By Ashley Allgood
Should parents be allowed to read their teen’s text or emails? Should parents be their kid’s friends in the online world? Is this spying or invasion of privacy? I’d have to say it is not spying; it’s called parenting.
Do you remember talking on the phone as a teenager? Most likely you were attached to wall by a long, twisted, tangled cord. You would tug and stretch that cord as far as you could and take it into a nearby coat closet for a little privacy. Yet, the whole time your parents were nearby aware of your conversation. Maybe your little brother or sister joined in and giggled while you talked.
Today your teen is most likely on the phone alone in their room. You have no idea who they are talking to or texting. Yet is your teen aware you can easily request a copy of their texts and phone records? Or do they know you can you log onto the computer and see who they were messaging after midnight?
I’ve seen teens online asking if it was true that their parents can get an email of their texts. Of course, many teens scream, “It is an invasion of my privacy!” and “How dare my parents look at my private conversation!” My teens are well aware of the fact that nothing on their phones or iPods is private.
Parents have to be involved in their children’s lives. I even believe that not just the parents, but other loved ones—such as aunts, uncles, friends, and church family—can help monitor each other’s children. When my 15-year-old posts something on Facebook or Instagram, she knows that not only will I see it, but so will her aunt, our pastor, and her friends’ parents. My kids know that there are many people keeping an eye on them in the online world, as well as the real world.
We once had a small incident when my sister-in-law saw something disturbing on my daughter’s Facebook account—a photo with a cuss word. We are strict and don’t allow cursing of any kind. My sister-in-law knew this was out of character for my daughter so she alerted us. My daughter had no idea what her aunt had seen and, oddly enough, my husband and I couldn’t see the photo either. After a lot of searching, we learned that Facebook will often pull in “friend of friend” statuses if your newsfeed is slow. So the photo with the swear words came from a cousin’s friend. We blocked the Facebook page the photo came from and I felt comfort knowing my sister-in-law cared enough about our daughter to bring it to our attention.
I honestly don’t believe checking up on your children or teens should be considered spying. My husband and I often use the “Find my iPhone” feature to make sure our 18-year-old arrives safely to babysit or at college. Our daughter is aware of this and she doesn’t mind. We have never had the need to view her texts or emails, but she has often told us we are free to pick up her phone at any time. We have raised her with good values and she knows what we expect of her. She has told us she will not let us down. My youngest children are 15- and 13-years-old. They don’t have phones, but they do have used laptops and iPods and are aware we can check up on them by reading their emails or texts too. They also know we can monitor what they look at on the laptops.
As parents today in a world that is constantly online, we have to keep on top of technology. If your child is on Facebook, then you should be on there as well. I know a parent who has only a few friends on Facebook and those are her children. She wanted her kids to know that everything they do on there comes across her newsfeed. She also chose to educate herself on other types of social media, like Twitter and Instagram.
Another important reason to be friends with your child in the online world is so you can know who their friends are. You can see the kind of photos your kids’ friends like or post. If you see anything that is troubling, take the time to talk to your kids about it. For instance, let them know why you don’t like it when their friends pose a certain way. Use it as a chance to talk about being modest and that teen girls shouldn’t tempt a boy with her body.
So, even if your child feels you are betraying their privacy in the online world, remind them that you are their parent and you’re responsible for their wellbeing. Promise not to tag them in silly photos or in herbal home remedies for smelly feet, but let them know you will read their status updates and might even “like” a few of them too—after all you are their mother.
Ashley Allgood has been married for twenty years to her husband Michael. They have three children, ages 18, 15, and 13, and live in Georgia where they homeschool their children. Ashley has always loved writing and storytelling. You can read more about Ashley on her blog, http://mythoughtsoffaith.blogspot.com/.