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Is it ok if I check my kids text messages and email? I don't suspect anything wrong but a friend's child was recently caught sexting and I would not have suspected her child of doing that either. It's just that I know our kids make mistakes and one like this could be costly and I would like to avoid it.


Michelle P. Maidenberg Replied: If you're referring to doing this behind their back and in secret, I don't recommend it. Especially like you stated -- that you have no reason to suspect that they are at risk or are endangering themselves. You may be compromising your relationship with them if they find out that you have been snooping. Parents have a right to "check" that their children are safe and are engaging in safe practices. I recommend that you provide your children with a psychoeducation on the dangerous of sexting, the internet, etc. Also let them know that as a parent you have a right and may periodically exercise that right to check their texts, e-mails, etc. Everything is open for scrutiny but it won't be carried out in a non-caring, disrespectful way that will make them uncomfortable. I would still exercise caution when carrying this out (if you decide to) and make sure that you're being respectful of their space and need to be independent. Kids do make mistakes -- unfortunately we could only help them avoid some of them not all of them. We need to afford them with the necessary skills so they could make sound independent decisions and judgments. If they don't trust you and you deceive that trust they will avoid listening to your advise/guidance, will be less likely to approach you when they are troubled and will lie to you and attempt to sneak behind your back. Openess and honesty is the best policy! It's great role modeling. Best of luck!
Posted On 2010-06-22 23:53:50
Jill Brown Replied: Not only would I say it is "OK" to check your kid's text messages and email but I would say you MUST check them! As parents, it is our job to guide our children. How can we guide them if we don't know what they are going through or being exposed to? The reasons for being involved in your kid's on-line life are the same as being involved in their off-line lives. If you wouldn't dream of letting your child be away from the house from 5pm - midnight on a Saturday and not asking them where they are going, who they are going to be with or what they are doing, then apply those same parental guidelines when it comes to their cell phones, email, AIM and Facebook. Sexting is very widespread. When I ask 8th graders if they have seen a naked picture of somebody on their cell phone or a cell phone of a friend, 90% say that they have. Sexting is essentially, "spin the bottle" or "3 minutes in the closet" - the same games we played as kids. Their hormones are raging; wanting to see a naked picture is natural behavior. Sexting is a product of the technology that these kids are growing up with. By checking our children's cell phones on a nightly basis, we may be able to stop a tragedy...whether it is something in writing that could lead to trouble or a naked picture. Many times I hear parents say that they don't want to invade their child's privacy. I tell them that the definition of privacy is "secret". What I am suggesting is that you provide your child protection, "protecting from harm". When you see something that is wrong, remember not to rush into giving them a punishment. Use the example as a "teachable moment". Help your child to understand how certain actions can cause certain outcomes.
Posted On 2010-06-16 15:07:18
Naomi Drew Replied: Given what's going on in today's text-crazy culture, I would say, yes, go ahead and check. In order not to break your child's trust, however, you might consider letting him/her know that you will be monitoring cell-phone messages, Facebook pages, e-mails, etc. from time to time to ensure his/her safety and well-being. This is such a touchy thing. You don't want to jeopardize the trust you've established or cause your child to become secretive, but, as a parent, it's important to know what's going on so you can guide and protect. Explain this so your child can understand that you're not monitoring things just to be a busy-body. Use the discussion you have with your as an opportunity to discuss proper media decorum, red flags, do's and don'ts.
Posted On 2010-06-08 15:57:18
Debra Brooks Replied: You are right that this could lead to a costly mistake, but before you check those messages you may want to have a discussion with kids about the dangers of this type of behavior. Your child communicates with friends in various ways each day…ie (phone, cell phone, text, email, social sites, in person…..etc), so this conversation can give you a platform for setting some rules. It is important to have expectations about appropriate conversation and behavior in any type of situation. Assure your child that you trust them, but let them know of your concern for their safety. It is always better to be proactive than reactive.
Posted On 2010-06-07 17:27:56
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: Reading e-mails and texts your children send can only be acceptable and useful if there is an agreement beforehand that you are going to be doing it. For younger children, this can be a condition of allowing them access to e-mail and messaging services. Otherwise, it becomes an intrusion. Whatever point you wish to make on the basis of information obtained surreptitiously will immediately be muddied by arguments about spying. A much better approach is to talk about sexting and other uses of networking that you have heard about and have concerns about. Ask what your kids' opinions are about these things, and explain your own opinions, including your hopes that they will not use technology in these ways. It is ultimately impossible to literally prevent kids from sexting if they choose to do it; what is entirely possible, though, is to help them to see this in a larger context, to be aware of concerns about it, and to heighten their ability to resist peer pressure. An ongoing dialogue (as opposed to lectures) among family members will set the stage for this.
Posted On 2010-06-06 11:28:48
Christine Hierlmaier Nelson Replied: It depends on the age of the child. If you have a middle school age child, I believe that you should have full access to their texts and emails and online gaming. Once your children reach high school (9th or 10th grade), they will expect more privacy, but it will be important to have set some expectations on how they use technology to communicate. Children have a false sense of security when emailing or texting, thinking that only the people they have sent the message to will see it. Unfortunately, they need to understand that anything sent into cyberspace is there forever. It can be copied and shared with anyone. It can affect their reputation years from now. And they don't always know who they are really communicating with, especially on sites like Facebook. I would not sneak behind your children's backs to read their texts and emails. I would schedule a specific conversation. When talking to your children about digital communication, use the following guidelines: 1. If you wouldn't be brave enough to say it in person, don't say it in a text or email. Good or bad, the communication may be taken wrong without seeing the person's face or hearing the tone of voice. 2. If it's in writing, it's not guaranteed to be or stay private. 3. Photos and video are forever online...even if deleted. Be very respectful of yourself and others with photos or video. (middle schoolers should not share photos without your review) 4. Use your manners online just as you would in person. Fighting, badmouthing, gossiping and backstabbing are totally wrong in any communication. You are representing your family, your school and someday your workplace. More people are affected by your conduct than you think. One final tip: If your teen wants to be on a social media site like Facebook, insist that you get to "friend" them and have full access. They might be smart enough to hide some things from you with privacy settings, but at least you are up to speed on this technology. Model proper etiquette to your kids and they may just follow your example!
Posted On 2010-06-06 08:47:40
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