Spy phone apps have been on the rise lately but are by no means a recent development. There were companies who developed these apps as early as 2010. These apps are seen as surveillance software that tracks records of all phone calls, SMS’s, the GPS location, the internet activity and all the messages from supposedly private communication applications, such as, WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook, Skype, and Line.
These mobile apps put three core values up to question. Privacy, security, and safety. Three simple words that in a perfect world would only be associated with things such as having a private space in your home, having financial security, and ensuring road safety. Now, these words can send a shiver down your spine.
Are you sure your children are safe? How secure is the area you will be visiting? What about my privacy? These are questions and concerns that frequently arise in our daily lives.
Privacy, Security, And Safety on Television
It has become so familiar, that safety and security are often used as central themes in TV films and series. One such series is Safe, a tale unfolding about a widowed surgeon who rushes against time when his daughter goes missing. The series was created by Harlan Coben, a best-selling mystery novelist with thirty titles under his name.
The story follows Tom, the widowed surgeon, who is struggling to raise his two teenage daughters after his wife’s death the previous year. Problems arise when his eldest daughter, Jenny, goes missing one night while in a seemingly safe gated community. During the progression of the story, dark secrets are unveiled, and it appears that every neighbor has their own hidden agenda.
The Use of Spy Phone App in The Series
Like many other popular TV-series, most of the drama and tension are based on small details and could have been avoided if the main character just did that one tiny thing differently. In the dynamic night-time soap opera, Safe, Tom would probably have been able to find Jenny sooner if he hadn’t infringed on his daughter’s privacy – in fact, she probably would have come to him with her problem.
During Tom’s struggle to cope with new-found single-parenthood, he enlists the help of a mobile spy app, called Hoverwatch, to ensure that Jenny is safe and that he always knows where she is. This causes Jenny to become moody and shatters the trust relationship between father and daughter.
The use of Hoverwatch, or any other spy app for that matter, came into question and raised a debate amongst many concerned and overprotective parents and their children. For the use of spy phone apps, there are both benefits and moral concerns that come into place.
Benefits of Spy Phone Apps
Spy phone apps are marketed with a number of benefits for one to use it. There are three main categories that the benefits are separated into, for a business, for a parent, and for someone who has had their phone stolen before.
1. For A Business
• Helps to keep track of employees
• Ensure that employees aren’t using company assets for personal use
• Have evidence to confront the employee with
2. For A Parent
• Be aware of your child’s location at all times
• Monitor their online activity and behavior
• Be ensured of their safety as you know who they are talking to and you can confront them if they are talking to any strangers or engaging in risky behavior
3. For Someone Who Has Had Their Phone Stolen Before
• Track your stolen phone
• Lock your phone through the app
• Remotely wipe your phone’s memory
Moral Concerns of Spy Phone Apps
When using a spy app, such as Hoverwatch there are certain moral and ethical concerns that arise. While it might be legal to use a spy app in most countries, it might not be ethical, and it is important to note that these are two separate terms and can’t be used interchangeably.
The main argument used by parents to justify their use of a spy app is that sometimes your children might not realize what is good for them and it is best to take matters into your own hands. In future delicate situations, you might need precise information about your children, and you can find it without damaging your relationship with your kids as they will be blissfully unaware.
The counterargument is that the use of these apps will undermine the trusting relationship you have built with your child. Spying on and monitoring your child without their consent means that you are abolishing any two-way and rational communication with your child and sowing mistrust.
Another counterargument is that with technology that allows us to constantly monitor our children, they are essentially growing up where they won’t know privacy as they have never experienced it. Privacy is important for your child’s development of individuality and autonomy and taking it away will be taking away a crucial part of your child’s growth.
Children are also often able to misdirect this type of surveillance, as seen in Safe as well. They simply leave their phones where they want you to believe they are and then go off to where they want.
Point To Note
While it might sound like a good idea to spy on your children in the name of ensuring their safety and well-being, it is always good to take into consideration what their reactions will be should they find out.
The series, Safe, has shown us just how damaging to your relationship with your child it could be if you conspire against them with the use of such an app. It could lead to irrecoverable damage, and as seen in the series, might lead to your children feeling they can’t come to you with their problems or even them taking drastic measures such as walking away.
Trust is vital in any relationship, and even more so when it comes to parent-and-child relationships. Rather try and build a trusting bond with your child and discuss your concerns with them, such as not knowing where they are, as more often than not, having a mature conversation with your child will allow you to sort out the problem and come to a solution.
While there is a place for spy phone apps in the world, it is best to not use them on your children, lest you cause irrevocable damage.