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Old 06-19-2008, 06:37 PM   #1
snaptat
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How to spy on my daughter's MacBook remotely?

I'm not sure if I amin the right forumor not, but I have a question. My daughter is 15 and spends all her time on her Macbook. I am getting worried about what she is doing and was wondering if there is a way to check her macbook from mine. I never have the ability to look at it as she gets home from school long before I am home from work and when I walk in her room, she closes it and wont let me see. Please help.
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Old 06-19-2008, 07:18 PM   #2
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You could turn on Remote Login (ssh) on her machine. Then you could connect either via the Terminal or software such as Cyberduck. You could check things like ~/Library/Safari/History.plist to see recent sites visited.

That won't tell you much about who she's chatting with though, so you'll probably want to determine what chat agent she uses.
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Old 06-19-2008, 08:05 PM   #3
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Well also you could starting using the free DNS service OpenDNS and get a free account do you can log every web site that someone using that service. You can can also limiting whole web site categories or individual sites with installing anything on you computers.
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Old 06-19-2008, 08:35 PM   #4
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This comes up now and then, and I always struggle about whether to say anything or not. If you need to monitor your daughter that closely, you've got problems that no software can help. There are always ways to go to sites or chat with people by using public computers or friends' computers, or any number of other subterfuges. And if she believes you are watching her this way, she'll definitely find these other avenues.

Believe me, I don't minimize the need for you to be engaged in your daughter's computer usage, but if you don't reach a meeting of the minds about what is appropriate, inappropriate, or even downright dangerous, monitoring isn't going to help very much. It is extremely important that you teach her what is dangerous and WHY. Every teen is probably going to push the envelope to some extent, but maybe a little less if they truly understand the nature of your concern. Worst of all, if you don't educate her now, the time will come altogether too soon when she will be beyond your ability to monitor her usage at all, and still perhaps engaging in dangerous activities.

One CAN monitor usage on her home system, there's no doubt; but a technical solution is not nearly as important as a human one. I urge you to teach rather than spy....it will be much less destructive of your relationship and probably more effective.

Joe VanZandt
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Old 06-19-2008, 09:42 PM   #5
acme.mail.order
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Snaptat: If you have searched this forum for similar threads you will know that these discussions quickly degenerate into a parenting policy debate. Not _quite_ a flame war - people here are better mannered than most. Just be prepared.

I use OSXvnc (on the machine you want to watch) and Chicken of the VNC (on the machine you are using) to monitor/manage my office's machines from my house. Works like a charm and you can activate it remotely without the user's knowledge. You can see exactly what the user sees - so you do not get passwords as the user doesn't see passwords either. I find it immensely useful to see how people really use our software so we can reengineer / reeducate as needed.

Some caveats:
- you need a reachable IP address on the other machine.
- you need to know that ip address in advance, which means either something fairly static or a phone-home routine (not a problem).
- you need to be reasonably conversant with unix command-line to start it up, and have an admin account on the other computer.
- Chicken of the VNC (viewer) does not have a 'view only' option, so be careful with the mouse.
- If you get caught, you will be thoroughly, completely shafted for a long, long time.

You can also do snapshots with the command-line program `screencapture` and save them for future review.

Last edited by acme.mail.order; 06-19-2008 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 06-20-2008, 02:56 AM   #6
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I know its not the answer you want to hear... but how about having a 'computer chat' with your daughter letting her know how you feel... and then trusting her to be sensible..

if she doesn't listen or doesn't want to know... insist she can only use her laptop in the living room.

Spying on your kid is not an option.... if she ever found out... she may never speak to you again..
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Old 06-20-2008, 07:47 AM   #7
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Have you tried . . . talking to her?
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:29 AM   #8
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acme.mail.order is correct, these types of threads usually degenerate into "you need to brush up on your parenting skills" threads. I have not seen one degenerate into a flame war either, but I am sure there are a few out there.

On to my comments, as a parent, in a similar situation as yourself, and as an IT Admin, here is what will most likely happen. You will take acme.mail.order's tech information, or someone's technical information and setup spying on your daughter's computer. She will, at some point, find out. It may be her or a friend finding out, or you slip up and say something about something that only someone looking at her computer would have known about. She will find out, and her trust in you (if any exists) will be gone, probably forever. If that trust is of any importance, please talk to her. Do not spy on her.
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Old 06-20-2008, 12:37 PM   #9
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I too acknowledge that most of these threads transition into parenting discussions, but I contend that is not degeneration but evolution. The proposed solution tends to move towards the human solution, which is infinitely better (though not necessarily easier to implement) than the machine solution.

There are times when drastic circumstances call for drastic measures. Some friends of the family once suspected that their daughter was associating with a known drug dealer. They confronted her about it, but she denied it. They restricted her phone time, enforced a curfew and checked her room to make sure there were no drugs. They tightened up all the rules of the house and yet she still found ways to see this guy behind their backs. Finally, they decided that they needed proof so that they could confront her and ground her. So they decided to tap their home phone and record everything (this was many years ago, before every kid had a cell phone).

They caught her in the act of calling the guy and arranging to buy drugs and grounded her. Could they have done a better job as parents to prevent her from getting into drugs? Probably. But once they were at that point and realized that they had to take action, I think they did the best that they could.

The point is - if you think your child is in real danger, you have a duty as a parent to do everything legally possible to protect your child (including spying on them). However, if you are not yet at that point, you need to ask yourself what you can do to better parent your child. As others have pointed out, spying breaks trust. And trust is a key element in building a healthy, attached relationship with your child.

If nothing else, use parental controls to restrict the amount of time that she can spend on the laptop. Change the settings so that she can only log in at times when you are home and make a new rule that all computer activity has to be transparent. No hiding screens, no hiding in a corner. If you can't do it where everyone can see you, then you shouldn't be doing it.
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Old 06-20-2008, 02:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdympcf
... If you can't do it where everyone can see you, then you shouldn't be doing it.

IMO, that is actually pretty good advice. I hate the look of the computers in the living room, but I prefer them to be out in the open. Plus, it allows some interaction with my children and I learn stuff about them that is pretty interesting.

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Old 06-20-2008, 03:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
As others have pointed out, spying breaks trust.

If you have gotten to the point where you need to spy on them, it's probably a good idea to let them know that they can trust in you to do the spying, because it's necessary.

Be upfront about it, or they'll claim the moral high ground. Point out that it is something that they've been doing that is putting you in the position of having to take steps that you find unpleasant.

Then, be sure that you have the password to the admin account on the computer(s) and they don't.
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Old 06-21-2008, 05:33 AM   #12
acme.mail.order
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My main issue with the "be a better parent" debate is:

1. This isn't a parenting forum. This is a computing forum. You want computing advice, ask here. You want parenting advice, try parents-я-us.org.

2. We very rarely have the whole story. Few people want to air their dirty laundry in public fora, so they ask the end-result question here, then get dragged back to square one. I'm giving Snaptat the benefit of doubt and assuming he's tried the talking part already, and found it ineffective. The OP asked a direct question, he deserves a direct answer.

Snaptat: for a very detailed view from someone who's been where you are, read this thread by vickishome. She's been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to go with it.

Do read it (and similar threads) before doing anything drastic/irreversible.

Last edited by acme.mail.order; 06-21-2008 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 06-21-2008, 10:03 AM   #13
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Acme, you point is well taken to the extent that we know the person didn't post in order to be lectured, but it isn't the purpose of this forum to just answer technical questions. People asking questions about how to do things that we know violate other principles, such as licensing policies, piracy, or other practices that we think are unsuitable are routinely lectured on the niceties of computer practices (and maybe the law). From my own point of view, that this is a parent and child, while not by any means irrelevant, is not my main concern. I have opposed and resisted the use of such practices in the world of business and higher education when I worked in those areas. While companies, for example, are fully within their legal rights to implement this practice, as well as read their employees e-mail, I think this very poor policy and would only do so under the most extreme circumstances, and not before other avenues were exhausted. I do think there is a right of privacy, even for teenagers, and spying violates that right. There may be circumstances where reading one's childrens' mail or their diary may be necessary, but it certainly ought to be avoided if at all possible; it is certainly not to be done lightly. And just as I think such an approach can poison the atmosphere in a business, I think it carries an even greater potential in the home. If the poster finds that they can't agree with that opinion, or that their circumstance is extreme enough that such measures are worth the risks, you have provided some of the ways it might be done, but it still won't prevent an enterprising young person very long from finding ways to defeat it. I didn't ask the person to justify their reasons for believing they need this ability, I only question its wisdom and efficacy and the potential it carries for harm. I hesitated to reply at all, because of the reasons you have indicated, but the choice to make a reply wasn't made without some consideration of the issues you raise. I hope that the original poster will make use of the technology you suggest if he or she truly believes it necessary, but I hope that some of the caveats mentioned in several posts will help one evaluate that policy.

Joe VanZandt
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Old 06-21-2008, 11:41 AM   #14
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I agree with Joe.

If someone wanted advice on how to create a rootkit so as to be able to spy on what Human Resources is doing at their place of employ, I don't think folks would simply address it on a "how to" level.

And I agree with those whose reaction to "how can I spy on my kid" is not good. Kids are people. At some point your rights and responsibilities as a parent may trump the kid's right to privacy, but there are many situations where it is the parent who is way out of line, and I think it is fair for us to ask some questions rather than just assuming "you are the parent, it must be appropriate"
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Old 06-21-2008, 02:57 PM   #15
capitalj
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My impessions, as a parent...

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
I'm not sure if I amin the right forumor not, but I have a question.

This is a new member's first question. It was not posted in the Coat Room. It is not a request for parental advice. It is not a request for help doing something illegal. Technical advice should be offered - or not. Nonjudgemental parental advice, especially from parents with similar experience, might be helpful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
My daughter is 15 and spends all her time on her Macbook.

It should be common knowledge that this should be viewed as a possibly troubling development (please note the emphasis on "possibly"). Snaptat, as a parent, is in a position (and bears the responsibility) to decide whether possibly has escalated to definitely and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
I am getting worried about what she is doing andly was wondering if there is a way to check her macbook from mine. I never have the ability to look at it as she gets home from school long before I am home from work

Snaptat is concerned enough to investigate stern measures. As a parent, I am inclined to defer to another parent's judgement, and I am not inclined to leap to the conclusion that monitoring will be done without the child's knowledge. But (again, as a parent) I also wonder if parental controls on the computer and router have been implemented, and whether unsupervised access has been limited or curtailed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
and when I walk in her room, she closes it and wont let me see.

This is what I find most troubling. It seems that a parent's request for information has been met with defiance. It also seems that that since dialog has been attempted (remember, we are not privy to every detail, nor should we expect to be) and has apparently been deemed unproductive by the person with the information and authority to make that decision.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
Please help.

My suggestions, in the order I would implement them (after appropriate explanation of my reasons for doing so), are:
  • If you haven't already, give yourself an admin account on the computer, protect the password diligently. Look at the parental controls under System Preferences>Accounts.

  • Investigate what limitations can be implemented from your router. Mine, for example, offers services blocking (web, ftp, newsgroups, mail), website blocking (per site), and scheduling rules (how often and for how long internet access is allowed) to be applied to the specified computer.

  • If you stiil feel the need to take further action, read the thread suggested by acme.mail.order, probably a few times (there is a lot to absorb) and you'll likely find you way to a solution there. I've not yet felt the need to consider such measures (I hope I never do), but I've bookmarked the aforementioned thread - just in case.
Good luck.
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Old 06-21-2008, 08:35 PM   #16
acme.mail.order
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Joe: You have very valid points and concerns. Lets hope Snaptat adds them to his decision.

<warning: flamebait. I respect your opinion, Al. I just have a different one>
Al: Rootkits in HR are rather illegal. Monitoring your own computer is not. As a minor child, Darling Daughter doesn't own it, the parent does. Darling Daughter actually has very few rights other than food and shelter.
Ethics is a whole other issue though.......
</flamebait>

Quote:
Originally Posted by capitalj
...this should be viewed as a possibly troubling development (please note the emphasis on "possibly"). ...a parent... bears the responsibility to decide whether possibly has escalated to definitely and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Isn't it the parent's responsibility to catch things at the "possibly" stage, before they become big problems?

Quote:
Originally Posted by capitalj
...monitoring will be done without the child's knowledge. But (again, as a parent) I also wonder if parental controls on the computer and router have been implemented

Controls like this are quite effective, but a 15 year old will have the resources to a) notice and b) bypass them by simply going elsewhere and becoming even more secretive. However, plenty of routers have logs........

Quote:
Originally Posted by snaptat
and when I walk in her room, she closes it and wont let me see.

Troubling, but not necesarily bad. Did we want to show our parents everything when we were 15? I think not.

Some extreme examples:
(Social engineering/parenting will NOT reveal these things.)

Watching Darling Daughter with VNC or screencapture might reveal she's:

- chatting with obvious online predators. Good thing we found out before the police find her in the trunk of an abandoned car.

- the local drug dealer. Whoops, waited too long.

- planning the next Columbine.

+ working on a bitchin' surprise birthday party for Dad, as he's so awesome.

+ is addicted to knitting, but it's SO not cool for a 15-y.o. to knit.

+ is simply watching porn. ( ok, not necessarily _good_ but given some of the alternatives.....)

5 minutes of monitoring cold prove she's not doing anying bad just as easily as it could prevent her from becoming a statistic. How many parents have said "if only we had known......"
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Old 06-21-2008, 10:14 PM   #17
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Joe, thank you for your post above. I agree with you 100%. If we blindly just gave posters what they ask for, many people would have hosed their systems long ago. I believe it would be disingenuous of me to provide anything other than what I believe to be the best advice. In this case, I believe that the best advice is to take back some of the control in the relationship. I firmly believe that parents should be in control - and that seems not to be the case here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Troubling, but not necesarily bad. Did we want to show our parents everything when we were 15? I think not.

The troubling part is not that the girl will not show her parent what she is doing. The troubling part is that she just closed her laptop. Whatever she is doing is still on there! That means that all said parent has to do is enforce their parental prerogative and see that the laptop is opened. The fact that snaptat doesn't just say "open the laptop and show me what you were just doing" and compel the girl to do so is the troubling part!

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Some extreme examples:
(Social engineering/parenting will NOT reveal these things.)

As I mentioned above, exercising your parental right (perhaps I should say duty in this case) WILL reveal these things in this case. You simply tell the child to show you what they were doing. If they refuse, you take the laptop and see for yourself. And, regardless of what you see, you establish new rules about when, how often and for what purpose said computer is to be used.

Last edited by wdympcf; 06-21-2008 at 10:18 PM.
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Old 06-22-2008, 04:26 AM   #18
acme.mail.order
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wdympcf
That means that all said parent has to do is enforce their parental prerogative and see that the laptop is opened. The fact that snaptat doesn't just say "open the laptop and show me what you were just doing" and compel the girl to do so is the troubling part!.... You simply tell the child to show you what they were doing. If they refuse, you take the laptop and see for yourself. And, regardless of what you see, you establish new rules about when, how often and for what purpose said computer is to be used.

Oh yeahhhhhhhh.......... that'll just work perfectly. "ok daddy, if you say so"

We wouldn't be having this discussion if things really worked that way.

I've asked a 17y.o. girl (non-family) that I've known forever for her take on this. Should have a reply tomorrow.

Last edited by acme.mail.order; 06-22-2008 at 04:41 AM.
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Old 06-22-2008, 09:35 AM   #19
wdympcf
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Oh yes, please ask a teenager what they think about parenting. They have so much experience in that department! Certainly they will have an opinion, but not a very well informed one. Most teenagers are not particularly self-aware (although there are some pleasant exceptions) and usually don't have much perspective beyond the walls of their own world (again there are some exceptions). That teen might answer "I wouldn't like that" or "I would be sooooo mad at my parents" or "I would say no, they don't have a right to do that". What does it matter? Parenting is not a popularity contest and it is not about democracy (although a good parent can be an informed benevolent dictator).

I was once a teenager, and I was never happy about my parents enforcing rules on me. That didn't stop them from doing it, and it didn't stop me from benefiting from their parenting. They would consider my opinion on a matter if I presented it respectfully, but still made their decisions according to their consciences, not mine. Now I thank my parents for standing their ground regardless of how I complained about "the injustice of it all". And I use my parents as parenting role models in raising my own children.

So, it does work. I've seen it work, had it work on me, and done it myself. I speak from experience, do you?

Last edited by wdympcf; 06-22-2008 at 10:04 AM. Reason: to remove any perceived sarcasm
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:11 AM   #20
capitalj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Isn't it the parent's responsibility to catch things at the "possibly" stage, before they become big problems?

It's their responsibility to try but any parent knows it's not easy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Controls like this are quite effective, but a 15 year old will have the resources to a) notice and b) bypass them by simply going elsewhere and becoming even more secretive.

However, judging by the 15 year olds that I know, those controls are generally plenty effective for the average kid. My nephew, his friends, the kids in my neighborhood and extended family... they may spend hours I.M.-ing, emailing, surfing, and gaming everyday, but not one of them would be able to circumvent even the weakest of parental controls.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Troubling, but not necesarily bad.

Exactly, hence the emphasis on "possibly".

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
5 minutes of monitoring cold prove she's not doing anying bad just as easily as it could prevent her from becoming a statistic. How many parents have said "if only we had known......"

There's that fine line. Do I risk losing my child's trust or risk losing my child?. And is the situation that dire or am I overreacting? When it comes down to it, parents understanably tend to opt for the better safe than sorry option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wdympcf
I firmly believe that parents should be in control - and that seems not to be the case here.

I agree that parents should be in control, and it does appear that, at least in this incident, the child has gained the upper hand. But we have to pick our battles, and we don't know the whole story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wdympcf
You simply tell the child to show you what they were doing. If they refuse, you take the laptop and see for yourself. And, regardless of what you see, you establish new rules about when, how often and for what purpose said computer is to be used.

That may sound harsh, but I have been that harsh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by acme.mail.order
Oh yeahhhhhhhh.......... that'll just work perfectly. "ok daddy, if you say so"

We wouldn't be having this discussion if things really worked that way.

It works pretty for me raising my young children (full time) and my 15 year old nephew (part time). They have quite a bit of freedom, but the consequences of violating the rules are swift and firm and consistent.

I wonder when/if Snaptat will return.
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