The New York Times takes a look at online harassment, also called cyberbullying, and how parents are attempting to protect their children. The story includes a discussion of privacy:
It is difficult enough to support one’s child through a siege of schoolyard bullying. But the lawlessness of the Internet, its potential for casual, breathtaking cruelty, and its capacity to cloak a bully’s identity all present slippery new challenges to this transitional generation of analog parents.
Desperate to protect their children, parents are floundering even as they scramble to catch up with the technological sophistication of the next generation. […]
Should teenagers have the same expectation of privacy from parents in their online accounts that an earlier generation had with their little red diaries and keys?
Software programs that speak to parental fears are manifold. Parents can block Web sites, getting alerts when the child searches for them. They can also monitor cellphones: a program called Mobile Spy promises to let parents see all text messages, track G.P.S. locations and record phone activity without the child knowing. Parents who never believed they would resort to such tactics find themselves doing so. […]
Conversely, studies show that more parents are heading in Christine’s direction. A recent study of teenagers and phones by the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project said that parents regard their children’s phones as a “parenting tool.” About two-thirds said they checked the content of their children’s phones (whether teenagers pre-emptively delete texts is a different matter). Two-thirds of the parents said they took away phones as punishment. Almost half said they used phones to check on their child’s whereabouts.
Anne Collier, editor of NetFamilyNews.org, a parenting and technology news blog, noted that stealth monitoring may be warranted in rare cases, when a parent suspects a child is at serious risk, such as being contacted by an unknown adult.
But generally, she said, spying can have terrible repercussions: “If you’re monitoring your child secretly,” Ms. Collier said, “what do you say to the kid when you find something untoward? Then the conversation turns into ‘you invaded my privacy,’ which is not what you intended to talk about.”