Surveillance and Parenting

Featured Image, Surveillance by screenpunk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Blog written, and video collaborated by: Adinda Cresheilla, Lauren Connelly, Sam Shineberg and Emma Miller

Surveillance and parenting, have you ever thought about how they go together? As we now live in an ever growing digital online society, we all are contributing to the mass amount of online content, and large number of online users are now children. Parents are now monitoring their children more than ever on digital platforms due to this increased activity present in all areas of life. With children being a vulnerable target online, we can contend that there are many risks that come into factor as they may be subject to content that may be aimed towards adult users. Due to this increased online social activity, parents are now surveying their children when and where they like, but is this right? Parents are not only surveilling their children online on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or in their search feeds, but parents are also surveilling their children within the offline world as well. This can include their schools, in home environments, or during their child’s day to day activities. Could this possibly become a breach of privacy for the child, and peers being monitored closely on a day to day basis? Within this video we discuss the different aspects of surveillance and parenting, and where they have been implemented in today’s society, and why.

We wanted to present both the pros and cons of surveillance in the topic of parenting, as we believe that like with all surveillance, there are always benefits and disadvantages. Straight away we all agreed on filming a news story, as we felt the topic was best handled with an informative piece, and we all liked the format of the news for telling this particular story. To prepare for the video we divided it up into 4 segments, intro, pros, cons, conclusion and then typed out our scripts. I think the division have the news story a cohesive narrative, that allowed the audience to weigh up both sides of the argument. Getting four people in different classes together was difficult, so we filmed separately. Having the news story as our narrative structure gave each of us a guideline on how our videos should look which worked out well.

Video respectively embedded from Lauren Connelly’s YouTube Channel, 28th Sept. 2017

The disadvantages of surveillance focused on how vulnerable personal surveillance equipment can be to attacks. We found a really interesting news piece about a Minnesota family discovered that their nanny cams had been remotely hacked in 2015. When they traced back the IP address, they found it linked to a website based in Amsterdam, which had uploaded hours of footage for anyone to view. Not only had the family’s personal footage been leaked, but they found thousands of recordings of homes from all over the world. They also found that the hackers were able to move their camera remotely. This then linked to research of Australian laws surrounding personal surveillance which was interesting and also very vague, but they all allowed individuals to use video surveillance in their homes without notifying guests. A common use of personal surveillance is nanny cams, which allow parents to monitor their children for their own safety, but also keep tabs on any hired assistance, such as babysitters or live-in nannies. Cameras are also only able to capture a specific area, and many times this can lead to the ‘big picture’ not being captured. The camera may capture a baby crying, but does not film the babysitter preparing a bottle to soothe them. Film can be taken out of context, and can often lead to incorrect interpretations which we also thought was an interesting angle for surveillance, meant to protect but can sometimes harm.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 7.18.55 pm
Eye contact ! by Craig Sunter (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Another form of surveillance that usually is done by parents are just the conventional observing and also digital tracking. There are also some drawbacks towards the act, such as if parents have gone too far kids may rebel and will get too far from the line. But there’s also some advantages that can be very useful for their kids future. Surveillance is essential in maintaining children’s development, especially in this digital era. As the primary source of their initial education is towards the online safety and how to ethically behave in the digital platform, it is important for parents to make sure that their kids are able to filter which information is suitable for them to absorb. Parents should also teach and guide them on media literacy, in order for them to gain information and use the web safely. Monitoring doesn’t always mean ‘overprotective’, but it could be overprotective if parents go too far. Parents should set boundaries of their surveillance activities, they should let their kids expand and explore their private space on their own. As long as parents’ guide their children positively and properly, it will not be a problem because the kids will learn respect and safety.

Therefore, surveillance will be beneficial if it’s done in the right ways. As human beings, not just as kids, we are disturbed our privacy is breached. Parents should draw a line, because children’s individual privacy matters too. The theme of most of our discussions had a common thread; tales of parental surveillance with positive intentions, which turned out to produce just as many negative consequences as positive ones.  As with so many other forms of surveillance in the modern age, the intent is positive (to protect children) but the outcome can be problematic (potential invasion of privacy). When technology is implicated in surveillance contexts, the line is so often blurred as to where the levels of ethical surveillance end and the murky waters of privacy invasion begin. Most of the examples we read about were ones of parents trying to honestly look after their children by using various types of surveillance technologies, such as nanny cams, and instead opening up a vista of possibilities for potential breaches of privacy.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 7.29.29 pm
kids by kathleen.bence (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The note we ended the video’s conclusion on was that modern technology is a brilliant aid for parents to use in surveillance of their children, as long as it is used in combination with traditional parenting and a good dose of common sense, not simply an over reliance on technology to look after the kids. Working through a group project in a thoroughly online manner, using platforms different to those that we were used to was refreshing, and simpler than we had initially envisioned; and also enjoyable!



Hassrick, EM 2009, ‘Parent surveillance in schools: a question of social class’, American Journal Of Education, 2, p. 195, General OneFile, EBSCO host, viewed 30 August 2017.


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