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Definition

Big Mother

Big Mother is the concept of pervasive parenting, in which parents use modern geolocation, wireless and video technologies to constantly track the activities of a child.

The term is a play on the Orwellian construct of "Big Brother," in which government "Thought Police" monitor a population by using human agents armed with hidden cameras and microphones. The Big Mother phenomenon has seen a sharp spike in recent years as relatively inexpensive wireless digital cameras and GPS devices have become available to parents who are unable to monitor their children in person but are still concerned about their safety.

Cell phones are a common way for parents to remain in contact with children throughout the day. Other technologies, like RFID tags, may be embedded in schoolbags or clothing to track the location of children within school or day care grounds, a practice that has already been implemented in select institutions in California. Some schools provide parents with access to secure Web sites, where they can sign in and watch their child at school or play and keep tabs on what homework has been assigned. Parents can even use debit or charge cards as a relatively low tech tracking device to monitor their child's dietary choices in the school cafeteria or purchases at the local convenience store. In the neighborhood, parents can use security cameras to watch children interacting with other children, enabling correction of deviance from a desired parental norm by cell phone or push-to-talk (PPT) phone.

School-age kids are not the only people Big Mother is watching. Anyone who interacts with children is fair game. School bus drivers, for example, can have their busses equipped with GPS-navigation systems to let the parent know where the bus is and how fast the bus is moving. In the home, parents may use stuffed animals or other toys to hide cameras to watch nannies or babysitters.

This was last updated in May 2011

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