Teaching kids they have no privacy?

Today’s Daily Mail carries a suitably sensational story courtesy of the Government’s new advisor on childhood. iStock_000017522162Small

According to the piece, “Claire Perry said that in a world where youngsters are surrounded by online dangers, parents should challenge the ‘bizarre’ idea that their children have the right to keep their messages private.” In other words (as the paper’s headline suggests) if you’re a parent, you should “Snoop on your child’s texts”.

We’re not entirely sure how a Conservative MP and a newspaper usually committed to reducing state interference in our lives are able to square away issuing parenting diktats, but more concerning is the total lack of any evidence to support these claims.

No research on how many parents feel they are not able to discuss this with their children. No evidence of how many children are allowed unrestricted access to the internet in their bedrooms. We’ve seen the dodgy stats underpinning this Mary Whitehouse 2.0 campaign before and now they seem to have given up on evidence-based policy altogether.

When the Bemillo service launched, which allows parents to read their kids texts, decide who they can call and control when a phone can be used, we argued that spying was not parenting. During the ensuing debate, the overwhelming majority of parents who spoke on radio phone-ins, emailed us, tweeted about the story and commented on media articles thought the idea was absurd.

Simply, they shared our view – parenting is dependent on a relationship of trust, and spying only undermines the parent-child relationship. Whether reading a diary or reading a text message, privacy is not something to be brushed aside in a wave of hysteria and cheap headlines.

At a time when our lives are recorded and analysed by countless services, organisations and the state, educating young people about the importance of privacy and considering what information they share should be high on the agenda. We are seeing the first cases now of people being forced to hand over social media passwords before they are offered employment, cyber-bullying is a clear issue and the communications data bill may dramatically change the nature of the information the state can access about us.

Now is the time to educate young people about controlling the information about them, not berate parents for respecting their children’s privacy.

The piece includes a reference to a situation where a parent is asking what they can do to stop their child using a laptop in their bedroom at 2am. It seems allowing parents to decide whether their child should have a laptop in their room at 2am eluded both the Mail and Mrs Perry.


  1. Civil Liberties Campaigners Slam Snooping Claire Perry - Guy Fawkes' blog
    21st January 2013

    […] airbrushed photos of celebs are even more disturbing. Big Brother Watch’s Nick Pickles is damning of the PM’s […]

  2. KeepCalmAndGagnam
    21st January 2013

    The Daily Mail, the most opinionated newspaper when it comes to the subject of how we should run our lives and the the least qualified to do so.

  3. John Galt
    22nd January 2013

    There is a fair point to be made here in that the responsibility of parents is to provide parental guidance and responsibility. The day I need to turn to the government or the Daily Mail for advice on that is the day I throw myself on the funeral pyre.

    Parents nowadays often worry about what their child is doing when they are out of sight (definitely not out of mind), leading to such problems as “excessive over-parenting” in which the child suffocates, develops no social skills outside of the family and eventually rebels.

    I’ve seen this on more than a few occasions, mostly with parents who were rascals when they were the same age, not a justification.

    Going to the opposite end of the spectrum of not interfering, but then ‘spying’ on your own child to find out what they are doing speaks of both a lack of backbone and perversity of mind.

    Obviously, this applies more to Stoke Poges than Stoke Newington…

  4. Jason Caits-Cheverst
    22nd January 2013

    We all know that the Daily Mail is talking tosh. Can we stop giving them extra publicity for their views? Just let them wander off into their little corner and froth to themselves without bothering the rest of us? That would be nice.

  5. Paul Paul
    24th January 2013

    Kids should not have phones. They pose a minefield of problems. Bullying, grooming and access to inappropriate web content.

  6. SorryI'llGetMyCoat
    25th January 2013

    In answer to the last question in the piece above. Treat your router the same as I treat the electric shower in our house. When the kids have been using it for too long, I turn it off from downstairs.

  7. Anonymous
    30th January 2013

    I know people who raise kids and they say that they never censor what their kids access at all, in fact they encourage their kids to ask any questions about anything, I see nothing wrong with this either. Free range parenting is the future, anything different is old fasion.

  8. John Name
    17th February 2013

    I’ve always been pretty hands-off with my kids, in a ‘just be polite and friendly, and work hard at school’ kind of way. Seemed to work perfectly well.