Last night, I watched the movie Blended. At one point, single mom Lauren (played by Drew Barrymore) goes on a blind date. Her son questions her about her date, asking her things that he could only know if he’d read her email. Realizing that her son had invaded her privacy and looked in her computer, she talks to him about the importance of respecting privacy. A little later, while gathering laundry from under her son’s bed, Lauren discovers a bikini-clad centerfold with a picture of their babysitter’s head taped over the model’s face. Shocked and disgusted, she rips the page to shreds. However, her conversation about respecting privacy comes back to haunt her and she instantly regrets tearing up the picture. Which leads me to the question – is it important to respect your child’s privacy (especially if you expect him to respect yours) or, as a parent, do you have the right, or even the responsibility, to invade your child’s personal space to monitor what he’s doing?
I put myself in Lauren’s place. What would I do if I found a centerfold with the babysitter’s face taped to it under my son’s bed? First, since my kids’ babysitters are their older siblings, I’d probably have to sign us all up for therapy. Then, as much as I’d like to throw it away and pretend like it simply disappeared into the great unknown along with all the single socks, that one brown button I can no longer find, and the remnants of my sanity, I’d have to confront my kid with the whole “it’s normal part of growing up, but don’t objectify women” speech.
But is it okay to snoop into your kids’ lives? Just last week, I read about hackers getting thousands of Snapchat photos. If you’d checked up on your child’s social media use and had seen inappropriate pictures, maybe you could’ve stopped their behavior before Snapchat was infiltrated. That could certainly save a ton of embarrassment, therapy, and even worse consequences. Then again, if you’ve taught your child about acceptable social media use, you shouldn’t have to check up on them, right? In a perfect world anyway. And if they didn’t heed your wise advice, I imagine they’d certainly learn quickly after their leaked photos hit the Internet.
A father came and spoke at my school a couple years ago. He talked about his son who had committed suicide. After his son died, this father searched his computer for clues as to what triggered his son’s depression. What he found was a wealth of information that showed his son had been the victim of unbearable cyber-bullying. Had this father been checking up on his son’s online activity, he could have intervened and very possibly prevented this horrific tragedy. Does this mean that we, as parents, have an obligation to check up on our kids in order to keep them safe?
Of course, snooping on our kids is easier said than done sometimes. I have a good friend who checks her son’s phone every night. She told me that it isn’t foolproof, however, as her son deletes texts and hides apps with a simple swipe of his finger. She confronts him about the discrepancies she finds, but he generally denies any wrongdoing. Is it worth checking up on our kids when they can outsmart many parents and find ways to hide inappropriate online behavior?
There are several apps that will track your child’s phone. These are great tools when your teen says he’s at work, yet according to the GPS tracker on his phone, he’s at the party down the street. These are also handy if your child loses his phone. They also give piece of mind that should your child ever be abducted that you’ll be able to track them. But is it ethical to track your kid’s phone like that? Does it break down your relationship with your child and destroy the trust?
I honestly don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. I know that parents are divided on the issue and each side has valid points. I personally snoop into my kids’ lives a little bit and I don’t feel guilty about it. I’m doing it in a concerned-for-their-well-being sort of way, not an intrusive, nosy, busy-body sort of way. I’d probably check on my kids more often, but I’m basically lazy and forgetful. And honestly, I can hardly remember my own passwords, let alone my kids’!
I admittedly check on some of my kids more than others. Some of my kids have proven to be responsible and trustworthy. Others, well the others haven’t quite gotten there. I guess I take a middle-of-the-road approach. If I have concerns, I’ll snoop into my kids’ business and I won’t feel one bit guilty about it because I figure it’s my business to help keep them safe. But mostly I leave my kids alone and trust that they’re making good choices because that’s what I’ve taught them.
How about you? Where do you stand? Do you watch over your child’s shoulder? Do you completely respect their privacy? Or are you somewhere in-between?
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