Earlier today, I served as the “young woman’s voice” in a panel of local experts at a Girl Scouts speaking event. One question for the panel was something to the effect of, "Should parents read their daughter’s texts or monitor her online activity for bad language and inappropriate content?"
I was surprised when the first panelist answered the question as if it were about cyberbullying. The adult audience nodded sagely as she spoke about the importance of protecting children online.
I reached for the microphone next. I said, “As far as reading your child’s texts or logging into their social media profiles, I would say 99.9% of the time, do not do that.”
Looks of total shock answered me. I actually saw heads jerk back in surprise. Even some of my fellow panelists blinked.
Everyone stared as I explained that going behind a child’s back in such a way severs the bond of trust with the parent. When I said, “This is the most effective way to ensure that your child never tells you anything,” it was like I’d delivered a revelation.
It’s easy to talk about the disconnect between the old and the young, but I don’t think I’d ever been so slapped in the face by the reality of it. It was clear that for most of the parents I spoke to, the idea of such actions as a violation had never occurred to them at all.
It alarms me how quickly adults forget that children are people.
Apparently people are rediscovering this post somehow and I think that’s pretty cool! Having experienced similar violations of trust in my youth, this is an important issue to me, so I want to add my personal story:
Around age 13, I tried to express to my mother that I thought I might have clinical depression, and she snapped at me “not to joke about things like that.” I stopped telling my mother when I felt depressed.
Around age 15, I caught my mother reading my diary. She confessed that any time she saw me write in my diary, she would sneak into my room and read it, because I only wrote when I was upset. I stopped keeping a diary.
Around age 18, I had an emotional breakdown while on vacation because I didn’t want to go to college. I ended up seeing a therapist for - surprise surprise - depression.
Around age 21, I spoke on this panel with my mother in the audience, and afterwards I mentioned the diary incident to her with respect to this particular Q&A. Her eyes welled up, and she said, “You know I read those because I was worried you were depressed and going to hurt yourself, right?”
TL;DR: When you invade your child’s privacy, you communicate three things:
- You do not respect their rights as an individual.
- You do not trust them to navigate problems or seek help on their own.
- You probably haven’t been listening to them.
Information about almost every issue that you think you have to snoop for can probably be obtained by communicating with and listening to your child.