Car: Devices can record distance, speed and driving behavior, such as hard braking and sharp turning. Some pinpoint a car's location using Global Positioning System technology and alert parents if a teen driver exceeds a certain speed or leaves a defined geographic area. One, the CarChip, costs $139. Monthly services cost $20 and up.
Cell phones: GPS enables parents to locate a child's phone on an online map. One service will text message parents if the phone leaves a predetermined zone. Monthly services typically cost $10 to $20.
Software: Various programs can track Web activity and record online chats, instant messages and e-mail. Parents can receive reports and alerts by e-mail and, in some cases, by phone or text message. Prices range from $40 to $100 in one-time or annual fees.
I'm of the "good parenting" camp. We humans learn from our mistakes, and if parents can catch their kids in the midst of making a bad decision, that's even better. I'm not convinced we need to put our children in harm's way.
Those who know me will marvel at these statements, since I'm constantly telling my son to go out and play and I chastise him when he calls every ten minutes asking if he can do this or that or walk 10 feet to someone else's house (no, I didn't give him his cell phone). However, there's a difference of degree here--how much trouble might he get into if he goes to another friend's house for awhile, vs. how much trouble could he get into if he were of driving age, or surfing the internet as a teenage boy? I want him to learn to make good decisions now, while he's young, and he won't learn to do that if I don't let him make any decisions on his own. Usually, I tell him that if he has to call and ask if he can do something or go somewhere in our neighborhood, I'll just tell him no. Learn to make decisions on your own, and if I find out you've made bad decisions, well, we'll learn from those....
So back to the story:
Paige White was surprised when her parents figured out soon after she started driving last year that she'd gone 9 miles to a party, not 4 miles to the friend's house she'd told them she was visiting. It seemed to her almost as if her car was bugged.
Paige's parents had installed a device in their daughter's SUV that can tell them not only how far she's driven, but how fast and whether she's made any sudden stops or hard turns.
"I was kind of mad because I felt it was an invasion of my privacy," said the Los Gatos resident, now 17.
If you're lying to your parents about driving to a party, hon, you've got bigger issues to deal with than an invasion of your privacy. Why does she think it's ok for her to lie, but not for her parents to catch her in that lie? What kind of thought process is going through that girl's head?
Here's another story from the article, one that is clearly good parenting.
One Pleasant Hill mother has been using SpectorSoft's eBlaster for about a year to track her sons' online activity, including instant messaging. She's found the boys, 14 and 16, looking at "light porn" and discussing oral sex, and she's ferreted out weekend parties where no adults were going to be home. In those cases, she's made family plans without telling her sons what she knew.
Bravo, mom! Excellent way to handle the situation. In addition to her "soft" way of handling it, she's keeping her "intelligence source" secret. BTW, mom, don't let the New York Times in on your identity.
I know the teenagers won't be the biggest fans of this type of gadgetry, but I'd be interested in hearing their opinions. And parents? What do you think?
Update, 7/15/06: Here's another story about how parents are trying to influence their teenagers' driving. I like this quote:
"Parents will say, 'I have a good teen, I trust my teen,' " said Gary Direnfeld, founder of the "I Promise Program" for teen driving safety. "But, the issue isn't trust. The issue is lack of judgment, lack of experience."
As a wise man once said, "Trust, but verify."