Parenting and Spyware



I get questions from parents asking for my thoughts on filters. I came across some reading which suggests parents use spyware programs like Mobile Spy or Stealth Genie as a means to track their teens.

Here are my thoughts on it



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Feel free to share your thoughts below. Or, share them over in the comments section for this video on YouTube.



  1. Cristy S. on June 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Good vlog.
    I liked that you put honest communication as the most important part of teaching social media smarts to your kids. It certainly is.
    We, however, have always used filtering on our PCs, both for our kids and for ourselves. It can be an excellent tool for accountability and teaching responsibility. With our teen boys, it wasn’t a question of distrust or shirking responsibility, it was simply a tool in our kit to keep our kids safe. One of a few teaching tools.
    Just as we would occasionally take a ‘drive-by’ in their rooms or peruse their books or music, we would look to see what was going on online (and this was even before most social media was around.) We continue to filter with our 9 year old daughter. It is not simply our children’s choices we must guard against. There are real predators out there, and truth be told, other children who do not have parents that are as diligent. (Kirk Martin is doing an excellent speaking tour on this topic right now; I highly recommend it.)

    Our attitude was and is one of “if they make a mistake in these areas, we want them to make the mistake here where it is safe, and we can walk them through a better course of action.” It was and is intentional parenting, not creating a nanny state or stifling their growth. All of this can be done with love and respect, just as we try to do in every area of our children’s lives!

    • leahnieman on June 10, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Cristy,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. It’s so helpful to get feedback on this issue because it’s certainly something parents can’t ignore.
      I talk often about the use of filters. I mentioned it at the beginning of the vlog, but didn’t go on about them simply because I was focused on spyware here.
      I recommend filters when speaking as people always ask what I recommend. I’m not anti-filter at all. In fact, we used Net Nanny in the early days and I recommend Covenant Eyes for those who want to move their kids towards accountability. I think it’s important parents understand the difference between a filter and an accountability program so they can use those tools effectively with communication and not use them in lieu of communication. I definitely lean towards using filters when kids are younger with lots of communication. Then move them towards accountability for adulthood.
      My issue with Spyware is it’s not a filter. It’s actually recording each text message sent by your child. This creates what you refer to as a “nanny state” instead of a loving home where parents are guiding their kids. I believe it’s not a tool to be used simply because it tears down that most important tool-communication.
      And yes, we should be intentional. If our kids make a mistake in these areas, let it be while at home.
      I can intentionally equip my child. I can help them develop strong character and prepare them for their lifelong journey. That’s the view we’ve taken with our 2 kids who are both now young adults entering the world. Do I cringe at times? Absolutely. Do I smile when they are faced with a tough decision and I see them make the right and oftentimes harder choice? You bet!

      • Cristy S. on June 11, 2014 at 12:43 am

        Thanks for the reply.

        Accountability software is not spyware, necessarily, which is the point I was trying to make. Spyware is mostly viewed as monitoring or recording information on a person’s computer usage for another’s personal or professional gain; this is not the definition of what loving parents are doing when they install software out of concern for their children. For example, many nefarious people will use spyware to monitor or track where a user is going online, and obtain personal information, like credit card numbers or the like, so as to illegal gain access to their lives.

        I don’t believe parents can ‘spy’ on their children, if they’re under-age. There shouldn’t be a motive of illegal gain. Parents can ‘monitor’ their children in all things, and teach them to make wise choices. Love should be extended without cost or limit. Trust is EARNED. You are so right that communication, in a spirit of love, avoids a lot of these problems. But again, you cannot control the choices other children, or their parents make. And you won’t always have a cooperative child. Bottom line, my Bible says we are all sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God. Children, too, tend toward sin. Lovely and wonderful as they are in spite of it!

        If I view my child’s texts or emails or web usage, I do so as a responsible parent. As a parent to teen sons, I saw first hand how good kids make bad choices, some with disasterous results. I’m glad you weren’t faced with those situations. We only knew about them because we watched and listened. I would do it again. I’ve learned that parents can do all the right things, and still the child will make wrong choices. Anything we can do to help our children, should be done. Including accountability software. (As an aside, it wouldn’t hurt most parents to be held to the same standard.)

        My message in all of this would be to consider the child, the child’s friends, and be ready to make decisions on accountability software based on your family and the individual child.

        • leahnieman on June 11, 2014 at 2:33 am

          Exactly Cristy and I think we’re actually saying much of the same thing. Internet filters and accountability programs aren’t spyware. They are 2 totally different animals. Thanks for sharing what’s working for your family. And oh boy don’t get me started on “it won’t hurt most parents to be held to the same standard” Wow that’s a huge soapbox for me. But that’s for another vlog. One at a time.

    • Gert on March 12, 2015 at 7:29 am

      It’s great to read something that’s both enjoyable and provides praitamgsdc solutions.

  2. Jamie on June 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I found this very insightful, as we are still in the early stages of allowing technology with our kiddos. I understand, particularly from the comments, the difference in the tools you are mentioning, but one thing I thought I would mention is that I work in the government sector (where every word you type is technically public info) and one of the most important things we have tried to communicate to our children while using technology is that it’s ALWAYS monitored, by someone, and it is NOT private. So mom and dad knowing what you’re up to is just the tip of the iceberg. In theory your text messages could be saved by AT&T and recalled under subpoena for court. Text messages and FB posts are being used regularly in domestic court cases between spouses and family. Retailers use your history to feed you advertisements. I don’t like the idea of “spying” but I DO want them to understand that there is NO expectation of privacy on technology–and that’s not even our family rule, that’s just a fact of life. Just some other thoughts…

    • Leah Nieman on June 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for stopping by my site and I so appreciate your comment. I agree wholeheartedly with you. We absolutely need to make sure our kids understand there is NO expectation of privacy on technology…none. That’s my whole soapbox with the messaging of “disappearing apps” and I say that as a huge fan and user of Snapchat. In fact, I talk about this very openly when I speak.

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