The Imperative of Parental Surveillance: Safeguarding Children in the Digital Age

Categories: Parenting


In his article titled "The Undercover Parent," published on March 16, 2008, in The New York Times, Harlan Coben addresses the imperative issue of parental surveillance through the installation of spyware on home computers. Coben posits this practice as a means of safeguarding children against the manifold dangers pervasive in the online realm. The author contends that, contrary to concerns of privacy invasion, such monitoring is a conscientious act aimed at shielding children from potential hazards.

Argument for Surveillance

Coben's primary contention revolves around the inherent risks that children encounter in the digital landscape.

He underscores the necessity for parents to adopt a proactive stance by employing spyware that furnishes comprehensive reports on their children's online activities. The author unequivocally asserts that such surveillance is an act of protection rather than an unwarranted intrusion into the private domain of the child.

Parental Responsibility

The article accentuates the profound responsibility that parents bear for their children's welfare, particularly in the face of potential hazards lurking online.

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Coben contends that parents, motivated by familial concern, should actively verify their children's activities on the internet. Despite the acknowledgment of children's entitlement to privacy, the article emphasizes the crucial role parents play in safeguarding their offspring from online threats.

Ineffectiveness of Parental Blocks

Coben elucidates the limitations inherent in relying solely on parental blocks as a protective measure. He argues that these safeguards are easily circumvented by tech-savvy children, rendering them ineffective in ensuring a secure online environment. The article contends that the insufficiency of existing protective mechanisms necessitates a more active and vigilant approach on the part of parents.

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Long-Term Impact

Further emphasizing the stakes involved, Coben highlights the potential ramifications of a child's online activities on their future. The article asserts that every piece of content a child posts on the internet is subject to public scrutiny, potentially influencing their trajectory. The discussion extends to the negative consequences of exposure to pornographic material, underscoring the long-term impact of seemingly innocuous online behavior.

Focus on Communication

In recognizing the complexity of the issue, the article advocates for open communication between parents and children. Coben underscores the importance of dialogue when undesirable online activities are discovered. By fostering a communicative environment, parents can address concerns, enlighten their children about potential dangers, and collaboratively work towards mitigating risks.

Balancing Privacy and Protection

The article acknowledges the cultural value placed on privacy in America but contends that, when it comes to the safety of children, certain concessions are warranted. Coben argues that the sacrifice of some privacy, in the form of computer software monitoring, is justified in the face of potential online threats. The author suggests that children should be made aware of this parental surveillance, fostering a transparent environment within the family.


In conclusion, Harlan Coben's article passionately advocates for the installation of spyware on home computers as a proactive measure for parents to ensure the safety of their children in the digital age. The intricate balance between privacy rights and parental responsibilities is explored, emphasizing the gravity of potential online dangers. By delving into the limitations of existing protective measures and stressing the long-term consequences of online behavior, Coben advocates for a comprehensive and communicative approach to safeguarding children on the internet.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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The Imperative of Parental Surveillance: Safeguarding Children in the Digital Age. (2016, May 04). Retrieved from

The Imperative of Parental Surveillance: Safeguarding Children in the Digital Age essay
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