Spying on our Kids

Invasion or responsibility?

Comments (37)

(37) Nate, May 31, 2010 3:18 PM

spyware removal

Sometimes spyware gets put on you and you need free spyware removal then consider letting the web help you fix it.

(36) from a kid's point of view, March 10, 2009 7:43 PM


Straight up, you ask Kids, "why should you mind if there is nothing to hide?" What I say to that is, "why spy on your kids unless you suspect them of something?" We need our privacy. And it is not proper parenting as JTP said. It is out right spying. How would you like it if the government started monitoring your internet use and was screening your phone calls?

(35) Devil's Advocate, March 10, 2009 7:32 PM


Did you know that the right to privacy is a universal human right? I don't think parents should be doing anything to monitor their kids. Don't look at their text messages or monitor their phone calls or spy on what they are doing. It is a total invasion on privacy. We need to be able to talk to our friends, without being fearful of our parents seeing it and taking something the wrong way.

(34) Anonymous, July 8, 2008 7:35 PM

Where do I get the spyware?

Where do I get the spyware?
I would use it for the sake of my kids.

(33) Straight up, March 30, 2008 1:12 PM

What is there to hide?

Dear Rabbi,

I couldn't agree more! Not only would I install the spyware on the computer, but tell my children that I am watching. Accountability is a good thing and something only the guilty despise. There is a lesson here that transcends the internet issue and that is that if we always conduct ourselves as if G-d is standing next to us, listening to every word, then I'll wager our behavior, our comments and the ways we address each other would dramatically improve. Our overall conduct and integrity might get a polishing also!

Kids, why should you mind if there is nothing to hide? Don't you know your parents love you enough to keep you accountable? Be glad that G-d has given you someone who cares enough to keep you safe.


(32) JTP, March 30, 2008 11:11 AM

That's not spying that's proper parenting

Making sure your children do what they should and don't do what they shouldn't is hardly spying. That's proper parenting.

We don't ban axes because there have been axe murderers. We don't ban or hide our children from scissors and steak knives because of what's been done with them either(vehicles, power tools, medicine, chemicals the list goes on). The internet is a tool and like any other can be misused aside from its original and intended purpose. We don't hide our scissors we teach our children not to run with them. We don't toss out our steak knives we teach our children to cut properly and how to hand them to others with the handle instead of the blade end. The internet requires the same diligence. The internet is likely already in your child's school, in public libraries, their future work places. Do not think you will hide your children from the internet or any other invention of the future. Equip them with the same knowledge, supervision, and instruction you would any other potentially dangerous tool(which is all tools used aside from their intended purpose). Teach them what they need to be a master of it so it will not be the master of them.

(31) coffee man, March 30, 2008 3:04 AM

Don't have internet in your home!

Remember the good old days before internet and tv. Families would actually, shock, spend time together! They would even unbelieveably get to know each other! Annd they would teach each other things and help each other! Maybe worst of all, couples would really love each other and share nice activities!! Hey, wait hang on a minute, all that that doesn't sound so bad.

No, tv, no internet at home. Try it. You will be amazed what it does for your family and friend relationships and your quality of life.

On top of this one who 'trusts' unmarried children with the internet is making a very big mistake. Get real before the conseqences do. I'm currently living in a fairly modern area and all the Jewish computer service and repair people I asked did not have a computer at home to protect their children. That tells you they - the experts - think this is the only way to protect that which is most precious to them - their children.

(30) Eleanor, March 28, 2008 3:53 PM

LOVE your kids!

I couldn't agree with the rabbi more. I wish my parents had been more vigilant with me on the internet, and if i had my own children I would watch them much more carefully. Its true that while they have developed into independant minds, children cannot forsee the consequences. Love your children and look out for them. Thank you for promoting discussion about this.
Sincerely, Eleanor

(29) Anonymous, March 27, 2008 11:07 PM

I am a 17-year-old and I think that monitoring software, while safe in a vacuum, can do serious damage to the relationship if the parent doesn't tell them about the software. Personally, I would much rather see open communication and trust emphasised...yes, it is correct that kids can't make adult decisions but one of the best lessons to learn is when to ask for help.

(28) Anonymous, March 27, 2008 3:49 PM

very true, but...

Very true, I agree 100%. However, spyware (or whatever you want to call it) only tells you what the child/ person has viewed AFTER the fact-- it does not prevent it from occuring in the first place. So yes, it gives you that inner peek to make sure e/t is ok, but I'd rather take preventative measures, such as limiting viewable websites, keeping the computer in a public thoroughfare area, only being able to log on with a parent present, etc. Nothing is too much when it comes to our children-- that's my take.

(27) Joshua Neace, March 27, 2008 1:22 PM

Better Way

A better way is where you can be e-mailed a list of all websites viewed and you can look at the messages received and sent. Some companies do that. But spyware can be deleted with a spyware filter.

(26) Susan, March 27, 2008 12:10 PM

Prevention is better that Spying

.... A loving parent wants to protect their children from harm.
PREVENTING them from getting hurt on the internet is surely what we all want. When you say to your son or daughter, "Hey, I have spyware on the computer and I see that you were on some nasty sites on the internet last night" .... how does that protect them? They have ALREADY been there. Contacted with some stranger or some image. But the fact is that spying, or spyware, didn't protect him. He's already been exposed.

Every internet site has HUMANS behind it. Some people who are waiting (or lurking)at that internet site for you or your kids to connect to.
Nearly every internet site has links to click on that take you to another site in an instant. For good or for bad.

(25) Moshe - Baltimore, March 26, 2008 9:37 PM

Difficult issue, Yasher Koach for airing it out

Great comments from many, here's our delicate balancing act.

We are very involved in our kids' lives, lots of attention, lots of hugs, lots of trying to understand their issues, and lots of monitoring and supervision.

We have internet as I work from home. My oldest is 11, and they have no internet use, other than a few minutes here and there for an interesting email or news byte, with a parent at the mouse. No email, and cellphones either. Like another post, we rely on supervision, and organized schedules and play.

Yes, I'm acutely aware that my delicate safety bubble will burst very quickly. I see the pressures they bring home already of what the other kids have or are exposed to.

I'm also a prime candidate for being tempted by the Yetzer Hora, working alone for many hours.

To help ensure Shalom Bayis, and to preempt a future crisis with the kids, we purchased Spector (www.spectorsoft.com).
As a software that stores screenshots, it's a very helpful deterrent not to get distracted, knowing what one person is seeing, another can check on at will.

Our goal, as the reality of todays' computer savvy kids requiring more access, is to make a 'weekly' public scan of the weeks use. Building it into the regular routine with brushing teeth and homework, is more like buckling your seatbelt, rather than snooping / spying. It's a common sense safety issue, not a privacy invasion issue.

It is a tough balance. If we circle the wagons too tight, they are bound to run far at any chance. If we loosen up to let them find their own boundaries, the internet content is just too damaging and addictive to let them play in that field.

In a sense, it is a battlefield, and sometimes I just cringe at having to explain yet another 'danger' for them to navigate around. Have we said too much, or do those large round eyes indicate they have questions about more detail we wished they hadn't been exposed to.

Hakodosh Boruch Hu, these are difficult tests. May you grant us the strength to be matzliach in our efforts. May we grow to appreciate our roles with simcha and ahava.

(24) Anonymous, March 26, 2008 9:04 PM

i'm a 16 yr old, & i can't imagine how a parent could NOT monitor their kids. you're giving them access 2 the worst stuff in the world & saying "go ahead, look at whatever you want, watch whatever you want, talk to whoever you want". i'm sorry, but it's just crazy 2 say it's "invading their privicy".

(23) Paul, March 26, 2008 11:00 AM

Parental Responsibility

I understand what the word "spying" means. Just uttering the word creates anxiety. However, first and foremost is my responsibility as a parent to "raise"--guide, direct, command--my children so that they can grow up and make responsible decisions.

As you noted, the internet is a public domain and anyone can and often does see what is viewed and published. The public includes me, the parent. I would remind my child that if they don't want others to see their thoughts and actions (others include me and mom), then use the journal. That's private. I won't open and read that.

Today Parents too often defer to the idea that children can make adult decisions. I think that is a big mistake that can lead to painful consequences. It's my job to help them learn how to make adult decisions so that when they become adults, they will have the tools to make responsible decisions in a world where we all, sooner or later, are held accountable for our actions.

(22) Suzanne, March 26, 2008 7:10 AM

I Agree

Saying they can be unobserved as soon as they know how to use it is like saying a child should be allowed to go anywhere they can get to as soon as they learn to crawl or walk.

(21) naveen siromoni, March 26, 2008 4:39 AM

Building Trust rather than spying

Its only trust, open communication chanels and a good relationship with your kids that can keep them safe. My parents did not need to spy on me as a teen because they taught me to handle freedom responsabily. This worked as a self check. Kids can go anywhere to get what they want, like a cyber cafe or a friends house. What will stop them from getting carried away is a good moral foundation. Spyware is not the solution

(20) Carrie, March 26, 2008 1:37 AM

Spy vs. Parent

First, let's get our terminology straight. Spying is secretly watching or listening when you don't have the right to do it. Supervision is what parents do to know when to guide or teach their children. Parents not only have this right, they are required to do so.

The suggestions here are good ones. I also use the History (Control + H) function as well.

(19) moshe, March 25, 2008 10:05 PM


i couldn't agree with you more rabbi!
we have to keep spreading that message

(18) Annette, March 25, 2008 9:22 PM


and it's our responsibility to be in the 'know'; we wouldn't let our infants/todlers run on the road, would we? there is physical danger there... there is moral danger on the internet highway!
if they have nothing to hide, then 'show me' ... if not, get off the computer until I have the time to be on it 'with' you, kiddo!

(17) Meira D. Lerman, March 25, 2008 6:37 PM

Computerized lost generation

Children that are grown up at the computer have their senses impair. That I could watch with my son that became addicted to the video games and all kind of pornography that smashed his sensitive imagination. He lives a virtual life and don't want to come back to a real one. As soon as our GodandKing Statistic will gain the necessary information we will start thinking about this problem.
I can guess, that finally when we realize what a great impact computer can do, the civil law will take care of our children and new amendments will put limits for their usage of it. Till then a whole generation that do not any restriction of its use will grow as handicapped, lost generation.

(16) Simlers, March 25, 2008 5:26 PM

Make it about family

Agreeing with (2) & (3), we moved the family computer into the kitchen area and there was no access without adults present. We further insisted that profiles on myspace and facebook required parental access without notice. This mom got her own myspace and facebook pages and we were linked to our kids as friends (allowed surfing the kids' pages at will). An interesting side note to that is: friends thought it was COOL that these parents were cool and a whole new dialogue opened in our home that kids today need! Parent: Learn to speak your children's language, the IT-age is here to stay. Shalom in this home :-)

(15) Anonymous, March 25, 2008 5:11 PM

how do you keep a 14 yr old girl off facebook when all the girls are on it and its very addictive.

(14) Anonymous, March 25, 2008 2:54 PM

To spy or not to spy?

thank you so much for this blog. I have been reading my sons' facebook and was horrified to discover that he has been smoking and I felt guilty as my mom read my diaries with the keys and I remember the feeling of betrayal I felt when I knew she was reading it.

If I did not read it I would not know what is happening and hopefully I can prevent further degeneration. I pride myself that I have open communication with my kids and I was suprised.
Your comments have made me feel better about spying. Thanks

(13) Sharon, March 25, 2008 2:52 PM

Not Just the Internet

Dear Rabbi:

It's not just the internet that is the problem. It is also the T.V. shows, many of the movies, and the general permissiveness in society of anything is okay if it makes you happy and feels good. Did I forget that books, magazines, and even school events can lead to tragedy as well? There is so much violence especially targeted to our children now, but often parents are too busy, too trusting, or just don't care because they do the same things on their time off. Where do they learn the habits from? Either being too protective, not protective enough, role models, and friends they choose. It's not easy keeping tabs on our children 24/7. But let us be sure we are setting the right examples as well and let them know we love them. And if we fall short or make mistakes, we too have to change and admit we blow it as well but hopefully get another chance.

(12) feivel, March 25, 2008 2:28 PM

we need supervision ourselves

the internet is a BIG tool of the Yetzer Ha'Ra for adults also.
there is a program, i think it's called chavrusa, that pairs you up with a friend you choose, whom you respect and trust, who is able to monitor your internet usage.
since we have such difficulty perceiving and remembering that there is One who watches everything we do; having a very tangible observer, before whom we would be ashamed, is a very effective deterrent

(11) Ray Vigna, March 25, 2008 2:22 PM

Parental Sying OK

I agree 100% we need to know what our children are doing on the internet. To look the other way is foolish knowing what we do about the dangers. We should make our children aware at least that we have the ability to do so. It is after all our responsibility they our not ours but they belong to G_d and we must be good stewarts.

(10) feivel, March 25, 2008 2:03 PM

not called spyware

not a crucial point but for your information, this is NOT called spyware. spyware is something else.

what you are referring to is called:
internet blocking
or internet filtering
or internet censoring
or internet parental controls
or internet babysitting

spyware is a program installed without your permission by websites, which tracks your internet usage and reports back to their own computers with such information, sometimes with other personal information as well
usually it is a "cookie"

(9) Shirah, March 25, 2008 12:53 PM

I agree with "spying"

I agree with the rabbi about "spying" on your children while using the Internet. There are a lot of smooth talkers out there who want to hurt them, and will convince the kids to throw caution to the wind.
I have grown children who didn't follow rules at a time when there was little filtering software. Now I'm raising 2 grandkids, and they won't have "freedoms" with the Internet. I don't think you can be too cautious in protecting your children from predators.

(8) Susan, March 25, 2008 11:38 AM

Responsibility to See who Kids are Connected With

I feel just as you do Rabbi Salomom, about kids and the internet. It's a
parents job to protect them from connenting to people that can be a danger to them.

Having a computer in a home with kids, is like keeping a rattlesnake loose in the living room to catch the occassional mouse.
Similarly, the internet doesn't provide enough benefits for the child to outweigh the risks.

A computer in the living room or kitchen, where there are children in the house is still a danger. Just like the snake, it will bite anytime.
Talking to the kids about proper use of the internet is just not very effective. (sorry but those internet sites are easily accessed by thousands of kids everyday.) They're the kids! We're the protectors! They only have to get hurt once and that experience is there forever.

If a pedophile moved across the street from my home, I wouldn't let my child go to his door with a welcome to the neighborhood card and our phone number. We all would be outraged and frightened that the bad person was nearby. But yet why would parents let thousands of bad people in their living room 24/7. The internet door is opened with the click of a finger.

Same with drugs. There are people on the internet (and everywhere kids gather) offering your kids anything in the world they want for FREE!

Checking on who your kids are connected to on the internet is not spying, it is not invasion of privacy, it is not mean or nasty.

Talk to your kids about what they have ALREADY seen or been offered on the internet. Talk to them and repair that damage to them if you can, Then get rid of the computer. It's your machine, you pay for the internet. You alone are making your kids vulnerable.

Ten year olds don't need a cell phone either. They should never be away from you unattended by an other responsible adult.
" Mothers will say, Well, they need one in case of an emergency!!"
In case of ?emergencies? the responsible adult who is with your child should have the cell phone.

Get into your kids lives with both feet. Totally immerse yourself into them. Keep an open mind about what you see and about what they share with you. Teach them to think for themselves. Tell them how incredibly wonderful they are. Pray, pray, pray for guidance to help YOU to do the right things.

(7) hershy, March 24, 2008 10:43 PM

Get yeshiva net, they make sure u go to kosher sites only.

(6) Anonymous, March 24, 2008 1:15 AM

We have 2 teenagers........

and after discovering that they had both accessed inappropriate material on the web, my husband had a "heart to heart" with them about the dangers of the internet. Then, they accessed the inappropriate material AGAIN and we realized that we needed to do something more. Now, they only have access to the internet in a very public place in our home. In other words, they have no privacy whatsoever when they surf. This has worked for us.

(5) Zissi, March 23, 2008 7:17 PM

Watch your kids

Watch your kids like a hawk when they are on the Internet. Do not let them have a computer where you can't see them (e.g, their bedroom). Never allow them to join a chatroom. My parents watched us when we were on the computer. There are also filtering sites (Koshernet, etc) that one can use to filter out inappropriate content.

(4) Anonymous, March 23, 2008 11:54 AM

One of the best defenses against the dangers of the internet is not to allow the child to have a computer in their room! The computer should be located in a prominent public area such as the living room, and an adult should be in the room while the computer is in use. As for spyware, children need to be aware that the internet is NOT private like a diary; anything they write can and will be seen and can and will be used against them by anyone from peers, to school administrators, to potential employers. Therefore, it is not an invasion of privacy if you know what they're up to. If they want privacy, they can write in a locked diary. However, if one goes the spyware route, they should only use it to spot red flags, not to snoop for no reason.

(3) Anonymous, March 22, 2008 11:38 PM

Better ways than spying.

I can't think of a worse first line defense against the dangers of the internet than spying on your children.

So, what DO I suggest?

1. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Not just "a" conversation, but continuous discussion. Explain the dangers that are unique to the internet. Teach them that just because it's on a web site, it doesn't make it more acceptable than if it were on paper (eg inappropriate illustrations are judged by their content, not by whether they are in a magazine or web site, but by their content.)

2. Model the behavior you want them to follow. Show them the kinds of protections you put in place for yourself. This shows them that you are not just preaching at them.

3. Supervise what they are doing. Preferably do it in person. (It is possible.) If you can't, the next best thing is a trustworthy adult who shares your concerns and standards. If that's not possible, filters and monitoring software may be necessary - but there is rarely any excuse for doing this in secret. If we are to teach our children to be trustworthy and to respect privacy, we need to MODEL that behavior. (I'd also point out that there could be a real issue of Cherem D'Rabbeinu Gershon in regard to reading a child's email without telling him, absent specific concerns. After all, it is quite possible for a child to have a paper based correspondence with someone inappropriate, but that does not give parents carte blanche to read all of their children's correspondence.)

(2) Michael, March 22, 2008 8:02 PM

child supervision

It is sad to say that the internet has become a toilet, but it is true. It is incredibly easy to find pornography and hate sites. Like with television, parents must be pay close attention to what their children are being exposed too. My wife and I did not allow our daughter to join a chat room. She was allowed to e-mail her friends, but that's it. We also took the time to talk to her, to explain to her why she could not join chat rooms or Myspace. Guess what, she understood once it was explained to her. Parents need to guide their children, it's not spying, it's loving your children.

(1) Rosen, March 22, 2008 7:15 PM

online tips

Some online tips that parents and children can implement are:

-Only chat with individuals that you have already met face-to-face in real life.
-When viewing obscene, adult websites, do not disclose ANY contact info or credit card info whatsoever (i.e. DO NOT join membership with them, esp. after what happened to Elliot Spitzer this past week).
-When making online purchases, be sure to hold onto a confirmation e-mail or printout of what you purchased, and make sure that the website is reputable and receiving decent reviews from its clients (as opposed to hearing from those e-mail scams on false inheritence claims in particular that come from Nigeria or elsewhere).

I remember when I went into middle school during the 1994-1995/5755 schoolyear, that was when the Internet essentially made its debut, and it's amazing how far it has came in my relatively short life time so far! It started off with chat rooms (which I no longer use), and advanced to MySpace and Facebook (I don't recall those social networking sights when I was in high school more than 8 years ago, but I occasionally browse Facebook from my alma mater).

All in all, the early rabbis most likely saw the Internet age coming prior to the Messianic age, because they had anticipated correctly an explosion in technology in the 19th century, or the Jewish year 5600.

The apparent goal the rabbis had in mind with the advancement in technology was to get closer to G-d, similar to that of the floods during the time of Noah or when Moses get G-d to part the dead sea for the Jews to cross.

So, with security being an issue on the Internet, it is best to delete the temporary internet files from your browser either as much as possible or when it gets overloaded slowing down the computer's memory, as well as getting spyware (and adware) removal programs in order to remove unneeded programs that tend to slow down your browser, particularly with pop-up ads.

As for Rabbi Soloman, while I agree with almost everything he said, I do not agree that parents should install spyware programs to monitor their children, because it can be better to orally discuss some ground rules before netsurfing such as the 3 online tips I mentioned above.


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