Teens and Privacy

Parent Q&A

Do/Would you read your child's texts? Dec 26, 2018 (12 responses below)
Discovered a fake ID in son's wallet Dec 8, 2016 (10 responses below)
  • Do/Would you read your child's texts?

    (12 replies)

    I recently had a huge to-do with my family about reading our kids' texts. They have flip phone only so no instagram, etc. They text, of course. I have always maintained that children have no right to expect privacy and that parents have a responsibility to know what is going on in their lives whether kids decide to talk or not. My daughter (13) still shares all, but my son (15) is silent about anything but what's on UTube today. He usually deletes his texts anyway, but once in a while he leaves his phone unattended by accident. They are both good kids with OK grades and no serious drama. They and my husband feel strongly that reading texts breaks trust and makes them less likely to open up. They think texts should only be read if there are "warning signs" that something is going on that needs adult intervention. I think that is often too late.

    What do you think?

    As a parent of 2 in middle school and high school, I absolutely believe it is necessary for parents to check their kids things. There are so many things that they are probably not saying  that they are experiencing in their lives and at school. I don't think being a good kid has anything to do with knowing and understanding and possibly needing to address some issues or concerns that may arise. When we gave our kids their phones and anything that we give them for that matter it is with the expected belief that your things could be gone through. There are so many things being presented to our kids that to them may seem harmless and no big deal and yet it is. I don't advocate going thorough their items constantly but as a parent I believe sometimes it's necessary. I'm curious as to why your son is deleteing his texts if he is just communicating with his friends innocently .. Anyhow.. my two cents

    I think that maintaining good communications with your child requires that they trust you. 15 year olds are often taciturn; that is not a reason to snoop. Neither I nor my spouse ever, nor would we ever, read our child's texts, diary, etc. I felt she was entitled to privacy, and I she has often told us that our trust was a major factor in her willingness to talk to us as an adolescent (she just turned 21). I also felt that if I read her texts I was invading the privacy of the people with whom she was texting. One may feel that their child does not have an expectation of privacy, but does that extend to anyone they know, whether or not those persons are minors? (And before responding that you have the right to know with whom your child is communicating, I note that this does not address the question of the privacy of others.)

    Teens (including 13s) are entitled to privacy, unless there is a real reason to believe something life threatening is going on. I understand the impulse to want to know everything (especially with taciturn boys), but your job as a parent of teens is to support them becoming independent, self sufficient adults. I believe you will have a closer relationship with those adults if you don't pry so much now and invade their space that they are dying to make the break. Spend time with your kids doing things they want to do with you. You might find your son shares more spontaneously when you don't try to force it. Especially, in the car where he's sitting next to you rather than facing you - try it.

  • Discovered a fake ID in son's wallet

    (10 replies)

    I'm wondering how people have handled high school kids getting fake id. I find myself in the horns of a dilemma because, for no reason, I looked in my son's wallet and saw that he had a fake id tucked in behind his driver's license. My partner and i have been discussing how to handle this (and he checked computer browser history and found a series of searches for things related and a big cash withdrawal from his bank account which normally barely gets touched), and he decided to basically offer amnesty and not accuse our son directly or make him feel the need to lie. He told him all the reasons we were upset about hearing word that lots of kids have fake id's and that if he had one he could give it over to us, no questions asked, but that if we found out from others that he had one, we were taking his real driver's license, not giving him access to our cars, and taking him off insurance. Total backfire in that the son has not given them to us and is basically calling our bluff. Part of the dilemma is the privacy issue of looking in his wallet, the browser etc, but I am of the mind that he's in our household and unless it is a private journal, things like a wallet are fair game. I assume that just about all high school seniors with the means are doing this, it's so easy to get them online and with cash (and apparently, they often send 2 for the price so that if one gets confiscated there's a backup) but I'm hesitant to bring it up with his friends parents for fear that it gets back to my son that I was stirring things up. Any thoughts about this?

    My parents found my fake ID when I was a senior and just took it. When I looked in my hiding spot and saw it was gone I knew I was busted. I did not think "oh, my parents invaded my privacy" I thought... "uh oh... I'm in so much trouble." I walked around with my tail between my legs for a few days while they let me suffer without saying a word. Then I was grounded from using the car for a while and from going out with my friends. I could only go to and from school and work. 2 things were accomplished... I realized I was still being parented at the age of 17 which is a good thing. And then I got better at hiding my illicit materials. Of course this was the 1980's... but its also the kind of parent I am now in the 2000's. 

    Oh Boy. I remember those days. Meaning- I remember when I had my own fake ID.

    How you handle it really depends on your kid. You mentioned that he's calling your bluff, which to me means you need to follow through on your threats. Privacy is not an issue when he's living in your house, and it's hard because at this age our kids are making their own decisions in a lot of ways. You didn't mention his age. One thing for him to think about is if he's 17 and he's caught, say on a Friday night, he could go to Juvenile Hall, and they don't need to let you see your son. He could be there all weekend without access to a lawyer or you. If he's 18 then he can be arrested and booked, and it will be on his record. Ultimately if he's drinking and driving (or with someone else who is) they are a threat to their community. These are things I wish my parents had spoken with me about. I would also be concerned about the large cash withdrawal. How is he doing overall? Does he have goals? Stay focused? Get good grades? Challenge himself? A fake ID with a respectful and hardworking kid is one thing; failing and dropping out is another. I would look at the big picture and have an honest discussion with your son. He is, or is soon to be, an adult. Best of Luck.

    I'm a college professor and Internet security researcher.  What you are describing is not what I would say typical, but it's not a surprise either.  To understand your sons behavior all one needs to do is look at the "honesty" of the adults in our society.

    What can be purchased online is unbelievable especially on the "dark web".  Fake IDs, drivers licenses, passports, etc. can easily be had with a just a few pieces of silver.

    Can I suggest taking a different approach?  Education.  Your son just like all teenagers are still developing their moral compasses.  They look at the  society they live in and see people successfully breaking the law and "getting away" with it.  What they don't see is what happens when they get caught and the future long lasting consequences of having committed a crime.  Mexico has call centers filled with United States citizens who committed some petty crime in their past and can't get a job in the US.  So they move to Mexico and get paid Pesos by the same companies that won't hire them in the US.  With computerized court records should he get busted this is something that could haunt him for decades.

    I am not a fan of scared straight.  But what I am a fan of is educating.  See if you could make arrangements with a judge to sit in a court room so your son can see what happens and the sentence if he get's busted using a fake ID.  You might want to show him the acclimations and the free meals tax payers will provide for him.  Once he knows the ramifications of using a fake ID it's up to him to decide if using a fake ID is worth the risk or not.

    As for peering into his wallet and browser history this one for me hasn't been easy.  Your son is a minor so legally you are responsible and have the legal right to look.  But this is a matter of privacy and trust between parent and child.

    But with some new just passed in the UK and US this answer is now easier.....  Ask your son if he would rather have his parents looking through his wallet, cell phone  and browser history or the government/law enforcement.  With the laws just passes it has made it much easier for the government/law enforcement to "see" what your son is up to.  I assure you if he's used his computer to visit fake ID web pages the government (not law enforcement) and advertisers have a record.

    Tell your son it's  better your parents bust you than law enforcement.

    If you like TED talks you might want to watch this one so you understand how law enforcement and marketing companies use Big Data to profile us.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgWie9dnssU

    I would like to say I did not do things  like your son.  Maybe I was smart or lucky, but never got more than a traffic ticket.  But I think times/society has changed and we are not as prone to forgive a teenager for making stupid youthful mistakes anymore.  My daughter, after the encouragement of four of her friends got bused for shoplifting $15 at a chain store.  She and they were had cuffed and turned over to the police.  My daughter and I thank the police sergeant everyday as he "lost" the police report and the girls were never prosecuted.  This one first hand contact with law enforcement corrected her moral compass.

    You are not alone...Best of luck

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions Related Pages

Pre-teen's extreme modesty: privacy or poor body image?

March 2004

Hi, My ten and a half year old daughter started her period a few months ago. She has some breast development and body hair. She refuses to discuss wearing a bra, doesn't want me to talk to her AT ALL about her periods, and won't let me wash her hair/be in the room when she changes clothing, etc.

I'm feeling bewildered and a little concerned. Is this in the normal range of preteen/teen modesty, or should I be worried about a poor body image? I think that she wishes that all this ''maturity'' wasn't happening to her yet. a concerned mom


Teen's Privacy vs. What I Need to Know

May 2004

Re: What are these tiny baggies I found in my son's bag?

This newsletter is more helpful than anything out there to us parents raising teens! I learn things that I otherwise wouldn't know or even want to know about and feel better prepared to deal with them or avoid them. This is the same approach I take to finding out about my kid's life, issue or potential problems. I actively seek out information that I might not want to know even if it means snooping. Yes I will even read my daughter's IM messages and interestingly enough even though I often confront her about her messages ( ''I was high on double dose of Midol cramps medicine today'') she continually leaves those IMs on the open computer screen as if she wants me to read them. Others might dissagree but I feel it is my responsibility to know what my kids have under their beds or in their closets or in their computers. If the parents of those two Columbine boys snooped around their closets maybe they wouldn't be able to stockpile their weapons and kills so many innocent kids. Maybe by finding marijuana baggies one can prevent a kid to become a dealer or a user or save a girl's life by discovering she is taking large doses of Tylenol. Better safe than sorry, better a snoop than a naive, clueless parent. Snooping Mom


In response to the email from Rebecca to the mom who found suspicious baggies in her son's backpack while he is far away at college: I disagree. I feel that when our children go away to college, the boundaries around these possessions change a bit. THis young man is far away at college. He is an adult. He has moved out, and does not live there now. It is not the same. He is only using this room to store stuff. Many parents redo and reuse their kids' rooms and things when they are away. That's the least parents can do when they are paying for their college. If this was something intimate and personal, he would have taken it with him. It is not snooping, it's seeing what has been left in your house and using what is sitting there unused. Their rooms and their stuff are not shrines when they leave. Anonymous