I don't have any kids, but I suspect that when I do I'll keep a close eye on them. I don't know if I'll go so far as to use parental surveillance devices, but I'll do whatever is necessary to make sure my kids walk the straight and narrow.
Some years ago my older daughter, then a senior in college, listened to me fret about rumors of drinking at the parties her ninth-grade sister was begging to go to. "They're so young to deal with this sort of thing," I worried. "Mom," she began in a knowing tone, "What do you think was going on when I went to parties in the ninth grade?"
I lingered for a moment over the disconnect between this young woman standing before me, a premed student, an Organization Kid who would sooner live on bread and water than turn in a late paper, and the image of her 14-year-old self chugging a Budweiser. Then, I struggled with two contradictory responses. First, discomfiture; I had been naïve, a mental status that we been-there-done-that boomer parents find pretty embarrassing. How could I have been so out of it? And second: relief. Thank God I didn't know. If I had, I would have had to transform my parenting approach from trust-but-verify (check-in phone calls to friends' parents, "so how did the movie end again?" sort of questions, etc.) to all-out war.
Kay S. Hymowitz obviously was naive, didn't know her daughters' friends, and wasn't particularly involved in their lives. She also didn't beat them enough, apparently. It's great that her elder daughter turned out ok, but I know first-hand that many of the kids at those parties grew into alcoholics and drug addicts. Shutting one's eyes and hoping everything turns out ok doesn't seem like an ideal parenting strategy. What's more, I completely disagree with the implications behind the author's rhetorical arguments:
The more subtle, but equally important, objection to spyware is that it isn't good for parents either. By making snooping relatively impersonal, these technologies prompt mothers and fathers to bypass important moral questions about their relationship with their children. If it's all right to scrutinize your daughter's text messages, then it should be OK to read her diary. If it's all right to electronically monitor her driving, then it should be equally kosher to get in to your own car and follow her. Yet there are good reasons most sane adults would balk at these low-tech invasions of their children's privacy.
I wouldn't hesitate to read my daughter's diary or follow her in my car if I had reason to believe she was in danger or acting foolishly. Am I wrong? It would depend on the age and maturity level of the kid, I suppose. Privacy is great, and as kids get older they should certainly have more autonomy, but children shouldn't be treated like adults until they take adulthood upon themselves, with all the responsibilities thereof.