The issue of privacy is a growing concern to parents in the digital age.
Many parents want to know how they can keep an eye on what their children are doing on their phones and other devices, whilst at the same time give them a degree of privacy in which they can be free to discover the world and learn from their experiences.
Concerns are also increasingly being raised regarding the legal implications of monitoring children’s text messages, with many parents asking ‘Am I allowed to do that?’
The need for privacy
As children get older, they start to want more privacy. After all, increased independence from parents is a natural part of growing up.
As your child enters their teenage years, you will likely notice them pulling away from you, at least to a certain degree. They might start to spend more time with their friends or alone in their room. Conversations with their friends may become more secretive and they may not share as much with you as they used to.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is hiding something from you; rather it is the start of them developing a level of independence that will enable them to function well as adults.
Whilst every family will handle this need for privacy differently, the challenge for parents will always be to balance this need with the very real concerns around our children’s safety, particularly in the digital age.
Text monitoring is not an invasion, rather a continuation of our parental responsibilities.
Monitoring is not invading
As our kids get older, we need to be careful not to invade their privacy. But text monitoring is not an invasion, rather a continuation of our parental responsibilities.
When you talk to your child about text monitoring, they might complain that you are invading their privacy and to a certain extent they would be right. However, as parents it is our job to keep our children safe and we need to weigh up the need for privacy with the need for safety.
When we give our kids access to phones and text messaging, we are opening up a whole world of potential dangers. Text messaging is an easy way for bullies to target other children, for kids to be drawn into the hazardous world of sexting, and for online predators to engage our kids in conversation. These are dangers that our children are probably not mature enough to handle on their own.
As our children grow older, we do not absolve ourselves of parental control and maintaining a level of control is of utmost importance when it comes to our children’s online activities. When you talk to your child about text monitoring, explain to them that it is legal and can potentially protect them from psychological or physical harm.
Parents are legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of 18
So is it legal?
Monitoring a child’s text messages is legal in most countries. Parents are legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of 18. While our children are underage, it is our legal and moral duty to take responsibility for them, protect them and help them to develop the skills they will need later in life. Text monitoring can help us to achieve this.
You should be aware, however, that this only applies to children we are legally responsible for. It is not legal to monitor other people’s children or persons over the age of 18.
In addition, it is your legal right to access any devices that are registered in your name.
Without any form of parental control, children can feel unsupported. But too much control can send the message that you don’t trust them. Finding the balance can be tricky and is often met with some resistance from our kids…
Finding a balance
As parents, we must balance our children’s growing need for privacy with our obligations of parental control.
Without any form of parental control, children can feel unsupported. But too much control can send the message that you don’t trust them. Finding the balance can be tricky and is often met with some resistance from our kids, but if we keep the lines of communication open we can find the middle ground that will allow us to sleep at night whilst giving them the room to grow.
Explain to your child why text message monitoring is important for their safety and wellbeing. Make text message monitoring part of a wider conversation about privacy. Ask your child what they expect from you and tell them what you expect from them. For example, you could agree not to snoop around their room or listen in to their phone conversations. In return, they could agree to you ‘checking in’ on their text messages from time to time.
With these agreements in place between you and your child, you should be able to keep them safe without them feeling that their right to privacy has been curtailed.