One more step towards Total Information Awareness
October 29, 2003 7:28 AM   Subscribe

New software packages help parents keep tabs on teens.
posted by Irontom (26 comments total)
The author of the article uses the phrase "electronic leash" repeatedly, with no apparent sense of the implications of the phrase.
posted by Irontom at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2003

"This leash demeans both of us."
posted by yerfatma at 7:37 AM on October 29, 2003

... or, they could built up a rapport and a sense of trust with their children. A home should be a home, not an institution, and it's kind of disgusting to see parents try and set up a world full of rules, systems and counters, when all they need is to put in some serious time and love ...

Just my (angry) opinion.
posted by bwerdmuller at 7:39 AM on October 29, 2003

It's more or less inarguably a parent's responsibility to keep some value of "acceptably close" tabs on his or her kid, and there's a fairly longstanding tradition of schools being a party to it. However, I think the trend towards close surveillence in schools is an abominable one and I abhor the attitude of any parent who needs to compulsively check on every detail of the kid's performance and attendance. As far as I'm concerned, this not only crosses a line but leaps pretty far down a slippery slope.
posted by majick at 7:47 AM on October 29, 2003

I think this is a good thing that has a lot of potential for abuse. Parents undoubtably need to have a good rapport with their teens to start off with, and if they don't then no amount of software will be able to create it for them. In many ways this is no different than getting a standard progress report from school, except that it can be done daily instead of quarterly.

I abhor the attitude of any parent who needs to compulsively check on every detail of the kid's performance and attendance.

Sure, so do I. I think that if a parent is checking on a daily basis there must be something missing in the relationship, like trust. There are two reasons why trust may be lacking - the teenager doesn't deserve that trust through their own actions (teen's fault), or the parent doesn't have enough respect for the ability of their child to act responsibly (parent's fault) or some combination of the two. But having the chance to check from time to time as to the veracity of your child's statements is by no means a bad thing.
posted by ashbury at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2003

Huh? What's so draconian about this? These are electronic report cards, with greater convenience than mail and hopefully integrated with greater ability to interact with teachers. If you're against this, you're against progress reports in general.

This might actually be bad for a kid who throttles his/her effort to do just fine on average during a report period, as they will now have to answer for any bad grade at all, no matter how insignificant, if the parents are overly controlling. I guess this may be abused by such parents, but they already have sufficient ways to abusively control their children.

Also, I tend to believe that schools which actually make grades for all students visible to all students are more achieving, as they are more academically competitive. Sure, it's an invasion of privacy and it may put undue strain on some kids, but in the real world, you seldom have the chance to keep your progress invisible to all but you and your boss. Keeping grades open trains for grace under pressure.
posted by azazello at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2003

So, those of you who are saying that this is a good use of the technology - what's your opinion of your youth? I suppose you never skipped school, hid the results of a test, or ever otherwise stepped out of line?

Did you grow up in a fishbowl? If not, did you turn out okay? If so, why does the next generation need to have this kind of surveillance foisted on them?
posted by Irontom at 9:59 AM on October 29, 2003

"If you're against this, you're against progress reports in general."

That's a bit of a stretch. Progress reports in general are not detailed maps of attendance nor line-item audits of work assignments updated day to day. I am in favor of progress reports. I strongly disfavor micromanaging on a per-task, per-day basis. Sheesh, talk about extinguishing trust in your relationship with the kid!

"I guess this may be abused by such parents,..."

I see no other use for it than micromanagement of the student's performance. I suspect such detailed tracking and guidance is needed by a very small minority of the students who would be subjected to such a broad system as this.

We're trying to prepare kids for their lives in the real world, not their role in the Party and career at the Ministry of Truth.

in re visibly posting grades: "...but in the real world, you seldom have the chance to keep your progress invisible to all but you and your boss."

I don't know where you work but at my place of employment, my boss and the HR department would be harshly disciplined for sharing the results of my performance review (in which I am in fact graded numerically on various aspects of my work) with any person lacking a legitimate need to know. Likewise, I am not in competition with the other people I work with, and comparative rankings would be wildly out of place. Frankly, I'd be deeply alarmed if it were otherwise.
posted by majick at 10:06 AM on October 29, 2003

I tend to this is a good idea, though open to some abuses (as most good ideas are). This isn't really providing parents with any more information than they already should have been receiving, it just provides it in a more convenient form for all concerned. Sure, some parents could get all obsessive about it, but those parents are probably obsessive about it now.

Students who are behaving in mature and responsible ways will be able to explain any unusual entries in their records, if necessary. Students who are not behaving in mature and responsible ways will be discovered earlier, and possibly receive the intervention necessary to help them get past their problems.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:08 AM on October 29, 2003

The assumption that kids who are not acting in a mature fashion have some kind of "problem" is a very revealing one.
posted by Irontom at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2003

Really? What does it reveal, exactly?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:42 AM on October 29, 2003

If so, why does the next generation need to have this kind of surveillance foisted on them?

Speaking of surveillance...
posted by homunculus at 11:01 AM on October 29, 2003

These are the same parents who (according to a study reported today) are content to let their kids watch TV from extremely early ages with little or no supervision? Frankly, I think both of these developments suck and are continuing the trend of destroying what (most of us) experienced as childhood. Parents just want their offspring to grow up, or get out of their hair, ASAP--not that my attitude is much different except that I recognized this and decided against reproduction.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2003

According to the article, this software enables parents to do the following: (1) track their child's unexcused absences; (2) find out what grades their child has earned on tests and homework to date; and (3) discover what upcoming assignments their child has. I really have a hard time understanding what the objection is. As far as unexcused absences, parents have an absolute right to know that their child wasn't in school for no apparent reason (as a parent, I'd want to know where my kid was when I thought they were in school -- were they safe? who were they with?). Likewise, isn't it good parenting to want to be up-to-date on your child's performance, and spot potential problem areas so the child can be given the assistance he or she might need? Isn't it worse to wait until the final report card, when it's too late to do anything?
posted by pardonyou? at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2003

Pro tip: Say you're a teen, and you don't want your parents to know that you cut class regularly and are failing 3 classes, and this system is in place. What do you do?

a. Stop cutting classes and generally kick your own ass to get back in line.

b. Do nothing and get yelled at.

c. Edit the host file on your mom/dad's PC and have it redirect to a website that you made showing that you're not failing all your classes and that you go to school every day?

The big problem with using the internet as a form of survellence is that grades and numbers and all that other stuff are ridiculously easy to fake. It's much harder to fake a real, physical report card written by hand than something you found on a computer somewhere at any rate. Use of such a system is dangerous because it lulls you into security - you check on your kid's grades and cuts every day, and all seems well, until you get his quarter grades in the mail. It's completely counterproductive because such a system would only work on stupid kids. All such a system would do is make kids better at hiding their activities.
posted by Veritron at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2003

I talk to my kids' teachers. I guess that's lowtech and old fashioned. But it sure had an impact on my daughter's history test this week...heh heh.
posted by konolia at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2003

The assumption that kids who are not acting in a mature fashion have some kind of "problem" is a very revealing one.

Irontom, it's a two-way street. The fact that you perceive this as "telling" is just as telling about yourself and your presumptions and assumptions. Maybe you are a parent who has the best kids in the world, but from what I remember as a teenager and know now, they are few and far between. Yes, teenagers don't act in "normal" fashion. It's up to the parents to find out what is "abnormal" in relation to their hormone-soaked and searching-for-truth-meaning-rules-respect-etc. children and to behave accordingly. I get the impression that you find this software and its potential to be draconian and fascist - I don't think you're wrong, I just don't think it's 100% true, either. I really feel that the onus is more on the parents to behave properly and in accordance with the relationship they have with their kids and the information that is at their fingertips; this shouldn't mean that the parents will greet their kids at the door with a huge interrogation light and drastic punishments, altho unfortunately I feel that some parents might.

Konolia, I think that low-tech and high-tech can go hand in hand. As a matter of fact, I bet the best results can come from joining the two.
posted by ashbury at 12:08 PM on October 29, 2003

I just want to say that I went to Los Gatos High School and the year I left all the administrators retired and the new draconian types moved in. However, when I went to school there and you didn't show up for class an automated system would call home and leave a message saying your kid didn't show up to a class today. And with the automated attendance and a fleet of office assistants collecting them, they knew within minutes who was and who wasn't in class. I'm just glad I had the journalism adviser to excuse me whenever I needed to miss class.
posted by nohat at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2003

While it seems sad that parents feel the need to check up so rigorously on their children's school performance, I can understand why they would want to do so. The pressure on today's kids to perform well at school is immense and the repercussions of not doing well are far higher than when I went to school.

A similar, but narrower in focus (limited to attendance only), system has started under trial at some schools in Australia, with apparently excellent results in reducing absence. The (private) school that my eldest daughter attends uses the same process in manual form - attendance is marked first thing in the morning (as well as twice during the day) and parents of any child who have not phoned the school themselves to advise of the absence are phoned by admin staff. This works well, but must use up significant resources that end up costing all the parents money in school fees.
posted by dg at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2003

Kids need to learn to fail and to deal with failure on their own. I'm in high school, I'm a good student, and I get D's on tests from time to time. It's not the end of the world. It's not even the end of an A. It is, for the responsible student, a wake-up call. The irresponsible student, the one who gets D's on every test, is not going to care if their parents get angry at them.

This system can help a parent micromanage their child all the way through high school, but then what happens in college? The kid with a 4.0 because his dad was always on his back will fall apart. Parents should teach their kids responsibility and then let them handle their education themselves. Serious problems will make themselves clear without such detailed intrusions as this one. This kind of thing only increases pressure and god knows we don't need more of that.
posted by ProtoStar at 5:44 PM on October 29, 2003

attendance is marked first thing in the morning (as well as twice during the day) and parents of any child who have not phoned the school themselves to advise of the absence are phoned by admin staff

Sheesh, the high school I went to (1986 grad) had an automated system for this. Every teacher filled out a mark-sense sheet for attendance, for every class. If you missed a single class, your parents got a disembodied voice on the phone that night informing them of that fact.

Perhaps this is why I'm finding it hard to get all worked up over this. It's nothing new.
posted by kindall at 6:13 PM on October 29, 2003

Protostar, you're right to a point. But there are particular times when a young person needs a little closer steering in the right direction. But I do agree that at some point you kids have to take some initiative-and should be allowed to do so-especially if you have proved some trustworthiness beforehand.
posted by konolia at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2003

I can't wait for version 2, which will send an automated e-mail notification every time their child climaxes.

"You have -- 5 -- new e-mails."
posted by Ptrin at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2003

Ptrin: LOL! Thanks

The teenager still in me shrieks at this. The adult realizes what is different today from yesteryear. Back when the world was less crowded, there was more general awareness of what might be happening with a teen that wasn't right. ie, we couldn't get away with anything, because people knew us and our parents. Kept things much more in line.

I certainly can see how some parents would absolutely smother their teen in micromanagement. Watch for rising suicide rates. Yet some parents can use this as a useful tool to help raise a responsible adult.

It does nothing about parents who don't give a damn anyway, which may be the biggest problem.
posted by Goofyy at 2:42 AM on October 30, 2003

As a teacher, let me say that in general, the parents who are on really top of this are rarely the ones who need to be. I have seveal students who badly need some parental attention with regards to their studies, but their parents ignore the notes home, don't come to conferences, etc. I have other parents who, to be generous, need a hobby (maybe Amway) to keep them busy.
posted by plinth at 6:58 AM on October 30, 2003

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