Monday, February 21, 2011

Parental "Snooping"

My kids are getting older.  Old enough to have e-mail accounts and facebook pages.  With our family's unique working situation, that has proven to be interesting, but we have somehow navigated around it without using our family name on the internet.

My oldest got his facebook account as a gift when he finished eighth grade.  His brother is nagging for one now.  Actually, the older one wants the next one to have one of his own so he quits using his!  I started them e-mail accounts since they frequently e-mail assignments to their teachers.

But the whole issue of parental control and parental "snooping" comes up.  I sat this morning having coffee with one of my friends - likely the only person who I would trust with my kids if I had to leave them long term.  We have now raised these kids from little boys who had to learn to wash their faces after eating peanut butter and jam to bigger boys who compete hard, play hard, study well, ... and yes, still need to learn to wash their faces after eating!

As moms, we have retained the right to "snoop" on our kids.  We hold the passwords to their accounts and their facebook.  We could at any time, open them and look at what they are saying.  The kids know that. (And, yes, we also know that at any time they could get around our controls since they know more than we do about computers.)  But do we?  Is it a good thing for a parent to be reading their kid's private stuff?

We generally do not.  I do not build trust in my child by snooping into their discussions that were not meant to include me.  I communicate to my child that I love them by respecting their privacy.  Of course, if there was a problem, that may change.  If we were seeing that our kid were rebellious or choosing wrong friends, we would look, for sure.  There was a case, not with my boy, but with my friend's older children's friends a few years ago.  She then read through many things carefully.  She discussed the issues with a trusted teacher who also kept his eyes out.  They worked to protect these kids.  It worked.

But she does not read them unless there is a problem.  It is an invasion of their privacy and takes away from their dignity.  We actually learn just as much from our boys from being with them, listening to them play together, being there for them, and yes, having coffee occasionally with each other and seeing how things are going.

This is what I think now - with a son who talks to me, who knows I trust him and give him room to grow, but am watching him, too.  Perhaps my views will change with my other kids, but I doubt it.  Snooping on your kids when it is not needed does not grow trust.  Without trust, there is little room for love.  I would rather at this point communicate to my son that I respect him as a human being than know everything that he is thinking and talking about.

It helps when I know and trust my child's friend's parents.  How have you addressed this dual issue of parental control and a growing teen's right to privacy?  Do you think a child whose parents are constantly "snooping" behind a child's back are being responsible or disrespectful?  I think one thing that is vitally important to me as my son grows is for him to know he can trust me.  I don't think I will earn his trust by going behind his back.  I think he would feel trespassed against.  As it is now, I have a son who will talk to me - if I give him the opportunity and I listen.  I worry that if I "snoop" in his stuff, I may lose that right.  That is my feelings now.  If his mood or personality changed dramatically, I would likely take a look and see if there is something we need to talk about, but until then, I want to respect his right to communicate with his friends without me standing over listening to or reading those conversations or thoughts.

But I am young at starting this journey into the teens.  What have those of you who have been down this path found?


Jamie Jo said...

Hi, Ellie. I've enjoyed your recent posts here, and thought I would add a note. Maybe just being your child's friend on FB and leaving a message now and then gets the message across to his friends that you are involved and interested. I don't read my kids' private messages, but they know I could if I wanted to or felt it was warranted. Even that, I think, helps to keep things more open. Just beware that if his mood or personality shifts, it is likely more about adolescence than the friends he is keeping or the influences he is around. Be vigilant in prayer most of all in the coming years. So far I've raised four teens to adulthood, and as of November, I'll have my 7th reach the teen years. Nothing to fear from my own limited experience.

I love your ideas about respect. Love and respect with logical consequences when the trust is violated... they'll be fine!

Oh, how the post about the child not wanted really grieves me. I just don't get it. (And I wasn't planned or necessarily "wanted" either, but well-loved in the end.)

Ellie said...

Thanks for the advice, Jamie! I am friends with him on FB, as is the moms of his friends. I am also friends with many of his friends, and will leave messages on their posts at times, too. Not too much that I look like I am a stalker, but every few weeks. It tells them I and other moms are there, involved, and caring about their lives.

We've had a few emotional outbursts or mood changes - nothing major yet. Time helps. Just waiting it out. In a day or two, he's usually back to normal again.

It is just the growing! Wow! Every few weeks I am sending him back to his room to "take off those jeans and give them to your brother and see if you have any longer ones left".