Will Installing a Keylogger on Your Teen’s Computer Help You Protect Them?

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Teenagers spend so much time on the Internet, and they seem to be growing up faster than they ever did before. Is the Internet the reason for their precociousness? Maybe, maybe not. But if your teen has her own computer with unlimited Internet access, you can be sure that’s she’s able to view and learn things that aren’t age-appropriate. Most of what she’s doing is probably chatting with her friends on social networks, and perhaps talking to people she’s never met. You want to protect her from her own naiveté, but how can you do it?

One extreme option that some parents have considered is installing a keylogger on her computer. A keylogger is a program that will record every website that’s visited and every single thing that’s typed. It can be installed and ran without her knowledge, and the records can be delivered to you by email. If you’re considering doing this, would a keylogger really help you protect your teen?
You Have the Information – Now What?

A keylogger will let you know everything you daughter is doing and chatting about online. You’ll be overloaded with information, but what are you supposed to do with it? How do you know when you should intervene? If you confront your daughter with the information you have, she’ll no doubt be incredibly angry at you for snooping. While you might disapprove of some of the things she says or does online, you can’t do something about it all. Unless she’s in immediate danger, there might not be much you can do at all. Online she is likely only talking about things that are dangerous, not in the actual act of doing them.
Breaking Trust

When you do intervene based on information from the keylogger, you risk severely breaking the trust between the two of you. You daughter will feel extremely violated that you disregarded her privacy, especially if you tell her you installed a keylogger without her knowledge. The damage done to your relationship will not be easily repaired, and it could take years. If you consider installing a keylogger, make sure that the potential reward (protecting her) would outweigh the risk (breaking trust). Unless you find out she is harming herself in some way, such as by using drugs, or doing other illegal activities, most teen behavior isn’t life-threatening even if it’s undesirable.
Is It Worth It?

The truth is you might end up finding out a lot of extremely embarrassing and personal things about your daughter by installing a keylogger. You’ll find out all the things she’d talk about with her friends but not to you, and you don’t really want to hear all of that. It might upset you, and it would certainly horrify her. There is no way to filter the important information from average teen activities. Unless you sincerely suspect your daughter is doing something very dangerous, installing a keylogger is not likely to increase your ability to protect her and should only be used as a last resort.

There is a direct correlation between improper engagement on the web and low academic performance. If you see grade issues you may want to consider using a keylogger as a temporary tool to monitor your teen’s activities. Catching a problem early will reduce the risk of compromising their grades or even their safety.

Anthony Curren provides academic guidance to teens heading to college via Gradesaver.

Photo Credit: syauqi_indo

Updated: June 15, 2012 — 9:12 am