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Should I Check My Child’s Texts?

Parenting / Technology/Social Media //

What are we as parents to do? To read or not to read? That is the question.
Look over what a son and his father had to say about the topic of parents monitoring their child’s media.

About a year ago, my dad started monitoring my Facebook page. It’s super annoying. He can see everything I write and everything my friends write. He watches everything. Do I mind him monitoring my Facebook page? Yes, I do. —14-year-old boy

This is a boundary that is tricky, because it involves privacy. If you’re interested in a possible way to avoid at least some cell phone problems, consider signing a cell phone responsibility agreement with each of your children. (Download The Sample Agreement Here)

In a scene from an episode of Modern Family, mom Claire is talking:

Claire: “I’m feeling a little bit disconnected from Alex right now. Last week, I picked up her cell phone thinking it was mine and I accidentally read a few flirty text messages that were probably from a boy in her class, which is fine . . . or they’re from a drifter.” (10)

Can any parent out there give a testimony?

“I wish my son would understand that anything he posts online is not private. Posted information is public, searchable and permanent. . . . As it turns out, my little boy, my little angel, is not so angelic. Unfortunately, he had already learned the freedoms of social networking before I decided to take a look at what was going on.” —father of the 14-year-old boy (12)

And here’s a take on the subject by a virtual dad:

“Privileges (such as Facebook, driving, staying up late, etc.) are just that . . . privileges. As a minor, in my care, you have to demonstrate the responsibility that goes along with those privileges. I won’t let you drive if I find that you’ve been drinking, and I won’t let you use Facebook if I find that you’ve been using it inappropriately either.” (13)

Can you identify with these parents? Can you understand the 14-year-old’s point of view? Do you agree with any of them?

When we talk about setting digital boundaries, monitoring our kids’ media, checking texts and following digital footprints, the topic of privacy eventually comes up. Do our kids need their privacy? Should parents respect their children’s privacy? Do you have the right to invade your children’s privacy? Do you have a responsibility to invade your children’s privacy? Is it okay to spy on your kids? Are you spying on your kids?

As our children get older, physical control diminishes and relational influence takes over. This relationship allows us to talk with them and include them in the decision-making process. Our children will also be more likely to share their lives with us if they have a good relationship with us. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Rules without relationship will lead to rebellion.” While that statement is usually true, I would suggest the following phrase: “Rules with relationship will often lead to respect.”

Now, I will tell you what we do when it comes to our kids’ privacy. We do randomly check our kids’ devices, and our kids know we check. Not in an attempt to “catch” them doing something wrong but rather to help them understand what is right.

Whether we are in the car, walking around, sitting in an airport or on vacation, we may simply turn to one of our kids and say, “Let me see your phone for a minute.” It’s random, unplanned and unscripted. We cycle through their texts, look at their pictures, and check their browser history. This process usually leads to a conversation and, no, it’s not always bad.

Most often it’s a good conversation about a video they shot or a picture they took or what they posted. Occasionally, we have a difficult conversation, discuss boundaries or, sometimes, enforce a consequence. The important component is communication.

A red flag should go up if you ask to see your child’s phone and all the texts have been erased, the browser history has been deleted and there are no pictures on the phone. From one parent to another, this most likely means your child is hiding something and doesn’t want you to see. When this happens remember, Ephesians 6:4 From the Message, “Don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.”

I will talk a little more about kids’ digital freedom and how it’s earned in the next post on “How Kids Make Deposits In The Bank of Trust.”

Questions: Do you check your child’s texts? Why? Why Not?

End Notes:
(10) Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, “The Kiss,” Modern Family, season 2, episode 2, directed by Scott Ellis, aired September 29, 2010 (Los Angeles, CA: 20th Century Fox, 2011), DVD.

(12) “Internet Monitoring: Dad and Son,” Your Teen magazine, January 5, 2012. http://yourteenmag.com/2012/01/internet-monitoring-dad-and-son/ (accessed July 2013).

(13) “Monitoring Teenagers Internet Use,” Your Teen magazine, March 16, 2012. http://yourteenmag.com/2012/03/monitoring-teenagers-internet-use (accessed May 2013).

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About the Author

Craig is a passionate and nationally known communicator, author, and blogger. He is the president of Empowered Living with a mission to “Empower leaders and their families for life!” His passion is to encourage, equip and empower others to enjoy their journey through life. In his most recent book, “Faith and The Modern Family,” Craig’s humorous stories and relevant application encourages parents to make a difference in their modern family. You can follow Craig on Twitter: @craigjutila, and on Facebook: facebook.com/craigjutila