The Spy in the Family

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.

"No," Cynthia said.

"That, that's not me at all," Jesse said.

"That's not you?," Gonzalez asked.

But within a minute, they confessed. Jesse said they were "just playing."

"This is a big deal. Everyone's smoking at the house," Gonzalez said. Added Quiceno: "It really makes me angry."

The kids seem contrite and say they'll never do it again. "I was disgusted by my own behavior," Jesse said.

The kids now say their parents' spying was a good thing. "What we did was wrong and hopefully those people that see this video will want to buy the surveillance cameras," Cynthia says.

"I'm actually really, really happy and glad that she actually videotaped us," Jesse says.

Reactions From Older Teens

ABCNEWS showed the tape to several older teens who had been snooped on by their parents.

"He's a liar," says Ariel Astrachan, whose father has snooped on her. "They'll do it again … They don't want to embarrass their family. They have to say those things."

Ariel, who is four years older than Jesse, thinks her dad's spying on her is wrong.

He doesn't use a camera. But he installed a computer program that lets him read everything his daughter reads or says on the Internet. "My life is over. I was going to kill him. I was so angry."

At least for Ariel, it wasn't a secret. "He tole me about it," she says.

They still have battles about it.

"Certain boys … want to see pictures of her," Astrachan says. "Boys are writing, 'Send me a sexy picture.' So my plan is, I'm going to send a picture of me in a bathing suit."

Ariel says her friends think her dad "has no life and he's psychotic." But she defends him as a "really nice guy."

David Astrachan is sure he's doing the right thing protecting his daughter. "If you think to yourself 'Gee, what if my father saw me doing this?,' what would that change? Would that change what you do? I think it does and it has," he says.

John McDevitt, 18, discovered his father was using the same program. "Spying sucks," John says.

John discovered what his father was doing when a friend showed him a copy of the The Wall Street Journal, which quoted his father talking about the snooping. "And then I was like, 'Why is my dad looking at my Internet history?'" John says.

There are plenty of reasons to spy, says his dad, Don McDevitt.

"You really have to watch what's going on in your house or things can get out of hand quickly," McDevitt says.

What is Really Accomplished?

Ashley Keelor's father put one of those GPS devices in the 17-year-old's jeep. By logging onto his computer, he can tell how fast Ashley is driving and where she is driving.

"I just wish he would have told me about it," Ashley says.

Her father caught her speeding and lying about where she went. She was grounded for that.

John just was lectured by his dad. But what was really accomplished?

"There is just a lack of respect now," John says. "The only thing that my parents have achieved is I don't talk to them and I'm never home."

Ashley's dad, Darrel Keelor, says there's been no loss of trust. "I don't think it had any effect negatively on family trust. You'd have to ask her," he says.

But Ashley says it has had a bad effect. "My parents don't trust me now. But they lied to me also, so I don't trust them as much," she says.

It's a reason that every teen expert we consulted told us spying is a bad idea. Exceptions, they say, are when teens might be suicidal or involved in activities that could be dangerous to themselves or others.

But if parents can't snoop on their kids, how can they find out what their kids doing?

Parents and Kids Should Communicate

Bernstein, the psychologist, says parents should just ask their kids. "If you have a relationship he may not lie to you," Bernstein says. Also a parent should "call other parents, talk to friends, talk to teachers, talk to the school."

The kids interviewed agreed — don't spy, just talk to us.

"Most teenagers every now and then will dabble in something illicit on the way to adulthood," Bernstein says. "Let it go."

Linda Puzino doesn't feel she can take that chance, and says having a camera showed her that Derrick needs to focus more on his homework.

"I am a single mom and I need all the help that I can get at this point," Puzino says, adding that she does not feel she is going to wreck her relationship with her son.

Puzino at least told Derrick about the camera. And sometimes, Derrick covers the camera with a hat to gain a bit of privacy. If his mom thinks the hat is on too long she'll intervene.

"I understand the fact that she wants to make sure I'm safe, wants to make sure I'm home. And, you know, wants to keep a close eye on me," Derrick says.

He is very understanding. But he didn't realize how long the camera was going to stay. "I'm 13 now so I would start to think by next year or so it would go away," he says.

Puzino isn't sure. "I'm considering more cameras, so I can't make any promises," she says.

"The camera will be in place probably as long as Derrick is with me. Maybe till he is married," she says with a laugh.