Big Mother is watching you

Today’s children can’t explore the World Beyond The Front Yard, says a Washington Post story

. . . . to drive around America’s suburbs is to see tidy but empty blocks, devoid of the kickball, hide-and-seek and aimless wanderings of earlier generations. For many parents, the thought of allowing their children out unaccompanied invokes spasms of horror and even accusations of child neglect.

Despite parents’ fears, the number of children abducted by strangers is very low and not on the increase. Roger Hart, director of the Children’s Environments Research Group at the City University of New York says:

“In a more globalized world, people feel generally less secure about place, because the world becomes more and more anonymous as it becomes more mobile,” he said. “It feeds on itself, and if you watch more and more television, you have more sense of these dangers. And there’s less and less engagement with community. Outside has become more dangerous, because there’s no longer multiple eyes on everything.”

One couple quoted in the story planted a vegetable garden in their front yard and built a porch to encourage neighbors to stop by for a chat.

Older kids can get out of the house, but not out of sight, reports NPR. Parents are using technology to track their teenagers. The story features a stepdad who let his stepdaughter have a car, despite her record of drinking and lying, but slipped a tracking device in the car.

. . . more and more teens will have to get used to the idea of “Big Mother” looking over kids’ shoulders. With GPS technology getting cheaper, smaller and better, most any cell phone can be a tracking device for just a few extra dollars a month. A black box, like the one made by Alltrack that’s in Jessica’s car, costs a few hundred dollars, plus a monthly fee. But, it also gives parents a way to retaliate in real time.

For example, says Alltrack’s Mark Allbaugh, when a teen driver is speeding, parents can remotely flash the car’s light or honk the horn, until the teen slows down.

There’s more to come.

“I think, over time, parents will feel if they don’t have this, they’re not being good parents,” says Jim Katz, Director of the Rutgers University Center for Mobile Communication Studies. He says that soon, tiny cameras — like the ones in most new cell phones — will enable parents to literally watch over their kids 24 hours a day, seven days a week– and even eavesdrop on their conversations.

Big Mother is watching you.

About Joanne


  1. And there’s also the issue of “NIMBY” – people not wanting kids around them.

    I am a leader for a youth group and there are times we’ve had complaints of noise or unruliness – even though the kids are on church property and they’re playing nicely. Some people can’t understand that an errant tennis ball is sometimes just an errant tennis ball, and not a missile fired specifically at them. And the noise of happy kids playing is not being generated just to drown out your television program…

  2. Most of the tone of this I agree with: it’s a shame that parents feel a need to watch their kids 24-7. But as for Jessica, I guess that as someone who’s prosecuted DUI, I think it’s irresponsible to let a teenager with a history of drinking get behind the wheel, period.

  3. Tim from Texas says:

    It’s insane. Instead of cleaning up this country’s act, making “outside” something the nation can be comfortable with, its citizens buy technology to make themselves feel falsely comfortible, while they’re out shopping for other things they don’t need.

  4. Of course, if the number of abductions has remained constant over the years, but the number of children playing outside has dropped by 95 percent, then the risk to an individual child playing outside had grown twenty-fold.

    I have neighbors who built a front-yard patio where they regularly enjoy a 6am breakfast. I wish they’d move back indoors.