Published by Ana Etxebarria, 26th July 2012

A few days ago I experienced a situation that most parents will probably face, especially when children become teenagers. One of my nephews boasted on a social network of having taken his first alcoholic drink and smoked his first cigarette. He is 12 years old. I still do not know, and doubt that I will ever know, if it was a big boy bravado or fact. But nevertheless, this led to a family dilemma with a complex solution.

Should we spy on them or not?

In a world where six year old kids play with strangers online, 10 year olds already have smartphones and 13 year olds (or younger) have profiles on Facebook, it may seem tempting to think that the best weapon parent have to defend our children from any potential danger is spying. Now to be fair, children should always know that we are watching their moves. That is, we would have to be those uncomfortable and unwanted “friends” whose invitation they have no choice but to accept. As discussed here a few months ago, Mom, were you spying on me?, if it were our case, at least we should not forget the “etiquette” with them.

How much should we spy our kids?
How much should we spy our kids?

Asking to be his “friends” on Facebook is a truly subtle and honest way of espionage. A step beyond, there are  programs which will allow us to know exactly the content of SMS exchanges with friends, the exact pages they are browsing and the time they spend in each one of them or in chat conversations.

Yet this attitude is at odds with the concept of a father who naturally trusts his son, who teaches him to be a responsible adult and that, without reasons for it, nothing can justify an intrusion of this kind in the private life of anyone, let alone their children’s. The objective of this somewhat unrealistic group, is not to ignore the habits of their children when they are online but to limit the use of all electronic devices as much possible and postpone the purchase of smartphones for as long as possible. Encouraging outdoor activities is certainly a healthy lifestyle and the time spent on the Internet is decreased and therefore the risks associated with the network are reduced.

But then, Who is right? Who is wrong?

I believe that, as in any other aspect of life, common sense is the only tool to be applied. In order to raise confident and self-sufficient children, which deep down is the main desire of any parent, you must be able to mix all the ingredients properly. Basically a father is not very different from a cook and a tasty dish must have a liuttle bit of everything and everything in the right amount. You have to watch the cooking time but also let it cook at its pace. And of course every cook has his tricks and no dish is always the same.

What do you think?