To Read or Not to Read (Their Texts): That is the Question

Reading or supervising your child's communications--is that protective or a violation of their privacy? Searching for a balance that keeps our children safe is a parent's duty.

We have all heard the scary stories about the teen who ran away based on promises made online by someone who pretended to be a friend. Sadly, they aren’t just headlines. These are real situations that may have happened to someone we hold dear; a family member, friend or neighbor.

As a parent who grew up without texting, Facebook and face time, learning these new forms of communication can be exhilarating and daunting. As a parent, they are also frightening.

It is so tempting to stay up at night and read every text, email, post and comment my girls have sent or received. How many of you have had the same temptation? Have you given in to it? Is this protective or a violation of their privacy?

Ask my daughters and I am sure they will tell you it is none of my business. Ask some of my friends and they would say the same. Ask others and they would say 'Be sure to read everything, that is what a good parent does!'

I face this temptation and question regularly. I have chosen to respond by keeping the lines of communication open and hoping that my girls will use what they have learned at home to make good decisions. I try to teach them about Internet safety, respect for themselves and others, and thinking before acting.

I don’t want to be that parent that jumps in and fixes every situation for their children. I don’t want to be called a "helicopter parent," or worse. But I also don’t want to be the parent that has to answer that dreaded phone call from the police. I do believe it is my job as a parent to keep my children safe and I take this role seriously.

I want my children to learn how to save the day for themselves. I want them to learn the tools they need to succeed from my parenting and the example I set. Most of all I want my girls to always know that I am here to support, advise and love them, no matter what.

So for now I need to trust them to use the modes of communication available to them wisely. But I will also constantly remind them how to be safe and respectful. While crossing my fingers that they will continue to make the right choices.

Text safely and wisely, I may be watching....

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Mary Anne Looby February 08, 2013 at 02:40 PM
I think what you are doing is right. If I were raising kids in this tecno age I would probably be doing the same with one exception. If I see my child starting to act strange ie secretive, that is when I would start checking. I would not consider it a violation of privacy, since I sensed a change in behavior and was worried. As I used to say to my kids, when I got the "it's my room" line, my reply was always the same, "yes, it's your nest, but it's my tree, so deal with it".
Barbara Valladares February 08, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Thank you, I do believe there are signs, you just have to be willing to "see" them.
Carl Stevenson February 11, 2013 at 10:26 PM
OK ... my two cents worth. If it offends you, that's not my intent. I tend to be known for my candor and adherence to principles, not so much for "political correctness." If your minor children tell you "It's none of your business." you already have a problem - a parenting problem. A lack of respect and discipline. YOU have allowed this to happen ... probably by trying to be your childrens' "friend" rather than a parent. There is a difference and if you don't establish the correct "pecking order," they will walk all over you and eventually tell you to ___ off. And it will be YOUR fault for allowing it to develop. In case you can't tell, i have little tolerance for rude, disrespectful, misbehaving children or teens ... or the parents who create them by coddling them and failing to set boundaries and discipline them from an early age. Trying to be "liked" won't get you the respect you deserve, and it does a disservice to your children by allowing them to grow up to be rude, unruly, disrespectful adolescents and adults. They will ultimately pay for their lack of discipline and training when they find out that employers and others won't tolerate such behavior. Do them a favor and teach them boundaries of behavior and respect from an early age. Don't coddle them. If they live in your house and you're paying the cellphone bill, simple answer - your house, your cellphone, not theirs ... thus, your rules. If they don't like it, no phone, non-negotiable.
Mary Anne Looby February 12, 2013 at 02:32 AM
@Carl Stevenson, I agree with everything you have said. My children are grown, but I can remember being told "I hate you". My response was always "I don't care". I have canceled birthday parties 24 hours before the event for what I called a smart mouth. The most important thing a parent can do is to not be your childs friend. You are the parent get your own friends and let your kids have their own. When my kids were teenagers if I had a friend visiting and the kid came in the room, I would stop the conversation look at my child and ask if they need something. If the answer is no, I would just look at them and say "then you will excuse us"? meaning beat it kid your presence is not welcome here. I would no sooner plop myself on the bed in my kids room if they had friends over, so I expected the same. Kids need to learn boundries, parents must set them, or, as Carl has pointed out, you end up with rude, disrespecful adults.


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