Disclosure: This post appears in slightly different form on a private social media page.
On this post, I’m sharing a screenshot of something I found on Twitter earlier this afternoon. Both Twitter entries are by the same person, and I believe she is acting with good intentions. Her avi and username are ersased from the screenshot because of my own concerns about a phone app she is using.
Unfortunately, the second (lower) message includes a link to a blogsite which recommends the app in question. That’s where I got more uncomfortable, and I cropped the link from the screenshot.
According to the blog post recommending the app, it is being marketed as a device to track children’s activity and listen in on their private conversations. It includes some sort of alarm that alerts parents if a child has walked outside a defined perimeter.
The mother who posted this on Twitter appears to be using the app to protect her child from an abusive teacher. That’s great, and I hope the teacher doesn’t sue her over that.
Recently, a company marketing a similar app (I’m not sure if it was this one) was promoting their product in Saudi Arabia, as a tool for helping men control women. That produced controversy, but most people will react more positively to a product that assists parents in controlling their children, on the assumption that controlling kids keeps them safe.
Have no illusions about this app being guaranteed to locate victims of stranger abduction. By now, many people who commit those crimes probably know enough to ditch the victim’s cell phone immediately. The general public (including criminals) have heard of GPS.
The police state conditions created by this app can place the public health and safety at risk by making it more difficult for young people to obtain care from STI clinics. Okay, there’s probably an assumption that the app will stop young people from having sex in the first place, but don’t count on it. Often, having sex is easier than dealing with the aftermath.
When this app is in use, support groups for children of addicted or mentally ill parents will be out of reach for kids whose parents don’t want them at those meetings, unless the kids have off-site storage space for their phones that won’t raise the parents’ suspicions. Support groups are meant to be highly confidential, but at the end of each meeting any child or teenager being monitored on that app will risk being met by a parent circling the block in the family car — a parent who heard every word of what was said during the meeting.
Sometime prior to 2010, a woman in California tortured one of her two children to death. The abuse had gone on for months or possibly years, and the county agency that was supposed to investigate child abuse failed to act on reports from relatives and neighbors who called the agency repeatedly.
That mother, who was described in a news report as “paranoid schizophrenic,” had video equipment installed all over her apartment for the purpose of catching her children conspiring against her.
At the time, the presence of video cameras in her home was interpreted as aberrant behavior.
Just in the past couple of weeks, though, I was listening to a streaming service on my iPhone and heard an ad for in-home surveillance equipment. It was promoted as something to keep children safe, of course with no mention that it would appeal most strongly to disturbed people who feel an impulse to create Orwellian conditions for their children. No mention of the possibility that some kids who have to live that way might be conditioned to be paranoid, either. This was a paid advert, and it was all about making money.
Surveillance is accepted nearly everywhere, and private homes are NOT the final frontier. Cameras in toilet stalls and showers are more controversial than anything parents inflict on their own children. Just wait for real time surveillance to turn up in enough of those places, though. Then we’ll hear a truckload of excuses, and gradually there will be fewer and fewer protections, even for adults who don’t want their personal bodily functions monitored for others to watch.