I was raised to never, ever open someone else’s mail. And I don’t. Even letters to my husband or children that I know contain information that is really meant for me sit on the kitchen counter until their intended recipient gets home and opens the envelope.
But electronic communication? Momma never said anything about that.
And so I confess: I have spied on my children’s email, their text messages and Facebook chats. At first it wasn’t really spying, because I told them I would do it. I let my oldest son have a Facebook account just before he started middle school so that he could keep in touch with a best friend who had moved to Nepal. For nearly a year, his only Facebook friends were the kid who moved away, his mother and me. When my boys got a laptop to share, I told them that I’d do “spot checks” from time to time and that they could not close the screen or the computer when I walked into the room. The same rule applied to their cellphones and their texts.
They didn’t really mind, because they were in that stage of development somewhere between having to narrate your every waking thought to your mother and refusing to tell her even the most mundane facts of your daily existence. And I didn’t spot-check often; life is too short to comb through how little a 12-year-old can say in eighty or ninety text messages with a friend.
When my older son started sixth grade, I went to a lecture at the middle school on internet safety. The school social worker went over the general rules that parents should underscore with their children. She urged parents to learn about the most popular social media sites. And then she said that as children approach and enter high school, parents should not spy on their children’s texts or Facebook pages. “It will erode your child’s trust in you,” she said, adding that teens annoyed by being spied on will probably just create new social media accounts that their parents don’t know about.
The room imploded. (more…)