South Korea Forces Parents To Spy On Their Kids Using Smartphones

by
Indrani Sengupta
All smartphones bought by or for individuals under 19 will now include an app allowing their parents to monitor their searches, their access, their freedoms.

Some parents are in favor of using technology to keep tabs on their children. Others find it a violation of their children’s privacy. Sure, you want to know where your children are/what they’re doing, but maybe don’t turn the kid’s bedroom into a surveillance state?

children’s privacy

But up until this point, the question of parental monitoring has been subject to personal choice by parents themselves, with input from their peers, their children, and a wider dialogue. The government has kept out of it.

A new rule dictates that all smartphones bought by (or for) individuals under 19 carry a monitoring app. “Smart Sheriff,” and similar apps, will alert parents to their children’s online behavior, blocking access to certain sites and highlighting searches which contain words like “pregnancy.”

We understand that the impulse behind such a move may be well-meaning. After all, parents who are worried about their teens facing bullying, contemplating suicide or running away from home—all search phrases the app will highlight--- may turn to such technology to help their children.

But what happened to open dialogue between parent and child? Some children may not trust their parents with certain details of their lives or thoughts to initiate or even relent to such discussions, but surely surveilling their every move won’t help inspire such confidence.

Children are in their parents’ charge until a certain age, but they begin developing into independent individuals with a right to a separate selfhood long before that time. Many South Korean boys are conscripted for military service at age 18: they’re old enough to serve their nation, but not to live unsupervised lives?

Imagine a young woman who has every reason to keep her pregnancy secret from her parents, who she believes would infringe upon her right to choose. Imagine the questionable parents who could abuse such a system of surveillance. And imagine the closeness that could be fostered between parent and child if closeness weren’t forced, but encouraged.

But the new policy has no opt-out system, so both parents and children have their hands tied. 

Read more: Apps Help Parents Monitor Children's Internet Use

photo credit: flickr @ mr_t_in_dc

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