Experts: Spying on your children via their gadgets is bad for the kid

  • Children
  • Sunday, 06 Oct 2019

Smartwatches are an alternative to smartphones for children, but some parents use them to ‘spy’ on their children. — dpa

Many parents and guardians may see a smartwatch as a perfect alternative to a smartphone for their child, especially at the start of secondary school. The child can make and receive calls from a set of contacts that parents choose, send and receive voicemail, and press an SOS button that alerts guardians in an emergency.

That’s not all. Thanks to a GPS tracker, parents can follow a child’s location on their smartphones. Guardians can also keep tabs on who the child speaks with on the watch phone.

But media experts warn against excessive supervision, such as using a smartwatch voice-monitoring feature that allows parents to hear ambient noise without being heard themselves.

“This infringes on the child’s freedom and privacy,” says Kristin Langer, a media coach for a German group backed by the government and public broadcasters, that advises guardians and teachers on children’s use of digital media.

She says teachers have told her that some parents even listen in on their child’s classes. “It’s illegal to tap into schools, which aren’t public spaces,” Langer points out, adding that starting school is a step towards independence for a child, and entering secondary school a further step.

“Children who learn that their parents are eavesdropping on them via their watch or reading their chats, or who are questioned, ‘Who were you gabbing with on the corner for 15 minutes’, feel it to be a major betrayal of trust,” she warns.

Langer recommends that guardians configure the smartwatch together with the child and that they jointly decide on the features to be used. “If the child can confidently use the Internet and behave responsibly, they can also use a childproofed smartphone,” she says. – dpa

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