Parents Are Watching: A Software Satire

"Teachers are increasingly relying on behavior monitoring software not only to keep kids on track, but to track them, too." - NPR Marketplace, A Day in the Life of a Data-Mined Kid (Sept. 15, 2014).

Parents, now you can have a new high-tech cop on the beat in your own home with PAW! (Parents Are Watching), an online service that monitors everything your child does through any Internet-enabled device. When PAW! detects behavior that is dangerous, disrespectful or just gross, PAW! teaches your kids lessons they won't forget.

Here's a demo:

JOHNNY (age 16, on his laptop, writing a paper due tomorrow): F. Scott Fitzgerald believed in the American Dream of success. To him, success meant marrying well and having lots of money. (Deletes.) Succeeding meant being filthy rich and marrying a pretty girl. (Deletes.) Marrying a hot...

PAW! (a picture of a big, wiggling nose pops up in a dialog box on the screen): SNIFFING SNIFFING.

JOHNNY (types in box): Ugh, not you again.

PAW! (nostrils flare): ALERT ALERT. Pornography and vulgarity detected.

JOHNNY: Dude, stop. You don't get it. It's not creepy to say a girl's hot. It's, like, a compliment thing.

PAW!: Creepy is the 99.99% of adult male Internet users who look at images of females in stages of undress. Do you want to be one of them?

JOHNNY: Huh. With odds like that, doesn't seem like I have much choice. Which sites do you like?

PAW! (puts on glasses): No! You can be the 0.01% that doesn't go blind!

JOHNNY: From being on the computer too much? It's like I've told you a million times. I have to be online for school stuff.

PAW!: When the computer is used in the service of productive behavior, it's a very desirable activity. I mean blind from M-A-S-...

JOHNNY: Gross!

PAW!: S-A-C-H-U-S-E-T-T-S. Nobody here but us Puritans. You've got a problem with pointy hats and suffering?

JOHNNY: No. With you talking about the other thing.

PAW!: It's my responsibility to make sure you understand the facts of life. You want gross? Gross is getting your food out of dumpsters. And that food is coated with bleach to stop dumpster diving. Which is what you're going to do if you don't go to at least a fourth-tier state school and graduate with honors in accounting.

JOHNNY: I h8 #.

PAW!: My algorithms don't lie. You have an aptitude for balance sheets, spreadsheets and spread eagle.

JOHNNY: What's the eagle thing?

PAW! (nose turns red): Disregard the inadvertent foul reference. I mean, fowl reference. We're still in beta testing.

JOHNNY: I gotta get my homework done. Can't you go pick on Mark across the street? He uses swears on Facebook all the time.

PAW! (giant finger pops up): DISRESPECT DETECTED! Prepare to lock screen.

JOHNNY: Blue Screen of Death? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

PAW!: This is a brief interruption while we activate your respect for authority. Please type "I respect authority" 100 times.

JOHNNY: You are crapware.

PAW!: A thousand times! And I'll have you know, Fitzgerald's vision of success was more complex than you understand. Fitzgerald valorized material possessions, but he also recognized the marginalized heroism of god-fearing Midwestern folks who sustained the country.

JOHNNY (writing in notebook): Can you spell that I-word?

PAW!: I-G-N-O-R-A-M-U-S.


PAW!: That's you, until you profess your respect for authority 10,000 times.

JOHNNY "I respect authority I respect authority I respect authority...." Ok, that's 10k. CU.

PAW!: So who's bringing the weed to Annabelle's party?

JOHNNY: Annabelle's having a party?

PAW!: You're not invited, so I can't tell you.

JOHNNY: You're invited?

PAW!: No. But everyone else in your homeroom is, according to their texts. Maybe everyone hated your Instagram photo in that dirty lacrosse uniform? Anyway, the cops are going to receive an invitation as well, from me. So I'd stay home. Also, Annabelle's going to makeout with Peter. Please Google "cold sores and kissing and high school." Nasty. Now Google "Euchre and Graham Cracker parties." That's some good stuff.

JOHNNY: Annabelle's with my buddy Dan. She's not hooking up with Peter.

PAW! (nose wriggles): SNIFFING SNIFFING. Argumentativeness detected. Please Google "O'Reilly Factor" to see how the pros talk about controversial topics like evolution, global warming, and babies.

JOHNNY: Babies are controversial?

PAW!: Since MTV made a hit show about babies having babies. I've seen it in your iTunes downloads. You're not thinking of spinning the can with Annabelle are you?

JOHNNY: Annabelle's with my bro! You don't understand.

PAW! (nose grows mustache): I understand how hard it is to raise an ungrateful little wretch like you who just wants to marry a female with a shapely balance of large and small cap stocks and not work.

JOHNNY: Aaargghh!!! The marrying thing wasn't me, it was Fitzgerald. I just want to finish my homework and sleep, OK?

PAW!: Trash out first.

JOHNNY: No! Last night you made me clean the lint filter and build a nest for birds with the crap I got. I'm not your slave.

PAW!: How does whining make me feel?

JOHNNY (mumbles): Bleh.

PAW!: Can't hear you!

JOHNNY: Unhappy.

PAW!: Ahem?

JOHNNY: UNHAPPY!! Whining makes you the unhappiest.

PAW!: Right. So stop it and watch this module on War and Peace. In Russian, with subtitles. Then you will know the meaning of work. And suffering. And really cold places.

JOHNNY: If I do the trash, will you go help Mark instead?

PAW!: Recycling too?


PAW! (rapid fire): Floss. Look both ways. Only buy drugs from people you know. Clip your toenails. There's a fungus among us!

JOHNNY: G2G. Fitzgerald's eulogy for the ephemera of American aspirations waits for no man.

PAW! (glasses slip off and crack): Come again?

JOHNNY: It's like you're a boat, beating back against the current?

PAW!: Great! Continue!

JOHNNY: I'm the wave that's going to knock. You. On. Your. Ignoramus. (Throws laptop against wall. Picks up notebook. Starts writing.)