Carol Platt Liebau: "Paranoid Parenting"

Friday, August 04, 2006

"Paranoid Parenting"

In today's Opinion Journal, Kay Hymowitz discusses the new ways that parents can "snoop" on their children's activities through GPS systems and the like. She points out that, by employing these devices, parents short-circuit moral questions (about when it's right figuratively to peer over their children's shoulder) and avoid having to make periodic judgments about their maturity that are, she says, essential to guiding their development.

But it's also worth looking at from a child's point of view. Knowing your parents are tracking you with GPS essentially deprives you of the opportunity to be your own moral agent -- to go to tutoring instead of your boyfriend's house not because you'll get caught, but because it's the right thing to do. What's more, it turns parents from allies into adversaries. I knew my parents trusted me to do the right thing, and for that reason, I was determined not to disappoint them. Had they tagged a GPS on me, my feelings would have been very different -- and, I fear, if I had felt that my parents had more cofidence in an electronic tattletale than in me, I would have done everything I could to "get around" the GPS, or any other device.

7 Comments:

Blogger COPioneer said...

yep, I feel the same way. You have to let kids smack into that wall now and then in order for them to learn that it hurts.

Heard a thing on the radio about a guy who put a "How's my Teen Driving" bumper sticker on his daughter's car, with an 800 number. Paranoid was what I thought too. Now if it's my Boys... ;)

8:59 AM  
Blogger amber said...

I know a parent who did that too, but after the kids had received 3 speeing tickets and crashed the car.
I agree, kids need to be given the opportunity to grow up. How can I tell the kids to stay out of my stuff while I am reading their journals? they already think we are hypocrites.

9:55 AM  
Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Carol - This is a more complicated matter than your post (or Hymowitz' piece) makes it sound. Where does the parent's duty lie? With the safety of the child or the moral support of the child? Also, who says the youths have to be aware of the tracking?

I am contemplating putting such a device in the vehicle (as trucking companies do). It's kind of a middle ground - should something unexpected happen, we have a logical starting point, but it doesn't follow every last personal movement.

Incidentally Amber, hypocrisy is not necessarily a bad thing. I consider it OK if it is done for a greater purpose. Parents who smoke had better be hypocrites - i.e. tell theirs not to smoke. Ideally they themselves would quit, but meanwhile they owe it to their kids to be hypocrites, because their ultimate motive is safety and love.

Hypocrisy for the sake of self-promotion or self-enrichment is wrong. Hypocrisy for the sake of safety for loved ones, to me is just fine.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Editor said...

Some American adults are willing to be spied on by Bush and lose their freedom under the premise that a few bad actors hate us for our freedom. Hmmm!

12:00 PM  
Blogger eLarson said...

Oh look! An "Editor" wrote:
Some American adults are willing to be spied on by Bush and lose their freedom under the premise that a few bad actors hate us for our freedom. Hmmm!

Yeah, I'll bet that's what he does when no one's looking: spying on 300 million Americans! (GWB: "Sorry, Laura, I can't come to bed. I'm checking in on the Larsons. Only 50 million more households to spy on after that.")

Actually the bad actors hate us because we don't subscribe to their brand of Islam, which, in case you haven't noticed in all of your, er, editing, doesn't exactly cotton to individual liberty, religious freedom, or sexual equality to name 3. I'd say "Freedom" is a pretty fair piece of short-hand.

12:43 PM  
Blogger amber said...

HOS,
I disagree, hypocracy has no place in my parenting. I don't smoke, I don't run around in slutty clothes. I swear, not lal of the time, but I do. If my 5 year old says a word I know I said, I explain to them that some people are offended by that and we should try and not say those words, but I do not punish them. If you want to be able to keep your kids safe, get onstar. Wedo not need to spy on them. If we act as though we do not trust our children, how will be become trustworthy? No matter how sneaky you are, your children will know you are spying.

Editor, Why do you post such anti government stuff if you are worried they are spying? They might read this stuff, put you on a list, kidnap you from your home, and ship you to Liberia so they can torture you for the rest of your life.

1:00 PM  
Blogger wile e coyote said...

As a father of three small children, I have found that theory must yield to practicality, and logic to experience. Each situation and each child are different. You do the best you can.

The best thing a parent can do for a child is provide a good example. But, sometimes that isn't enough. There are many evil forces out there, evil in that they delight in corrupting and destroying the innocent.

I am glad that there are technology tools for verification available. Sometimes, trust has yet to be earned or must be rebuilt, though I hope I will never have occassion to use them.

3:57 PM  

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