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Spying on your kids online vs. Holding them accountable – Highlights from the Today Show

Last Updated: April 10, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Yesterday on the Today Show the subject was monitoring your child’s online activity. How far should you go? When is your child’s privacy a concern? When is their safety a greater concern?

Of course, parents are divided over these questions. On one hand, some parents think monitoring software is far too intrusive and communicates distrust and disrespect. On the other hand, some parents are more concerned about the dangers and temptation their child could encounter online. They want to be the first line of defense.


Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • Secretive and risky online behavior is common. 54% of teens admit to engaging in risky online behavior, and 40% said they have given out personal information online, even though they thought they shouldn’t.
  • Spying vs. Holding Accountable. Donna Rice Hughes (president of Enough is Enough) said parents need to use the tools that are available, like monitoring software, but parents should let their kids know why. Michelle Borba, Today Show contributor, echoed the same idea: it isn’t “spying” on your kids when you have communicated upfront what you are doing and why. Hughes recommends parents lay down the rules, monitor their kids’ activity, and if they break the rules, shrink their online privileges until they show they can be accountable.
  • Good Communication + Technical Tools = Safety. One police chief says, “Software isn’t going to solve everything. Communication isn’t going to resolve everything. Put the two together in a family environment with a good support group, and we think you’ll raise successful children.”
  • Use real world examples to teach. Educate yourself about specific instances where children have fallen into trouble because of risky online behavior. Use these examples to talk to your kids about appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

For more information:

  • Watch our free online safety seminar. Learn about the dangers kids are facing online and how parents can be first line of defense.
  • Read our own interview with Donna Rice Hughes on our Facebook page. About a week ago we asked Donna, “How can you talk to your teens about what kind of pictures they should (and should not) post online?” Read her answer on the Covenant Eyes Facebook page.
  • Comments on: Spying on your kids online vs. Holding them accountable – Highlights from the Today Show
    1. Mark Pearson

      I have mixed feelings about this one. Having recently graduated from my parents’ “Lab Rat Academy”. I know firsthand that they think spying is the best policy in our house. I know why it is important to be careful online, but I don’t really understand my parents’ reasoning. That should be a parent’s #1 goal: to help the kid understand the why behind the protection.

      Also, allow your children some sort of freedom. My parents were prying into everything, including my e-mail. They wouldn’t let me post on forums in online communities I could relate with (i.e. Goodreads). This especially was a struggle, because not many people really share my hobbies.

      So, in a nutshell, while keeping children safe is good, they will be less likely to defy you if you are willing to allow them some commodities,

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Mark – I think that was the exact point they were making on the Today Show. Of course we allow children to benefit from the Internet. Of course we should allow them to make it a part of their social life and their learning experiences. But building a culture of accountability in the home is paramount.

    2. Daniel Wong

      luke – you can’t have accountability if you are over the shoulder constantly watching, supervising, and waiting for them to make a mistake. this type of software damages relationships, permanently

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Daniel – Not sure exactly what you mean. I agree you shouldn’t be constantly looking over someone’s shoulder, and I certainly agree that we shouldn’t be “mistake” focused when it come to Internet responsibility, but those are more attitude related issues. Many kinds of parental software solutions, used with that kind of attitude, could be a problem. But accountability software used with the right attitude actually strengthens relationships…at least that’s what the many testimonies we receive indicate. Help me understand a little better what you are getting at?

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