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    Spying on Your kids

    The technology to spy on your kids is out there. But should you?

    A Matter of Trust continued...

    Brush agrees.

    "Adolescents are trying to separate from their parents, and that's developmentally appropriate," he says. "For normal adolescents, these devices would be intrusive and possibly damaging to the parents' relationship with the child. That means people who want to use these devices need to look carefully at their concerns. Is there some particular reason this child needs extra supervision, such as a drug problem, or drinking and driving? In those cases it may be appropriate to explain that you have to keep a closer eye on them."

    Legalities

    Another question should be: Are we legally allowed to monitor our children?

    Dean Kaufman, a lawyer who practices in Eugene, Ore., says in his state if you record a conversation without letting all participants know about it first, it's a Class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine or as much as a year in jail. However, the prohibition doesn't apply if you record members of your own family within your own home.

    Which means, in Oregon, at least, children could theoretically file civil lawsuits against their parents for harassment and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit would be more plausible if use of monitoring devices was secret, Kaufman says, less plausible if it was part of a management program discussed with the child.

    Since each state makes its own laws on these issues, parents would be well-served to consult a lawyer for information on local laws on childhood monitoring, he says.

    What Brought Us to This?

    The romanticized idea of an American childhood used to mean pickup ball games, putting on an impromptu show in the back yard, and unscheduled time to decipher cloud shapes and daydream. Ask grownups today for images of an ideal childhood, and they'll describe Tom Sawyer whitewashing a fence or Huck Finn drifting down the Mississippi.

    Tomorrow's adults are more likely to recall back-to-back appointments for Little League, drama club, soccer camp, dance recitals, and foreign language drills.

    "In general, parents are highly stressed today, more worried about their jobs," Brush says. "As everybody gets busier we have less contact with our kids. We're not at home as much, and the kids, too, are out doing other things."

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