Can you know your children as well as your parents knew you? Or in the digital age, can you know them better?
Rick Harriman of Southwick, Mass., is determined not to let his children follow in his adolescent footsteps when it comes to keeping things from parents. "I snuck out at night, went to parties, did all the teenager angst things," he said.
His parents both worked. They knew some of what he did, he says, but they were clueless about much more.
Mr. Harriman, 44, is now the father of three children, and he is intent on keeping a far closer eye on them. The alarm system at home is designed as much to keep his children in as it is to keep burglars out, he said, only half in jest. He has installed a software program that tracks his 15-year-old's online travels. He uses another tool to monitor what she says and to whom on Facebook.
"We know more about what's going on with their social lives, their grades, their friends than my parents did," Mr. Harriman admitted. It helps that he works for a computer hardware company and is technologically savvy. His wife is a stay-at-home mother.
Jeanna Lee Tahnk, 36, a technology blogger, recalls that when she was growing up, parents could simply eavesdrop on telephone conversations their children had at home. Today, she said, parents have tools to eavesdrop in many other ways - and those tools, she expects, will proliferate.
"There are many more avenues for getting a glimpse into our kids' lives," she said.
Two sharply different studies released this week offered glimpses into teenagers' attitudes about their lives online.
McAfee, the security company, said the teenagers that it spoke to were leery of too much parental vigilance. Two out of three teens said their parents did not need to know everything about their online travels, and half said they would amend their behavior online if they knew their parents were watching.
In the other study, Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps parents navigate new technologies aimed at children, concluded that texting, tweeting and checking a social network had become part of an American teenager's daily rhythm, and on balance, represented a good influence in their lives. Half of the teenagers in the study said social networking had mainly helped their friendships, while only 4 percent said it had mainly hurt their friendships, and more than one in four said that social networking made them feel more outgoing.
At the same time, their frustrations with digital distractions are a lot like those of some adults. Nearly half of those in the study said they wished they could "unplug" sometimes. More telling, one in five wished their parents could too.