NJ police chief offers spy seminars for parents of Facebook-friendly kids

Free hacking seminars instruct parents in installation, use of spyware

Maybe it was the Craigslist Killer that put them over the edge, or perhaps the "Dateline" segment “To Catch a Predator” freaked them out. Whatever the impetus, the Internet has one police department schooling parents on how to spy on their kids’ activities online -- particularly when it comes to Facebook.

The police department in Mahwah, N.J. is offering free hacking seminars, organized by Police Chief James Batelli and his detectives, to teach parents how to install and use spyware on home computers, writes Chris Matyszczyk of Cnet.com.

 Batelli, a father of a teenager daughter, practices what he preaches in his own home.  

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He tells Chris Glorioso of NBC New York that he is motivated by stories of inappropriate Facebook photos threatening young people’s college and career ambitions. He also worries about child predators who troll social networking sites looking for prey and warns against being naïve.

“If you sugar-coat it, parents just don’t get it," he told NBC New York. "Read the paper any day of the week and you’ll see an abduction [or] a sexual assault that’s the result of an Internet interaction or Facebook comment."

In the seminars, detectives show how to install the $80 software package that works by recording keystrokes, allowing parents to hack their children’s Facebook passwords and get into the account.

Another less extreme option for parents to monitor Internet activities may be cyber-nanny software that blocks access to inappropriate websites, psychologist Dr. Jeffery Kassinove tells NBC New York.

Although some teenagers do figure out they are being monitored, the software can still serve as “a powerful check and balance,” said one mother.

"If you can see that they’re going down a path that they shouldn’t be going down or posting things they shouldn’t be posting, then you could be heading off something that you may never be able to turn around,” said Carolyn Blake, a mother of a teenage son, according to NBC. “I do think the reward is worth the risk.” 

About the Author

Alysha Sideman is the online content producer for Washington Technology.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 Dallas

Before I let my son have a facebook account or gmail at 14, he knew that I was going to be one of his "friends" on facebook and that I would always have the password to both accounts and could go on at any time. As he gets older, I imagine he's going to want to unfriend me (and his grandparents)- which is not unreasonable - and at that time I will probably install a keystroke software along with a keyword search so possibly problematic interactions can be flagged right away. I do NOT want to read about my son's girl fantasies or other private matters. I DO want to know if he is engaging in dangerous behavior. It is tough to balance privacy against safety, but I know this is his most dangerous time of life and I'd rather invade his privacy than try to pick up the pieces after he's been raped, robbed or worse.

Mon, Feb 28, 2011

Has anyone thought about the FACT that computer hacking (unauthorized access to a computer system) is A FEDERAL OFFENSE!! So, if the computer owner can "prove" the system is theirs, regardless that it is in the parents home, is the parent guild of computer trespass? Lets think this one through! OMG, where is this gona end?

Tue, Feb 22, 2011 bad parent

I find it comforting that I can check to see if my kids are doing what I thought I taught them to do as far as right or wrong. How do other parents check, just ask them and hope they tell the truth?

Tue, Feb 22, 2011

It seems to me no one writing on this subject has lost a child or had one that has been a victim of the crimes this practice is hoping to prevent. So don't do it if you don't want to... Besides, aren't we talking more about minors or did someone drop the age they can legally live on thier own. Why not let them drive you car without asking if they know how to drive. I'm sure they won't get in an accident. Never thought I would lose a child but it happen even though I thought I was doing everything I could to protect him. Of course, for the perfect parent out there, it won't be until something happens (hopefully not) that you'll be looking for someone else to blame. It also sounds like there may not be any hope for your children to succeed to a point in life that they may regret something they posted (such as pictures) they can't get back. Hey... locks were made to keep honest people honest, anyone wanting to get around a lock can ... it just makes it harder in the long run.

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Mel

I disagree that it is a "common sense measure." Common sense for who? Parents who never taught their children the difference between right and wrong? I have a teenage daughter, but don't have a need for installing spyware. She has been raised to know better than visit inappropriate sites and is well aware of the consequences of doing so. If parents take the responsibility of raising their child and instilling morales in them, they will not have to worry about what they do either in the home or elsewhere.

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