Teen privacy and snooping .

Charlie - posted on 12/30/2010 ( 12 moms have responded )

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How much privacy should parents give their teens and when is it appropriate to snoop?

“I remember my own teen years,” says Michele Eaton,* mother of 14-year-old Callie and 12-year-old David. “It was so important to me to have my own thoughts and ideas, and live my own life without being judged and criticized. Having privacy mattered a lot to me.”

But what seems black and white when you’re a teenager isn’t quite as simple when you’re the parent of one. Eaton says that she hasn’t quite figured out how to handle privacy with her own kids — and that’s partly because they have very different personalities. “Callie is very open with me and is constantly checking in with me, so I don’t worry much about her,” she says. “But David is far more secretive and reserved. When he was younger, he got involved with some sexual play with an older child, and he didn’t tell me about it. I only found out because he told Callie. So I’m less confident that he’d tell me if there were something to be concerned about.”

It’s a tricky question. How much privacy should parents give their teens, and when is it appropriate to snoop a little to make sure things are OK? “Honouring a child’s need for privacy while still being the adult in charge can be a tricky thing for parents,” says Dulcie Gretton, a parenting coach in Calgary. “In early adolescence, we need to remain a physical presence in our children’s lives, making sure we know what they are doing, where and with whom. We can communicate to our teens: ‘This is my responsibility and I intend to fulfill it.’” Once that’s understood, Gretton says parents can negotiate with their teens on the areas of privacy and responsibility that are appropriate. As Eaton has found, this will be different with each child, depending on maturity and previous track record.

Gretton doesn’t consider it snooping to put what she calls “checks and balances” in place. “This may include things like checking out their history on the computer, reviewing cellphone use or verifying whereabouts. We do these things in a spirit of caring concern,” she says. It’s not snooping, Gretton adds, because you’ve let your child know that you’ll be doing these things. “Most children are secretly relieved and reassured by a parent’s vigilance. It communicates that they are loved and valued.”

Eaton’s ex-husband, who shares custody of Callie and David, has agreed with her to take on the “checking up” aspect of parenting when it comes to computer use. “He’s insisted on having their passwords and has let them know that he will check up,” says Eaton. “I think that knowing a parent can and might check up on him is enough to remind David — who is the one I worry about — that he needs to be careful online.”

But what about when parents are concerned that a child might be in trouble? Perhaps you think she’s been shoplifting or is smoking. Is a little judicious snooping OK then — before they have a chance to hide the evidence? Gretton says no. “Snooping jeopardizes trust and undermines your parenting integrity. It communicates distrust and a lack of respect — the opposite of what we want to be modelling. It can turn your relationship into an unhealthy game of hide-and-seek.”

Gretton points out that if you suspect that your child has a problem or is experimenting with risky behaviour, something has alerted you to this possibility. “The best next step would be to express your concern directly to your child,” she says. Tell him what you’ve noticed and what you are concerned about. You may get an honest response, or you may get denial, defiance or silence. Let your child know that you are willing to wait until he’s ready to talk.” The point is, you don’t need to snoop to start the conversation.

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Ez - posted on 12/30/2010

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Depends on the child, and the circumstance. If I was genuinely concerned for my child's welfare (suspected drugs, eating disorders or suicidal ideation) and more gentle approaches had failed, I would do whatever it took to ensure her safety. She can be pissed at me all she likes.. at least she won't be dead.

Tara - posted on 12/31/2010

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I don't snoop. I have a 14 year old son, I know his pass words to his accounts online, he knows I know. If he changes them, he loses his computer. He has never broken that rule.
We are very close, he tells me anything that he feels I should know, even if he thinks it might upset or displease me. He knows that I value honesty and he respects that.
If I were concerned about him or anything he was doing, I would talk to him. And if I felt he was being dishonest, I would let him know that I can find out the truth be it through his friends, their parents, the computer, snooping in his room, etc. etc. he knows I have the power to do all those things, and the balls to do it too, but I have never had to.
We have always had an open relationship, I'm confident that if I keep parenting him the way I have, that will continue.
Good communication starts when they are little and never stops being the best parenting tool.
Snooping under any but the most extreme cases is wrong.
My mom read my diary once, I didn't talk to her for a month.
She had no reason, no right and I was appalled that she would be so disrespectful of my privacy. She felt awful and admitted to just being curious. lol, not okay in my books.

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♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 04/29/2014

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@ Katie: And when the cops show up at your door to bust your kid for sexting, what are you going to do then?

YOU are the parent. YOU are responsible for your kid, and his actions until he's 18, and in addition to HIM getting prosecuted (should he ever sext or send an inappropriate pic) YOU could also be held responsible, because YOU are the parent, and chose not to impose limits.

Katie - posted on 04/22/2014

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i disagree. i feel it is right to give my child privacy. as i am writing this my 14 year old boy is texting his girlfriend on his iPhone 5. i will never see the message he is writing, or the 5000 they have exchanged this past month (he gave me the statistic). he has a passcode on his iPhone, iPad, and laptop. they are all private and i do not know what he is doing on those devices. he is a 14 year old boy who just recently got a girlfriend. his electronic devices will always be private

Nikki - posted on 12/31/2010

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I like that idea Jocelyn.

I think it depends on the situation. As far as internet use goes, I will check everything that they do on the computer, for their own safety. I will be upfront about restrictions and conditions of internet and phone usage, there wont be any snooping because they will know it is going to happen.

I think teenagers need to have a certain amount of autonomy. That being said if I felt my child was in danger and they were not responding to me I would snoop in a heart beat. Better safe than sorry.

Jocelyn - posted on 12/30/2010

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I *think* what I am going to do is...they can have their room private, but they'll have to keep it clean, because if I go in there to clean, anything I find can and will be used as evidence against them lol.

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Privacy is a priviledge. I know our pastor has raised 4 kids (well, the youngest is still in high school) w/ them having the knowledge that anything and everything could be snooped on w/out warning.... IF he ever felt the need. Now, I have no idea how much snooping he actually DID, but they've all stayed out of any big trouble and are all pretty great people.

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 12/30/2010

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I would when I felt the need....as often as I needed to...it could save his life, or some elses...never know..better safe then sorry

Tiffany - posted on 12/30/2010

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I think parents need to have open dialogue with their children. If you're going to give your child a myspace/facebook, you should have their password but it should be out in the open. I don't think you should be reading a diary, not unless something drastic happens. My sister used to be crazy about checking up on her kids and then she relaxed about it. When she finally started checking into it again after we were noticing a lot going on with my nephew, she found out a LOT of stuff that she wishes she could have known before. My nephew got into a lot of trouble with drugs...a lot. He just got out of rehab. He's 2 1/2 months sober. He is only 15. I think parents need to pay attention to their kids, have open dialogue and yes have passwords to their accounts. My parents didn't do anything of that sort, and let me tell you now looking back I wish they had. The things I did as a teenager I shouldn't have been doing....I wish my parents had been there more.

Stifler's - posted on 12/30/2010

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i don't agree with parents invading their child's privacy. at all. ever. including demanding access to their facebook and myspace, to be friends with them on facebook, reading their diary and mobile phone or eavesdropping on phone calls. if they're allowed to use these things then they should have their privacy respected. just because your kid doesn't want you to read everything they say to friends doesn't mean they're up to no good.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 12/30/2010

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Oh man...this is a hard one. I am one of 3 girls. My mom pretty much had to snoop with the first 2. One was completely and disgutingly out of control...infact she has started so much bullshit in her life right now that it is effecting everyone she knows. As for me, no. My mother did not snoop. She has admitted it with the other two, and said there was no need with me. That is the kind of relationship I want with my kids...open. I am trying to obtain the perfect relationship that I see fit just like any other mother is. My ideal relationship with be a mother first, but also a friend. I want them to keep personnal secrets, but be able to come to me with anything. I can say right now that I will not snoop...but c'mon...my kids are 8months and 4 yrs 7months. Never say never, especially when it comes to raising children...you just never know.

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