.
Don’t treat your child like a terrorist and maybe, just maybe, they a) won’t become one and b) will fight back when their government tries to take every right to privacy away from us.
So, yes, my kids have a cell phone now. And I am going to resist the Mama Bear urge to read everything they text because even if *I* gave them the right to use a cell phone, I do not have the right to use that gift as a way to abuse my power.