Ellen Goodman on the Perils of Good Intentions

Surveillance society meets parenting in a culture of fear: Big Brother meets Big Motherpdf

It’s not clear that a surveillance society actually provides more security. Consider the ubiquitous surveillance cameras at schools. What did they do for that Cleveland high school last month except to leave behind chilling, post-mortem pictures of the 14-year-old shooter? And how easy is it to drop the GPS jacket by the roadside?

Meanwhile, we may be raising a generation with low expectations of public privacy, trained by Big Mother to accept Big Brother. Did anyone notice how Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton made monitoring anklets into this year’s fashion accessory?

As someone who has done my fair share of speed dialing, I am a believer in the text messaging and cellphoning that keeps parents and kids in contact. But there’s a moment when the two-way tools of communication turn into the one-way tools of surveillance. Then the tether becomes a leash and parenting becomes stalking. We don’t talk; we track.

Later: See, for example, Peace of Mind When They Ask to Borrow the Car