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How closely should parents screen their kids' online activities? Add to ...

We often hear that parents should monitor their children’s Internet use to protect them from predators, cyber-bullies and other dangers lurking in the digital world.

But are new tracking technologies giving parents too much oversight?

The New York Times questions whether surveillance is the best way to protect children in an article that examines the burgeoning industry of Internet tracking technologies aimed at concerned parents. 

A few years ago, businesses specializing in such tools focused on blocking children from accessing inappropriate web sites on their home computers, the Times reports. Today, they allow parents to keep tabs on their children’s activities wherever they go, and on any device, from laptops to tablets to smartphones.

Parents, for instance, can monitor every chat and every post on their children’s Facebook accounts, they can view every text message they send to their friends, and they can even receive alerts whenever their children use inappropriate language online.

But, as the Times points out, they can’t help parents read their children’s minds. Plus, there’s a fine line between monitoring and spying.

One father told the newspaper he used an iPhone app to receive a copy of every text message his son sent to his girlfriend. “I feel torn a little bit. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy,” he said. “But he’s 13. I want to protect him.”

Another, Lynn Schofield Clark, said she prefers that her 11-year-old daughter confides in her, rather than tracking her movements online.

“It’s too easy to get involved in surveillance,” Ms. Clark said. “That undermines our influence as parents. Kids interpret that as a lack of trust.”

Parents, what do you do you protect your children online?

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