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The Kid Surveillance Complex Locks Parents in a Trap

Wired: “…From smartphones to schools to entertainment, parents can track the near totality of their children’s lives with ease. Share Location features come out of the box with any smartphone, and extremely popular apps like Life360 or Bark offer “enhanced” features such as driving monitoring and camera roll scanning for a small price. Unsurprisingly, the companies behind these apps collect an enormous amount of data about millions of teenagers and children; Life360 recently came under fire for selling it to data brokers that, as the Markup reported, have in turn sold info on children’s whereabouts “to virtually anyone who wants to buy it.” Family accounts on services from Netflix to Microsoft notify parents about kid activity by default. (Some, like Amazon, make it impossible to turn off parent notifications.) Schools increasingly offer daily tracking of kids’ grades and assignment completion as well, via learning management systems with parent web interfaces. (The ClassDojo behavior monitoring system claims to be in use in 95 percent of US elementary schools.) Not only are these systems burdensome to teachers, they also create an expectation that parents will intensively monitor classroom performance. Responses to the harms of social media often suggest greater parental monitoring as a fix for algorithmic amplification of dangerous content to minors, as Senator Richard Blumenthal did this past fall when he asked Facebook (now Meta) to “end Finsta,” slang for a “fake Instagram” that parents don’t know about, by allowing more parental monitoring. If your child plays multiplayer games, you’re basically their main line of defense against online bullying and contact with problem adults on shared servers. Some parents also use in-home cameras to check on kids who are home alone, and many families set up their home to be able to efficiently monitor online activity. If you’re checking your child’s location multiple times a day, getting notifications when they turn in a school assignment or rent a movie, ghost-following their social media or game chats, and reading their texts, you’re more or less acting like the DHS goons in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. (But since you’re just one or two people, it’s probably costing you a vast portion of your daily life.)…”

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