Spying not a solution to bullying

I’m rather concerned about the media attention being given to the Rotorua Coroner’s suggestion that parents should install spyware on their children’s phones. Spyware isn’t the answer to bullying. Youth suicide is a tragedy and there is much more we can be doing to support young people to prevent suicide.

Having parents monitor emails, call history, location and text messages doesn’t build trust between parents and children. Children being bullied need someone to talk to about the problem. We need to be supporting parents and schools to develop skills to watch for signs of bullying and enable them to able to talk about it. This won’t involve increasing student teacher ratios but will mean investing in our education system.

The application – cited in the National Radio story – is for android phones only so wouldn’t be available for all phones like the article suggests. While I am sure there are other options for other smart phones I would have thought that smart phone penetration amongst teens was fairly low. Does anyone know of any figures for this? If they are talking about an implementation on the carrier (Telecom/Vodafone/2degrees) side there are of course other barriers. With SIM cards being so cheap now days monitoring on the carrier side is impractical – it doesn’t take much to buy a new SIM. I will await with interest the announcement that Telecom was suggesting (in the Morning Report story) would occur in the next few months.

36 Comments Posted

  1. SPC, you are now in danger of being a liar.

    Your comments were intended to “move to dismiss”, you clearly have no idea (like many left wing commentators) of what the true definition of bigotry is.
    I can make generalisations about people like you because you are all so damned predictable, as soon as I piss you off, you bring out the “big gun” and start firing bigot bullets at everyone.

    Grow up, learn to take the criticism, at least mine is based on reality and not some irrational fear of the imaginary bigot monster.

  2. Your “/accusations/generalisations” about liberals are an expression of bigotry.

    To say so is bigotry against whom? Is criticism of what someone writes under the shunda barunda brand bigotry against “it”?

    My criticism of your comments is not censorship of them, generally most people don’t confuse criticism with censorship – the exception being when they cannot defend what they wrote when called in it.

  3. Do you know what bigotry is,it’s when what is associated with one person in a group (whether of race, religion, gender or political creed) is then projected onto all people in that group.

    What a load of crap, and interestingly you have just displayed bigotry in a more pure form.

    The word you were looking for (all be it not very hard) regarding my comment was “generalisation“, but you have displayed an intolerance for my opinion that can only be termed “bigotry“.

    I am tolerant of the fact that you disagree with me SPC, but you however seek to silence me from even sharing an opinion.

    Such is the way of the extreme left (generalisation 😉 )

  4. I wonder what the effect on the take up and use level of the smart phones would be when teens realise the spyware is in place.

    The phone companies will find texting will diminish and parents will note some teens would use the cheaper (untraced) phones when out late so there is “no risk of losing the expensive one”.

  5. Gareth says “The application – cited in the National Radio story – is for android phones …”

    If you listen to your own link, you will hear the application works for ALL phones, and has additional features that work on android.

    (like being able to find the location of your 14 year old daughter [or at least her phone] when she failed to come home and is still missing hours later at 2am).

    There are more and more problems because parents are not keeping track of what their kids are up to, what website they are on, who they are meeting, whose place they are at etc.

    Trust is something that is earned – kids don’t get it automatically. Knowing what they are doing, who they are with, what they are looking at etc – is what will build more trust.

    If everything they do is kept secret and private, that doesn’t build trust – it does the opposite.

    They should be given more trust and freedom BY EARNING IT. That way they start life heading in the right direction.

    Too much freedom too early means they are more likely to go off in any direction.

    It’s like the difference between carefully aiming your gun (teenager) at a target, or spinnning around blindfolded, firing off your teenager, and expecting them to still go in the right direction.

  6. You make a personal attack on someone and your only supporting point for this is to mention another persons support for lowering the voting age to 12 (link supporting evidence if you have any) and then call them the queen over other liberals.

    In your mind if one liberal supports something all liberals do. Do you know what bigotry is,it’s when what is associated with one person in a group (whether of race, religion, gender or political creed) is then projected onto all people in that group.

    That is, as you have just demonstrated, is what you do.

  7. Don’t talk to me about projection SPC, you have got that nailed down to a fine art.

    Do you think 12 year olds should get the vote? like your liberal queen Sue Bradford?

  8. People like Gareth are causing children to grow up too fast … really? Let’s guess you project things you don’t like onto others as a means to rationalise your own negative attitudes to anyone you see as liberal. And here just a personal attack unrelated to the topic, except as an unwitting metaphor for how modern media is a means for anonymous attacks on others.

    When teens choose to have cell phones – and their parent do not approve, they would be the last to know.

  9. Having parents monitor emails, call history, location and text messages doesn’t build trust between parents and children.

    What would you know Gareth?

    What I know is that trust between me and my kids wouldn’t be compromised, because they don’t have or need cell phones.

    This is the real problem, people like Gareth are just too keen to make kids grow up too damned fast and then play these bullshit games about protecting them from the adult world.

    Perhaps the answer is to let them be kids and let them grow up at their own pace, and not play stupid “ken and barbie” games with the lives of our young.

  10. Kerry Thomas:

    The truth is we don’t know what the hell is really going on inside those schools, regardless of how they label their programmes and behaviours. Any ‘right idea’ can be completely (and destructively) misapplied.

    And as long as a child’s developmental freedom (or not) is held firmly on the end of the governments leash, the situation is intolerable. Governments will always tend to tell us what we want to hear, regardless of their real agenda’s. That’s what PR is all about.

    The “invisible world” of government education needs to come back into the hands of the parents.

  11. Andrew and Kiore.

    NZ’s education system has been heading towards “individual education plans” and other changes from “one size fits all” for a while.

    That is why the new curriculum avoids “how to teach”, advocates teaching students to research and think and has broad achievement bands instead of age levels.

    Unfortunately, the people who want students to be unthinking cannon fodder for industry, resist improvement. With educationally dysfunctional bullshit like NACT standards.

    Forcing both Teachers and students back into the right wings “one size for all” straitjacket”.

    Note: NACT standards are not required for private schools.

  12. @kiore1

    Where have I suggested perfection in teacher training and recruitment?

    I was merely objecting to sweeping, unfounded and subjective generalisations of the ‘Burn the village to save it’ type put forward by Andrew.

    Life is petty, arbitrary and capricious.
    You get hopeless jobsworths and sociopaths in every profession.
    Most people put it past them and move on. It’s when one dwells on it that it becomes toxic and poisons your outlook.

  13. I agree Gregor, that one should not let negative experiences cloud ones judgement, but the alternative argument you have put forward – that we have a perfect teacher training and recruitment system – is incredibly naive. I have seen too many bad teachers (and bad car mechanics) for this view to have any credibility.

    You may also dismiss my own negative experiences of school as simply being one more instance of a disgruntled ex-student, but I was not against learning (as evidenced by the fact that I eventually gained a PhD), nor is my beef against individual teachers. These varied in ability – some were brilliant, most were average and a few were borderline psychotic. My objection is the compulsory education system, that forces children to attend structured lessons for 10 years, and without even any remission for good behaviour. The rules are petty, arbitrary and capricious, and the power system and elitism in schools is like something out of a medieval court. I know that good teachers feel crushed by such a system, as one said to me, she was sick of the constant criticism, by students, parents, principles and board of governers.

    I later went to teachers college, and found the same tactic of humiliation and shaming used towards student teachers. I am a failed secondary school teacher – classroom management was my bugbear, but I am convinced that in a more supportive environment I would still have become a good teacher in time.

    Later I went into tertiary teaching and here I excelled. I no longer had to worry about being a jailor, and could instead concentrate on providing interesting and informative educational experiences. The training to be an adult teacher was also much more professional, and I realised that the teachers college tutors had been doing everything wrong in attempting to teach us to be teachers.

    The one secondary teaching experience I enjoyed was when I was asked to teach a group of children aged 9-14. I was totally amazed to find that I could treat them the same way I treated my adults (though of course the content was not pitched at such a high level). The children were well adjusted, sociable and self-disciplined – just like most of my adult students.

    So my conclusion is that home schooling is a good idea, and that the state system is not always best for many children. Because although in theory secondary school teachers have the teaching skills parents lack, this is not always the case in practice. Parents keen on teaching their own children can always learn the skills themselves, and for specialised subjects can always call upon skilled teachers, like me. Also, there is no substitute for the individual attention children get from parents. The National Party say class size makes no difference to quality of teaching. I wonder if they have ever had to stand in front of a class.

  14. Andrew: You remind me a little of a commenter on Red Alert with the handle of Tribeless – a joke in itself given that he was a rabid Randian – who opined that taxation in any form was some form of hideous, repressive mechanism that enslaved the populace with the corollary that the IRD was a type of Chekist apparatus hell bent on curtailing his ‘freedom’.

    His positioned stemmed from a minor tax tiff with the IRD.

    Your position seems to be somewhat the same; damning the entire educational system because you didn’t like school.

    I’ll leave it at that because we are getting way off topic and I’m sure this side conversation is boring everyone else!

  15. Is there any evidence that existing software available for parents to watch what their kids do on home PCs has any effect on cyber-bullying?

    The Radio NZ article doesn’t interview the coroner at all, and appears as if the issue’s almost been spun by the media, but this article from the NZ Herald contains a specific quote where Dr Bain (the coroner) states “I am of the view that the younger they are, they should be monitored.” (whatever that means…. I’m unsure from the grammar).

    This doesn’t mean it’ll feature in the final conclusions, which he’s also indicated won’t be released for at least a couple of months after more thorough research. I’m good for waiting until they’re actually released and then debating it if it’s still an issue. Coroners aren’t always experts on what they’re investigating, and I don’t think it’d be the first time a coroner’s proposed something that arguably misses important issues that weren’t covered during an inquest, and is subsequently discarded.

  16. I am a little concerned that your reasoning for not thinking this is a good idea appears to be the breakdown in the trust between parents and children.

    I personally find the idea that spyware is able to be installed on a mobile phone disturbing, and a risk to society. It amazes me that so many people get quite angry at the idea a government agency might have the ability to spy on alleged criminals after getting a warrant, but that none of those same people are concerned that software can be downloaded and loaded into a mobile phone legally, there could be a perceived hypocrisy in that.

    Everyone deserves privacy and not have their phone effectively bugged, potentially unknowingly, the fact that this software is available impinges on our privacy.

  17. Gregor W:

    I went to school. I know what it is. I know what most teachers are (mentality). My thinking begins with the concrete – not the cryptic.

    Yes my perspective of schooling is that it is “Stalinist”. That is because schooling IS a process of forced-institutionalisation. Open your damn eyes.

  18. In all honesty Andrew, I would respectfully suggest that you talk to a few teachers and understand what methods they are taught both in TColl and on the job. A lot of it includes sociology, anthropology and the practice of learning.

    You seem to have a weird, dystopian view of teaching as some sort of dehumanising, bureaucratic, Stalinist mind-control experiment engineered by abhorrent shadowy external forces.

    That’s not the schooling I went through and though my experience is naturally subjective, I would suggest that the vast majority of people you know didn’t have that experience either.

    And yes, it pays to be specific rather than making sweeping generalisations.

    Otherwise your statements like “These people we call teachers don’t know jack.” or “If they’re expert on anything it’s how to force kids to respond to government programmes and objectives” comes across as shrill, uniformed and generally a bit silly.

  19. Gregor W:

    “And teachers are educational experts”

    If they’re expert on anything it’s how to force kids to respond to government programmes and objectives. They are agents. Do they really understand the thinking and engineering behind the programmes themselves? Do they know why we have bizarre practices such as age and sex segregation? Do they know why people have to learn everything to a regimented timeline? Do they have any idea how kids develop outside the institutional process? These people we call teachers don’t know jack. They’re really just educational facilitators – Technicians.

    And of course teachers control a child’s developmental process, during school time (do I really have to be this specific when making my points?). They force them to respond to the programmes.

  20. You’re living in the idea that human learning needs to be institutionalised, with so-called experts controlling their developmental process. No way!

    No. I’m living with the idea that human learning should be standardised (to a degree) for the purposes of efficiency, and moderated (to a greater degree) for the purposes of measurement.

    And teachers are educational experts, not ‘so called experts’.
    In the same way that my mechanic is an expert in dealing with my car.

    BTW, I think you would be hard pressed to find any teachers that are able to exert such influence that they ‘control’ any kids development process.

    In fact, I would go far as to say that your thinking is complete ideological tosh. You infer that kids are automatons, ‘learning’ from only one source, and are not subject to any parental or socio-economic factors; which is completely and utterly false.

  21. MikeM: Maybe Gatto’s assertion was wrong with this? I’ll look at it more closely later on. I think 1870 is roughly about when compulsion schooling began.

  22. Gatto also waxes lyrical about how terrific the pre-industrial era was, so I take what he has to say about anything with a fairly large pinch of salt.

    He also tends to ignore cultural contingencies in his theorising, for instance why immigrant Asian kids tend to do just fine in school vs their counterparts.

  23. Gregor W:

    You’re living in the idea that human learning needs to be institutionalised, with so-called experts controlling their developmental process. No way!

    You only need to do that with, maybe, children who are clinically disturbed and/or retarded. The fact of this has already been demonstrated with “unschooling” (allowed in the USA) and educational history.

  24. according to John Taylor Gatto: Literacy rates were almost 100% over 100 years ago in America BEFORE forced schooling was introduced. After it was introduced literacy progressively declined, and continues to decline today.

    The US National Center for Education Statistics also provides some info on this, if you scroll to the table at the end. 20% total illteracy in 1870 (80% for non-white people), if you’re the kind of person who trusts sources from the US government at least. When was compulsory schooling introduced?

  25. I’m talking about private schools that are not regulated by the state – at all. Schools that are regulated by market demand, which means parents and kids. So the state literally has nothing to do with it; not “privately owned, but government controlled”.

    As for state regulations ensuring quality, I’ll mention a fact according to John Taylor Gatto: Literacy rates were almost 100% over 100 years ago in America BEFORE forced schooling was introduced. After it was introduced literacy progressively declined, and continues to decline today.

    Oh where would we be without the benevolent hand of government? It appears we already know. Universal literacy, at least.

  26. Hi Gareth.

    While I am sure there are other options for other smart phones I would have thought that smart phone penetration amongst teens was fairly low.

    If today’s figures are low then I’d still be cautious about that being significant. Smartphones are the way things are going regardless, and given a year or two things could easily be very different. Hopping around Melbourne, kids everywhere have smartphones. Sometimes they’re iPhones or high-end Android phones, maybe second-hand or hand-me-downs from the parents, or new, sometimes lower end Android phones. Smartphones are fairly standard now on all the contracts that big telecommunications companies are pushing, cheap or expensive plans alike, and every time someone updates their plan there’s a new second-hand phone on the market that someone else can take to the ultra budget plan companies.

    If they’re still scarce among some groups in NZ then I’d suggest the only thing holding it back is a lack of effectiveness by telecommunications providers to provide affordable data plans. If that happens then watch the floodgates open and the potential for parental spyware flourish.

  27. Also, if parents can be paid to educate their child (in effect) by homeschooling, if they want, then institutional education as we know it probably won’t survive either. It will be mostly reduced to homeschooling clubs. Fine – if that’s what people want. Right?

    @ AA

    Ummm, absolutely not fine. Teaching (or pedagogic method) is somewhat of a specialised skill. And without the the standards set by institutional education (i.e. some form of state standardised examination), the exercise becomes worthless.

    Is it fine for people to perform and certify their own electrical work in their homes because they want to? No.

    Ad absurdum, is it fine if ‘the people’ to want to beat their wives and kids in order to educate and discipline them because they believe it’s more effective than conversation, logic and reasoning? I think not.

  28. Yes Andrew. As the market works so well in the USA?

    From direct observation, bullying in private schools is more common than in State schools.
    Not only is it more common, but it is encouraged as a means of ensuring conformity and discipline.

  29. Andrew, are you seriously suggesting there is no bullying at private schools? Certainly not my experience!

  30. I agree spying is not the answer – but your solution to bullying is excruciatingly predictable. Just more government massaging into a fundamentally sick system.

    No way in hell are you going to consider the idea of getting the state out of children’s education so that parents (yes – the market) can REALLY drive education in their own image.

    If a private school of whatever form can function without government control on its leash, and is dependent on students participation like McDonald’s is dependent on customers, then bullying won’t survive. The toxin will be extracted SO fast.

    Also, if parents can be paid to educate their child (in effect) by homeschooling, if they want, then institutional education as we know it probably won’t survive either. It will be mostly reduced to homeschooling clubs. Fine – if that’s what people want. Right?

  31. Gareth: I’m an old fashioned guy but the question I have do ask is why do kids need cell phones in the first place? We seemed to survive without them. As a parent one of my rules if I have to pay for it then I have absolute control. When my kids started earning thier own money and paying for these things then to me this indicated they were mature enough to handle inane comments from plonkers.

  32. Great post Gareth, good to see somebody is taking note of this issue – I was actually in the process of writing my own when your one appeared in my RSS reader (posted anyway at http://www.jethrocarr.com/2012/04/11/leave-them-kids-alone/)

    In regards to your comments about smart phones- they are only getting cheaper and cheaper, it won’t be much longer before even the most basic handsets are some form of smartphone.

    Teenagers are prolific adopters of mobile technology, most teens have at least one, if not several cellphones and are always keen to get the latest and greatest technology, even 5 or so years ago there were teenagers at decile 5 schools running around with PDAs and the latest tech in phones of the time.

    There was an article recently quoting an NZ Vodafone representative stating that at least half of phones currently sold are smart phones which isn’t surprising when they’re starting at prices as low as $150 – or even less if you grab a used model from Trademe.

    (source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/6076313/Parental-control-smartphone-app-launched )

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