Is it OK for me to read my kids' text messages on their phones?

It's a moral and ethical dilemma that most parents will have to face at some point

Published June 5, 2018 7:06PM (EDT)


This post originally appeared on Common Sense Media.
Common Sense Media

Parents: there's no absolute right answer as to whether it's OK to read your kid's text messages. It depends on your kid's age, personality, and behavior. The most important thing is that you discuss responsible texting behavior. Remind them that any text can be forwarded to an unintended audience — and texts that involve drugs, sexting, or other illegal things can get kids into real trouble.

The ideal time to establish rules around how the phone will be monitored is at the very beginning, when you give it to your kid. It's easier to relax your rules as you go along, rather than suddenly introduce new ones.

You can always simply ask to see their messages. If your kids recoil in horror, ask why they don't want you to see them — it's very likely that there's nothing bad.

If you have reason to suspect that your kid is going through something dodgy that he or she won't discuss — and you notice changes in his or her behavior, appearance, and actions — then you might have probable cause. You also can consider purchasing a text-monitoring service through your wireless carrier.

Bottom line? Discuss appropriate cell phone behavior, set consequences for infractions, and monitor your kid's behavior. Every parent faces this dilemma at one time or another, whether it's regarding text messages or Facebook posts. If you do decide to sneak a peek, be prepared to see things you won't like — and to have to choose whether or not to confront your child about what you've discovered.

Do you read your kid's text messages?

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