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‘Parents could ‘spy’ on kids’ mobile phones’ (ABC, 2 June 2009)

June 10, 2009 Leave a comment

cell_phone2Not only does this media report raise interesting legal and ethical questions, it will raise the eyebrows of many students!

‘Parents could ‘spy’ on kids’ mobile phones’ (ABC, 2 June 2009)

Parents may soon be able to read their children’s text messages as part of a plan to give them more control over rapidly developing technologies…

Rapid advance in telecommunication technology has been the hallmark of the late twentieth century.  However it brings never ending new challenges that stretch the boundaries of law.  Just recently, for instance, there have been news about cyber-bullying in elite schools.  Use of mobile phones in gang violence have also been noted during the Cronulla riot.  There has also been continuing public concerns about children being exposed to ‘sexting’ or sexual predators.  

It seems for every problems that technology creates, there is a technological solution.

American company My Mobile Watchdog says it has responded to this community concern by launching software that allows parents to see the text messages, calls, picture messages and emails sent to and from their children’s phones.
Geoff Sondergeld is the managing director of Device Connections, the exclusive Australian agent for the software, and he says parents have to face the reality of modern communication.
“The child is notified every time they power their device that their phone is being monitored and they must accept that notification before they can move on to use the phone in any normal use,” he said.
“The screen will say ‘your phone is being monitored by mobile watchdog, press any key to continue’.”
He insists the product is not spyware, because the child will know every time their parents access the records of their phone.

American company My Mobile Watchdog says it has responded to this community concern by launching software that allows parents to see the text messages, calls, picture messages and emails sent to and from their children’s phones.

Geoff Sondergeld is the managing director of Device Connections, the exclusive Australian agent for the software, and he says parents have to face the reality of modern communication.

“The child is notified every time they power their device that their phone is being monitored and they must accept that notification before they can move on to use the phone in any normal use,” he said.

“The screen will say ‘your phone is being monitored by mobile watchdog, press any key to continue’.”

He insists the product is not spyware, because the child will know every time their parents access the records of their phone.

It should not be surprising that civil libertarian lobby groups have raised concerns about this.  Their main argument is that if parents have to rely on this form of technology to monitor their children’s usage of mobile phones, they have to reevaluate their parenting techniques.  They also raise concerns that this constitutes questionable intrusion of one’s privacy.  According to the head of Civil Liberties Council, Terry O’Gorman,

If this technology allows a parent at any time to in effect go and read any communication that is going to or from their child’s mobile phone, that is simply not acceptable,” he said.

Children have certain rights of privacy, including certain rights of privacy in their communication, that their parents should not know about.”

He says parents should not rely on technology such as this to keep aware of what their children are doing.

Those parents that argue they need that software ignore the reality,” he said.

“The best way of finding out what’s happening with your child is to talk to them and not access their phone communications behind their back.

In fact, this technology is yet to be introduced in Australia due to privacy concerns.  

However, parents interviewed for this article are not so convinced by that line of argument.  

Susan Hetherington has an 11-year-old son and she is also a media commentator on children’s issues.

I think it is pandering a little bit to parent hysteria about issues like paedophilia and cyber-bullying but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for parents to be able to make some basic checks on who their children are talking to, depending on the ages of the kids,” she said.

As long as you’re still paying the bills, you have rights to know how that phone is being used.

“In days gone by if someone wanted to talk to their child they’d call the family home, you’d answer it and you’d decide if they could speak to them. I don’t see how this is very different from that.

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‘YouTube footage shows Sydney four-year-olds fighting’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)

April 25, 2009 Leave a comment

youtubeThis is a piece of very disturbing news, and it has implications for several topics within the Legal Studies syllabus.

YouTube footage shows Sydney four-year-olds fighting (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)’ (Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2009)

Below are some extracts, followed by some commentary.

By Kara Lawrence, Senior Crime Reporter

April 24, 2009 12:00am

CRIMINAL charges could be laid against teenagers and adults involved in organising a boxing bout in Sydney’s southwest involving boys as young as four, and for footage which was posted on YouTube.

Police and DOCS will investigate the source of the footage after they were alerted to it yesterday.

The video is undated but it had been posted under the headline “rmacentre lil’ kids boxing” – and with a link to the Revesby Muslim Association’s website.

The association last night distanced itself from the footage, denying it was an organised “fight club”.

Spokesman Wisam Haddad said the footage had been shot without the association’s knowledge following one of its organised boxercise classes.

The footage shows two boys who appear to be aged about four, wearing boxing gloves but no protective headgear, punching each other in the head as adults cheered them on.

One of the boys appears unsteady on his feet and tries to walk away. As he reaches a door to leave, he is forced back in and urged to box on.

Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad said last night he was appalled by the footage.

This article can be analysed from several angles.

  1. Criminal law and civil law
    • Both teenagers and adults who are involved in organising this fight can potentially incur criminal liabilities.  As this happened in a ‘community function centre’ (in this case, a mosque), there will be issues such as ‘duty of care’ and ‘negligence’.  Despite the claim from the Revesby Muslim Association that they did not organise this fight, the fact that it happened after a session organised by them can still potentially opened them to criminal charges and lawsuits.
  2. Family law
    • The kids who are involved in the fight, did they receive parental permission to be involved in this boxercise class?  Either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can elicits problems for the parents.
  3. Young people and the law
    • Both the victims and some of the perpetrators are underaged.  In this case, they would be dealt with under legislation specific to young people.
  4. Community relations with the media
    • It is interesting in the Channel 7 news broadcast that the spokesperson for the Revesby Muslim Assocation claimed they have been victim of racism.  This seems a somewhat unjustifiable defensive response.  However it does highlight a history of tension that exists between the media and the Lebanese community in Sydney.  It is interesting that this news received nearly no coverage in Sydney Morning Herald.  Only Daily Telegraph has given this coverage.  Considering the past coverage by the Daily Telegraph of the Cronulla riot, one can understand the continuing tension between the Lebanese community in Sydney and the media.

Family contracts: how to save the children (SMH, April 9, 2009)

April 10, 2009 Leave a comment

family

Law arises out of social contexts.  In that regard, this article describes an emerging trend that will have legal consequences, unclear though they may be.  

Family contracts: how to save the children (SMH, April 9, 2009)

The trend in question is cyberbullying, as well as the other dangers that young people face when they go online.  
…the consequence of parents losing touch with their children was highlighted by the death of 17-year-old Allem Halkic, who took his own life in February after being bullied online.

Allem’s father Ali said on Four Corners on ABC this week that his son had “three lives”.

“He had his life as a child to … [his] family and friends. Then he had his social structure with his friends … and the parties and the nightlife and all these type of things.

“We had that covered as a family. But the third one and the one that finally took my son’s life was this imaginary world where you interact with 10-15 people.

“But, we seriously failed as parents on that one, seriously.”

The couple are now committed to raising awareness of bullying among parents and children, and hope the Four Corners program will be shown to students at all schools.