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Will "Big Mother" watching make your teen safer?

The book 1984 contains the image of Big Brother, and the famous tag line, "Big Brother is watching you." When George Orwell wrote the book in the late 1940s, sophisticated surveillance technology was in its infancy. Today, with the internet, cell phones and GPS, we are all subject to greater scrutiny. For drivers there is concern over what data is collected by computers in their cars, with the potential that it could be used after a car accident to pin blame and assign liability.

But some parents are taking it one step further, and adding a comprehensive information gathering system to their cars before they let their teen drivers get behind the wheel. The technology, which plugs into the cars computer diagnostic port, allows parents to receive a message that the car is being driven too fast, has stopped abruptly or is simple sitting somewhere idling. The goal of such surveillance is to prevent teen drivers from engaging in the reckless behavior that can cause car accidents.

At this point, it is hard to say if this type of technology will actually keep kids or other drivers safe. While knowing that you are being monitored and that significant amounts of data can be extracted about their driving habits may cause children to be more thoughtful and cautious when they drive.

However, consider your own cell phone. As revelations from the NSA have shown, much of your daily activities, who you call, where you were when you called, how often you update a Facebook page or tweet can all be recovered. In a divorce proceeding, much of that material could be discovered. Does that potential make you your cautious when you text, email or call someone?

We thought so. Technology can help address some problems related to teen drivers, but it may not solve them.

Source: NPR, "Hey, Why Did You Floor It? Tracking Junior Behind The Wheel," Steve Henn, October 14, 2013

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