Feeds

back to article Your mom, girlf, boyf: Spying on your phone and email

Three in five parents snoop on their teenager's email and calling habits, but teenagers themselves are almost as guilty of checking out the communications history of their partners. The survey was conducted by online store Retrevo, which reports that almost half of those under 25 admit to examining their partner's devices when …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Thumb Down

Intrusive parents

I bet they wouldn't like it if they had their personal data searched!

4
7
Silver badge
WTF?

Intrusive parents? No, *Responsible* Parents!

There is a difference between state monitoring of someone's personal data and the actions of a parent who wishes to ensure that their child is safe!

Ok, I think it would be better to be done *with* the consent of the child rather than snooping behind their backs, but how many times have comments been posted in articles in El Reg saying that it's the job of the *parents* to take care of what their children do on the web and who they talk to via e-mail etc?

So why does this article seemingly portray sensible, responsible concerns of parents as a bad thing?

17
1
Anonymous Coward

title

"So why does this article seemingly portray sensible, responsible concerns of parents as a bad thing?"

Because I'm 27 damn it! Yes Mum, back before midnight.

5
0
Stop

No, not responsible - misguided, rude, and occasionally illegal in their actions

"So why does this article seemingly portray sensible, responsible concerns of parents as a bad thing?"

Well, I can come up with a couple of rather good reasons. You already mentioned the first - that whole "without consent," or perhaps more accurately, "without knowledge." The article also makes it clear that we're talking about teenage children (last two paragraphs). I would never go through my teenage child's belongings, including correspondence, without telling them so - it's only right and proper, they may be your kids, but they're humans, too.

Finally, the article never said at what point the parents stop. They mention people spying on their adult partners, and if someone is willing to do that, I don't see why they wouldn't spy on their adult teenage children. That's not only unethical, but depending on the circumstances, it's illegal.

In short, for the love of all that's holy, watch over your kids very closely when they are young, but realize that if you find it necessary (or even comforting) to read your 16 year old teenager's emails every night then either you or your child has VERY serious problems (all the more so if the "teenager" is 19). Relax that leash a bit as they get older, otherwise you are only doing them a disservice - and eventually, you are breaking the law.

I guess to answer your question in a sentence, I'd have to say that the "sensible, responsible concerns of parents" aren't a bad thing, but the way they are handled can be.

-d

3
0
Anonymous Coward

it's called 'the shower attack'

in IT circles, as "guilty of checking out the communications history of their partners." is allegedly best done whilst you can hear the sound of running water. On the other hand those wise partners who take their iDevice into the shower with them might be aware of this 'attack' and presumably have something to hide!

1
1
FAIL

Not wanting to be spied on..

Doesn't mean you have anything to hide except your privacy.

0
0
Silver badge

@AC 12:49 GMT

As I used to say... I have nothing to hide from you doesn't mean I'd tell you everything.

1
0
WTF?

Is Bill Ray a parent?

"Blissful ignorance" was all well and good 20 years ago, but not so now I'm afraid. The internet (and the world in general these days) is a dangerous place for children for all manner of reasons and it's the parents who are ignorant (or just don't care enough) who will end up suffering the consequences.

Not even ten years ago were children regularly and reliably able to communicate with each other outside of school or with other children further than half a mile down the road and, even then, not "privately". Communication isn't a bad thing, but it HAS to be monitored. The parents who don't monitor what their children are doing on their phones/ipods and on the internet are creating a huge problem for those parents who do actually give a toss. Questions I have to field from my 13 year old pretty regularly are "Why can't I have a phone? ALL my friends have phones", "Why do you have to monitor and restrict my internet usage? NONE of my friends are restricted". I appreciate this is most likely the exaggeration of 13 year old desperately trying to shake off the shackles and deeming the whole thing terribly unfair, but I reckon there's still some truth in what he says.

"In 2011, 37 per cent of parents admitted checking out their children's communications (for their own good, of course)", I sense a hint of saracasm and the implication here is that these parents aren't doing it for their children's own good? If that's what you're saying then you're an imbecile

10
12
Silver badge

Re: Is Bill Ray a parent?

And the scaremongering has won a supporter.

2
1
Happy

Danger! Danger!

Actually I think you'll find that the world in general (at least the developed world) is a vastly safer place for children (& everybody else) than it used to be. The fears have become big & scary but by almost any measure the actual incidence of incidents has declined. Smile, things are much better than you think.

Rev. Andy

13
0
Thumb Down

*sigh*

Oh do tell how this is as a result of scaremongering and not what is visible with my own eyes and audible with my own ears? In case you hadn't noticed, this is a technology rag and there's a fair chance that those reading the articles are technically minded, might even work in the internet industry (as I do), so I have a pretty good grasp of what constitutes danger to my children without someone "scaring" me.

1
7
Silver badge

I'm with Paul Rogers

Although incidence of troubles are greatly reduced as commented above, that doesn't mean that there isn't a problem, and I think it's wise to at least be alert to those problems, and to do something about it where appropriate.

Or you could just stick you head in the sand and hope your child doesn't become another statistic (even though that is very very unlikely)

3
5
Silver badge

Re: *sigh*

All you've seen and heard with your eyes and ears is what has been sensationalised on TV and in the newspapers. Stranger danger is the same as it has ever been. The biggest threat to children is their own parents.

7
0
Megaphone

Well done! You've let them win!

The developed world is, according to most findings safer now than ever before, the reason you believe all this tripe is the intrusive media scremongering that goes on. The media needs to sell "copy" and there is no better audience than a captive, paranoid one for lapping up the drivel you are spouting.

How about you talk to your kids before you let them lose on the world. How about to teach them stranger danger but to a reasonable degree? Anyone of a certain age remember "Charlie Says" campaign? My parents warned me many times to be careful, stay in groups and ensure I pay attention and don't go anywhere too dangerous and don't go off with people you don't know. Simple and I managed to make it to adulthood. The media love scaring people, it makes great viewing and it ensures you come back for more shite to spew from the tube in the corner of the room.I'll offer some advice, turn off the TV and throw the papers in the recycling bin, they are both full of 100% A-grade bullshit designed to scare you into a) buying more media drivel and b) voting for the 'law and order guy' trying to get into power!

The world is not full of rapists, muderers and paedofiles, it's full of typical normal people happily getting drunk or ripping each other off financially!

9
0
Bronze badge
FAIL

@Paul Rogers et all

I call BS!

I have my daughter's (13) email account login and she knows it. I also pretty much never look at it, though I don't tell her that. She's due to get a cellphone, but doesn't have one yet. It should make it easier for her to contact me when she needs to.

We used to walk home from school when I was a kid. Now I feel adventurous sending her to the supermarket a block away when she was 10. Why? Because so many parents are so paranoid that you come off as a bad parent for letting your child breathe.

I have lectured her repeatedly about not talking to strangers, screaming if she is grabbed, not taking anyone's "let's keep this as our secret" bullshit. I have told her that if _I_ came out with a "our secret", she should tell her mother. Just to get her to understand that adults can't do that. I have inquired from the police whether there was some kind of watered-down RPG-type training about avoiding abuse (no, there isn't, but a suitably done one would be great).

But I refuse to spy on her communications without good reasons. I have no moral right to invade her privacy unless she gives me cause. At which point I have the obligation to do so.

We are raising a generation of not-self-sufficient, scared, and it now seems, nosy kids. All because the media, and some parents want to pretend that "now is worse than it ever was". 50 yrs ago, would you have dared question the relationship of an authority figure with your child? Would the police have helped? Do you think no children got abused?

11
0

Same as it ever was

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJUM8eRAWdI

NMA - "Frightened" - 1985!

0
0

What is visible with my own eyes and audible with my own ears.

Oh yeah? You've seen all these horrible things with your own eyes, have you? Were you watching TV at the time?

If it's in the news it's exceptional enough to make it onto the news. Normal, everyday stuff doesn't get into the press. You don't need to worry about it.

0
0

Maybe parents want to believe it's worse for them

I wonder if people like to think that they have it harder than their parents because the world has suddenly become a horrible and evil place like it never was when you were growing up.

0
0
Silver badge
Alert

Parents SHOULD be checking their kids

Home PC, console, cell phone, whatever. Computers that kids use should be out in the open and not in their rooms hidden away from view.

There are all sorts of weenies out there who troll for young children / teens and there are many horror stories out there.

Top Ten Tips for keeping your kids safe.

https://www.isc2.org/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?id=6961

4
3
Anonymous Coward

It's a point worth making any way you look at it.

Not-so-tangentially, we have private companies sitting on overly detailed logs of our doings (gsm location data, for example) and governments and others a tad too overly eager to make good use of all that. Unless we redesign such systems such that they positively cannot track us or at least not in that fine-grained a manner (think a national pager message to make the phone listen for an incoming call instead of having it always be signed into the nearest tower) we have to acknowledge that past mistakes are now haunting us. And so we need technology to put a lid on some of the existing technology's more onerous side effects.

Perhaps encrypt all that data and make keys to it available only to those who have some right to it. Law enforcement with a signed warrant would be an obvious choice, though most of the time they don't have such warrants and consequently no right at all to the data. Tough cookies law enforcement, there's a reason why we put rules on powers like that.

Whoever holds and perhaps pays for the mobile contract would be another. Parents being guarantor and/or supervising parties to a contract involving a minor would be another logical choice. Were I a parent I'd probably be happy checking once a month that the facility still works so that I might use it at need rather than, oh, plot whereabouts on the family living room wall-to-wall TV set. That way, I don't need to plant GPS devices.

It makes no sense not to use facilities that are there anyway and moreover that you can hardly escape and third parties like the government are bound to use, too. It does make sense to make really clear how we-the-people want all that tech to be used. The government is there for us-the-people, not the other way around.

2
0
WTF?

Hello .. Security .. Passwords ?

My iPhone has a pincode

My home server has a password

My home workstation has a password

My other half does NOT know them.

Yes there's a letter in the safe should it come down to "emergency circumstances" but the envelope is one of the "sealed - rip to open" type so its peek-proof.

My other half would be just as narked off with me peeking at his accounts as I would be if I caught him peeking at mine.

5
2

you have seperate

Accounts????

1
1
Unhappy

Are you serious?

Jeez, I couldn't handle that level of paranoia with someone I supposedly want to spend the rest of my life with! That just sounds so sad, my condolences.

I know my Missus right down to her underwear size, I know what she hates the sound off, what she hates the taste off, what my kids do that could tick her off, her favourite colour, favourite band and song. We have separate online accounts for this and that but we both have password books and we both know where they are in case the other needs to get access for some reason. She could probably tell me more about myself than I know! 25 years of hard work and mainly trust. Yeah it could all one day just fall to pieces but you spend all your time worrying that might happen and it sounds like a very hard and desperately unhappy life ahead.

3
1
Silver badge

On the other hand ...

... I am my wife's IT manager. I know how to get into every account she holds (even if the password is changed, I know the process she uses, and could work it out fairly quickly). However, I would not do it - I just can't be arsed. She is a fully grown up person who is entitled to a life of her own.

My laptop is seriously locked down because it goes out of the house, with multiple layers of protection from boot-up all the way through to encrypted folders on encrypted drives. I doubt my wife would have the patience to try to get through that lot, even if she knew how to find the encrypted stuff, anyway. The home computer, though, has the passwords saved for anything she might need to know if I am incapacitated for any reason.

The kids, though - as far as I know, I can get into anything they have. So far I haven't needed to, but they are aware that they can be monitored if need be (a good life lesson - never assume you are safe from nosy bastards). I think this is merely an extension of my mum knowing where the porn magazines were stored, and who I fancied at school from random jottings on bits of paper in my bedroom!

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Are you serious?

"Jeez, I couldn't handle that level of paranoia with someone I supposedly want to spend the rest of my life with!"

That's fine. On the other hand I'd rather go with paranoia than insecurity. There is no reason you would need to know everything about your partner (much less snoop into their personal communications), other than mistrust or to deny them a sense of individuality by taking away their privacy.

And by the way, "off" <> "of".

0
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

I'm pretty sure my mum knew where I stashed my porn mags.

Does this mean she was grossly infringing on my right to privacy?

2
0
Thumb Down

It's getting worrying

How many of you seem to think that outright surveillance is part of being a good parent.

My parents seemed to do an ok job whilst simultaneously respecting privacy (admittedly myspace and facebook were still just fields a decade ago, but there were still email, mobiles and group chat via msn). It's not like any of these measures are impervious to a good old fashioned private meet-up or a natter on the playground anyway is it?

8
1
Silver badge

Not sure you have noticed

But things are a LOT different now to 10 years ago.

My parents did a good job on me too btw, which is why I want to do the same for my children.

1
9
Anonymous Coward

I don't think they are.

Yes the internet is more ubiquitous, and yes, there are social networks that now exist that don't. But I can't help thinking that the only thing that has changed is the means of communication. There is a wider audience I guess, but there were still message boards and all that crap. I can't help feeling that fear of something happening is far higher than the risk of anything happening, probably due to tabloid reporting.

It just seems to me that a bit of education about the risks of the internet would go a lot further than constant surveillance. People didn't tend to follow their kids round town to make sure they weren't talking to strangers, so i don't see why the same rules can't apply online.

8
0
Alert

@James Hughes 1

"But things are a LOT different now to 10 years ago.

My parents did a good job on me too btw, which is why I want to do the same for my children."

You mean the way that the world is MUCH safer for our children than it was for us? I agree, the statistics, research and crime reporting makes that pretty clear - even with the "new dangers" of our age, our children are much more likely to reach adulthood without traumatic experience - or even just reach adulthood - than we were.

So obviously, we should panic over the threats that are left, and try to wrap them in bubble wrap until they are 18, upon which they will "be adults", have no real life experience to fall upon, and get themselves in trouble, maimed or killed by being thrown into the deep end to see if they can swim. Sounds like a plan to me!

</very bitter sarcasm>

Perceived risk is not the same as actual risk. Adolescence exists in no small part to teach our children to be adults, and to take more and more responsibility. We have to stop hovering over our children - our TEENAGE children - all the time if we don't want them to have trouble later on.

-d

2
0

Checking Comms

To be honest, I too occasionally look at my wifes messages, and she does the same with mine, but there is no secret going on there.

Also my daughters communications are 100% checked.

Every email she sends or receives is automatically CCed to my wifes and my email address.

But she knows about it.

Granted, my daughter is only nine, but I will keep it this way for at least another 5 or 6 years.

I do agree a teenager needs to have a little bit of privacy, but with the amount of junk flying around these days from xxx to penile enlargemetn offiers, And dubious propositions, I will drop this when my wife and I deem her mature enough to make a reasonably sensible decision.

It is my duty as a parent, to protect my children from harm.

As parents we are aware, that cant just keep them locked up, but at least when something comes in, that seems unsuitable, I can at least talk to her and find out whats going on.

And as long as she is aware, I don't see this as an invasion privacy.

A lot of our children are messed up, because parents don't care, don't have time, have something "more important" to do etc.

For crying outloud, they are our children and we have to care for them.

I don't agree with doing this in secrecy, but in an open and honest fashion, so that they understand that it is for their protection.

And once they get to the point of reasonable responsibility, we can start letting go bit by bit.

Of course they have to learn that the world is not just milk and honey, but lets not let them drop into the snakepit.

6
2

@ZimboKraut

"Also my daughters communications are 100% checked.

Every email she sends or receives is automatically CCed to my wifes and my email address.

But she knows about it.

Granted, my daughter is only nine, but I will keep it this way for at least another 5 or 6 years."

You, Sir, are a perfect example of what I would like to hold up as the ideal. No secrets, and an intention to back off when she is old enough and "[has gotten] to the point of reasonable responsibility."

Thank you for sharing.

-d

2
1

Same here

Funnily enough my daughter (similar age) has just asked for her own email account and I intended to so the same thing as you (cc all in/out emails etc) but let her know this as you are.

Best way to go in my mind

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Checking Comms

You seem to assume your daughter is stupid enough not to have her own email account which you know nothing about to keep her private communications private.

0
0
Flame

oh dear

you clearly didn't read that his daughter is 9 yrs old and is unlikely to know how to do this (if she does then she's got a bright future in IT).

As others have commented when my kids are old enough to work out how to get their own email then they're likely old enough to be given more responsibility. It's like when we were kids and I told my mother I was sleeping at jon's and jon told his he was sleeping at mine and we went to the party instead - all part of growing up is "beating the system" of mum and dad's rules.

0
0

Cats

I'm sure my cat is monitoring my communications. I just can't prove it.

2
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Zap

Until last year my budgie's cage was in a direct line between my laptop and the wifi point. All he had to do was evolve a receiver then do the decryption in his head :D

On a slightly (only slightly) more serious note - he has spent his entire life living within two metres of a WAP and at coming up to eight is still very healthy and very happy. If a budgie can live on into old age while being bombarded with HF EM then it's no threat to me :)

3
0
FAIL

Nice try

"Granted, my daughter is only nine, but I will keep it this way for at least another 5 or 6 years."

You might, but do you think that she will? Seriously? Or do you think she'll open a gmail account and mail her new boyfriend from that?

3
0

All part of growing up

....and getting around that kinda thing is one of the signs that she's wanting to take a little bit more responsibility as long as she knows what she's getting into.

Don't forget...were talking CHILDREN...if they were ready for full responsibility for their actions then they'd be ADULTS, whatever age they are.

I can't see a problem with getting her email cc'd as long as the parents also take the time to educate her on why they are doing it, when she eventually opens her gmail account that'll be her first tenative steps into giving her a chance to make her own mistakes....in some places they call this growing up.

8
0
Silver badge
WTF?

WTF

is up with the American spelling of Mum. This is not on El Reg!

2
0
Boffin

MOM

= Microsoft Operations Manager

0
0
Silver badge

People should learn to trust partners

IMO that's the whole issue wrt teenagers who snoop on each other; a classic lack of trust. Of course trust needs to be earned, but spying on one other is IMO the first sign that there's only distrust, which in itself is also a very bad motivator for a serious relation.

5
0
Childcatcher

Worth knowing...

...I was at a pub quiz recently, & one of the questions was "What does the abbreviation POS mean, in teenage internet chatrooms ?" - and no-one in the room knew, myself included.

So for everyone's enlightenment & future knowledge... "Parent Over Shoulder"

(Just don't let the *little darlings* know that you know)

0
0
Happy

Acronyms

Myself and a few others in my circle used to use the slightly more generic "CTF" for this purpose, standing for "Can't Talk Freely." As far as I can recall we came up with it ourselves rather than adopting existing vernacular, but apparently the idea wasn't unique.

I don't plan on having kids myself, but I wonder if such measures might not be useful as a growing up tool...set up monitoring that's meant to be evaded eventually, and when they're motivated and skillful enough to do so, it may be a good sign they're ready for the results.

(I still remember reconnecting a dialup line at the phone box in the middle of the night once, to get around parental punishment so I could talk to my girlfriend....good times. Good learning experience too.)

0
0

Wonder where this came from - does anyone actually use it?

Not to impugn your pub quiz but I've never really believed there's a secret underground code that children use in their ongoing conflict with the grown ups. It's all a bit Famous Five for me.

There's supposed to be a thing called the Rainbow Party where a number of teenage girls all perform oral sex on a teenage boy while wearing different coloured lipsticks. It was on Oprah or something a while back. It terrified parents that their children were doing this but I suspect such a thing has never happened outside of a teenage boy's mind.

0
0
Stop

As a parent of a teenager

We have been through this with her (as have the school, involving a talk from the local constabulary and a psychologist). We explained she had to have either mum or dad as a friend on facebook. Her choice which, and that we had no real interest reading all the chatter with her friends, but its there as a "just in case". To the guy who cc's his daughters email, all I can say mine has at least 3 email accounts that I am aware of (one on my server, her school email and a hotmail account). She switches between them depending on what machine she is using.

There is a difference between "monitoring" email and internet usage and spying on it. In the same way that as a parent you can keep an eye on your child's behaviour without filing it all on cctv.

1
0

What is the difference between monitoring and spying?

I suggest they're all part of the same irregular verb:

I monitor

You spy

They put it on Wikileaks

0
0
Gold badge
FAIL

Feel free.

Go on, check the call history and such on my 'phone.

Do you *really* think I'd be dumb enough to use something I habitually leave lying around the house for anything that might get me into hot water?

This is "Facebook disease". You don't *have* to lower your intelligence to Facebook level and have your entire life in one sodding place....

4
0
Thumb Down

People should learn to trust children

I have three children, the oldest of whom is a teenager.

My role is to educate them as to sensible online (and of course offline) behaviour in the same way that I taught them to cross the road. I have NO right to spy on them, particularly without their knowledge. I absolutely disagree that parents have a responsibility to snoop on their children that betrays a complete lack of either trust or respect.

If I had found out that my parents had done something like this (I suppose the equivalent in my generation would have been reading letters and diaries) I don't think I ever would have forgiven them. Beware, if you don't trust your children, they will amply repay that lack of trust.

11
0
Facepalm

RE: People should learn to trust children

I do agree with you that there shouldn't be spying on the children.

And as you used this term, I would like to emphasize, that spying does mean that it is doen secretly.

My daughter (9) knows, understands and is actually quite happy with it.

As I have been working for nearly 20 years in the IT industry amongst others, in the fields of system and network security, I would dare to say, that I am reasonably aware of the risks.

Fact is, that we as parents have an obligation to keep our children reasonably safe. Observing and assessing risks and educating them accordingly.

After all, you wouldn't let a three year old cross the road by him/herself.

He/She needs to be taught that cars can come from either side, and then for severla years they are taken by the hand.

Eventually they will learn and will get independent enough to go on their own.

You may say, that traffic is something completly differnt.....

Well it isn't.

Just because you can't be run over doesn't mean you can't get hurt.

Just to mention the term "Cyber-bullying"

In our home we talk about these issues and once she is old enough to require her "privacy" apart from in the bathroom, she will find a way around it, or (in our family very likely) she will just ask me and it can be looked into.

Until that time, I am going to do my level best to continue to observe and keep my kids safe.

2
1

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.