Parents now have so many ways to snoop - so should they?

Since I have a teen, the New York Times has an article this morning that hits close to home.

Big Brother? No, It's Parents looks at how technology has changed childhood - and how parents are using technology to monitor their kid's Facebooks, Twitter streams, text messages, and even if the kid is speeding or texting while driving.

It used to be a lot simpler when there were fewer ways to snoop. Back in my day, it was limited to your mom reading your diary or maybe hovering outside whatever small space you'd managed to drag the corded phone into. Now I know parents who have installed software on their kids computers and phones that captures every key stroke.

All teens lie, break the rules, and take risks that would freak their parents out if they knew about them. Nearly all will come out the other side as functioning adults. (This was true when I was a teen myself.) But another downside of technology is that through reality TV we are even more aware of what happens to kids who make really big mistakes and end up being on 16 And Pregnant or Intervention.

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It used to be a lot simpler when there were fewer ways to snoop

I still couldnt get home before the parental telegraph got updated. And my parents worked on opposite ends of town.
I'm so grateful my kids are grown and I don't have to worry about these things anymore. But when they were teenagers I used to tell them I wouldn't snoop unless they gave me reason to. Ha.

Reading a diary seems so very intrusive. I don't think I could do that unless I was seriously worried for their safety.

Of course, it helps that I live in a very small town. There are no secrets around here. Sometimes news of that awful thing your kid just did reaches home before they do. :D
My teen has let me friend her on FB, but I can't see most of what she puts up there unless I went and used her computer. We decided that was too intrusive.

The line can be very fuzzy sometimes!
I'm not a parent, but I have taught high school kids, and I think a good way to approach the issue would be to remind the kids who is providing the technology/car/etc. they're using. If they want their parents to pay for a phone, they need to realize that the parents have the right to look at texts, etc. If they use a computer, they should know that the parents can and will look up the browser history (keystroke logging seems a bit extreme).

This teaches them that A)with great tech comes great responsibility, B)a lot of things we think are private really aren't (a lot of college students and young adults could use that lesson in regards to the pictures they post online), and C) if you want to change things, save up and pay for it yourself. That was always the deal with my parents and me/my brother--though when I was a teen 10+ years ago, the carphone was stuck in the car and was for emergencies only.

That approach won't work for everyone, but it's a good starting point. The other thing it's important for parents to do is to not hover/helicopter and solve all their kids' problems for them--check the texts, browser history, etc, but only step in for the really big stuff--drugs/crime/unsafe sex/abuse--things that no kid should be doing or dealing with on their own. Part of being a teen is making stupid mistakes and having to figure out how to deal with them. When parents step in and fix the problems, the kid never learns how to think or do anything on their own, or they never learn that there are consequences beyond getting scolded or lectured to.

Of course, it's also super easy to say that this is how things should be done; implementation is a wholly different ballgame. But I suppose what I'm saying essentially boils down to 1. Make sure your teen knows you will snoop, especially on devices you pay for; 2. Snoop, but only call out the big things--choose your battles, so to speak; 3. Realize your kid is going to screw up and you can't completely prevent that from happening, and that's actually a good thing.
My theory started meeting my reality about three years ago.

For me, texts seem too private, like listening to a conversation.

But every day it is a balancing act.
^^I think this is wonderful advice. My theory was always that if children got all the freedoms of adulthood without any of the responsibilities, why would they ever want to grow up and move out? Parents generally want their children to move out eventually, right? So give them a reason to want to. lol. Make rules. Set boundaries. Your kids will thank you for it someday.

Edited at 2012-06-27 02:38 pm (UTC)