Should You Ever Spy on Your Child’s Facebook Account—Or Spot-Check Their Bedroom?
The idea of spying on our kids can make us feel uncomfortable, but is a parent ever justified in doing so?
A new survey found that more than 38 percent of minors on Facebook are under the age of 13—a violation of Facebook’s age requirement. The same survey, conducted by Minor Monitor, also found that more than 50 percent of parents polled “spy” on their kids’ Facebook accounts—regardless of whether or not their child has given them permission to do so. The parents’ top concern, at 56 percent, was to protect their child from online sexual predators, but they were also concerned about identity theft, sexting, drugs, alcohol and cyberbullying. (A troubling statistic: one out of three parents said their child had already been cyberbullied.)
According to an article in Empowering Parents called “Parents, Get a Clue: What Teens Are Really Doing Online, the kids to watch closely are those under the age of 13 who lie to be on Facebook. Younger children are less sophisticated about people they meet online. Parents should also monitor teens and pre-teens who are acting out by engaging in risky behavior, which includes using drugs and alcohol.
“These are the teens that are more likely to be vulnerable to advances—or who might even initiate a meeting with an online stranger,” says Anastasia Goodstein, the author of Totally Wired. “It goes back to which kids are going to do this—and often, it’s the same girl that’s going to lie about getting into a college frat party and push those limits.” What about in other , non-virtual situations? Should parents spy on their kids at home, go through their things or spot check their bedrooms for paraphernalia? In his article Teens and Privacy: Should I Spy on My Child? James Lehman MSW says, “A lot of the things we do to protect our children might be considered ‘spying’ by our kids, but they are in fact measures we take to keep them safe from others, as well as from themselves.” Lehman makes the distinction, however between checking on kids who have lost their parents’ trust, and those who are responsible. “When you spy on your otherwise responsible child, the message you’re sending is, ‘I don’t trust you, even when you haven’t done anything wrong.’” However, when your child breaks your trust by getting caught drinking, smoking or engaging in other risky behaviors, all bets are off. “I believe the whole game changes if you have discovered something incriminating or if you have a very real suspicion about your child’s risky activities,” Lehman goes on to say. “I believe that whoever’s name is on the mortgage has a right to look anywhere in their house. In my opinion, that’s your right because you own the house. Even more importantly, you have a responsibility to protect your kids from themselves, even if they don’t want that protection.”