Like most teens, 13-year-old Derrick likes his privacy, and likes to spend time alone in his room.
So how does his mother know he's doing his homework? Maybe he's playing video games instead.
Derrick's mom was worried.
Linda Puzino works and often is not home until 7 p.m., so six months ago she had a camera installed in his room. Now, from any computer at the office or at home, she can monitor what he is doing. She can even go out to eat and watch him on her little, hand-held device.
"He doesn't know when I'm looking at him and so it really is being a detective of sorts," Linda says, adding that she checks in "probably every 10 minutes or so."
At first, Derrick was angry about it. "I felt like I wasn't being trusted," he says. "I felt like I was always being watched."
Now Derrick is used to it, he says.
Derrick's never been in trouble, but Linda's still worried. "The camera acts as a cop in the corner," she says.
Technology Makes Spying Easier Than Ever Before
Many parents want to know that their kids are not doing dangerous things.
Today, technology makes that easier. Cameras are smaller than ever. Parents can hide them in a pen, a phone jack, a pencil sharpener, even a neck tie. Spy stores report lots of parents are buying the latest surveillance equipment.
Carlos Arango and Dave Buell run a store they call the Spy Outlet.
"We're just trying to help the parents out," Buell says.
"If you're putting in cameras to monitor your children, you're doing it because you love them. You want to make sure they're on the straight and narrow," he says.
But Neil Bernstein, a psychologist and author of How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble, who has treated hundreds of teens and their families says, "The reality is that spying can lead to trouble."
Doesn't Instill Any Values
"All spying does is tell a kid that the reason for doing the right thing is because you're being watched. That doesn"t instill any values," Bernstein says.
But Louis Gonzalez and Patricia Quiceno says it does in fact offer a values lesson. They spy on their kids, and say it'll help keep them safe.
"We do feel a little bit badly because we also took a little bit of their privacy," Gonzalez says.
The California couple works two jobs and worry about leaving their kids home alone. So they bought a $70 black and white camera and hid it behind a wall hanging. "We had a perfect shot," Gonzalez says.
At first what they saw was kids doing homework and watching TV. But then in February, the camera captured a spin-the-bottle party. Their kids, 12-year-old Cynthia and 11-year-old Jesse, hosted friends ranging in age from 9 to 13. In this game, if the bottle points to you, the spinner decides what you have to do; maybe you take off your shirt, do a little dance, smoke a cigarette, or take a swig from a bottle of beer.
"What really surprised me the most was seeing my son grabbing the beer and drinking it," Gonzalez says.
Quiceno goes further with the description: "Drinking. Then kissing this little girl and dancing and acting all weird … I never imagined they could do something like that at home."
Gonzalez and Quiceno confronted the kids in a family meeting at the spy shop. They had told the kids they were going to look at some cameras.
Then they went to the back of the store to watch a sample video, which the kids were shocked to learn was about them.
"Oh my God," Cynthia said upon seeing herself.
"Is that you and your friends?" Quiceno asked.