Do/Would you read your child's texts?

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?

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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.

Behind all privacy discussions are the question of whether the person had an expectation of privacy. My position on reading kids' text is that it reinforces the idea that no one should ever text anything that they wouldn't want their parents, teachers, or ??? to read. Filtering their on-line engagement through this prism will protect them. So, while I rarely read my kids' social media accounts (several adults are friends on Instagram and would inform me if they saw anything troubling) or phones, it is my official position that I can. If I gave them any reason to believe that their accounts or phones were personal, then they would have a reason to object. There is too much potentially harmful on-line and on phones for me to be completely hands-off. If they want absolute privacy, I'll get them a journal. I mention stories or news articles about adults having problems with things that they shared digitally with an expectation of privacy as well as those about young people having problems arising from social media, screenshots of private communications, etc. I grant you, this is a lower standard than believing I have a right/responsibility to know what's going on in their lives -- I'm sure there's plenty I don't know -- and most of what I know is because they tell me or I figure it out the way parents have for generations, because kids aren't as discrete as they think they are. 

Wow. Expecting to read all their texts to friends? I've always been a pretty tuff mom, but that seems to go way too far in my opinion. That is their private space. But...I they leave their phone unattended and you happen to see a text now and then......that's fine in my opinion.

I worked as a teacher with a male teacher who was caught in an FBI sting luring teenage girls to motels for sex. Parents need to always know what’s going on. You have to be aware. 

No, I would not read my child's texts because I believe as they're approaching adulthood, they deserve to have some control over their lives. When I was in high school oh so long ago, before the internet, my boyfriend at the time would write me snail mail letters and my Dad would open them up and read them. It was a huge invasion of privacy and he used a similar excuse you are using, that as the adult he can do as he pleased. I had to tell my bf at the time to let me know ahead of time if he wrote me something and then for the next couple of days I would be vigilant and keep an eye out for the mailman so I can snag my letter first. By reading his texts without permission, you cultivate resentment and distrust. 

In our family we tell our kids that we will periodically review texts, etc. and we do, although I plan to taper this off as they get older.  We want our kids to develop a sense of the non-private character of texts/emails/posts.  All it takes is a forward and everyone will see it, so it's really not private.  We encourage them to use phone calls/facetime/face-to-face conversations and journaling for true privacy and we don't invade their privacy in those spaces.  The bottom line is, nothing on the internet is really private, and they might as well learn that as early as possible.  Just read the news if you want proof.

I think it is fine to read their texts as long as you are honest about it. Just tell them that you read them. And then it is up to them to monitor what they and their friends text.

It is only an invasion of privacy if they expect that it is a private space. 

Yes, read your child's text messages, especially if you have a child you are concerned about.  My oldest daughter was a difficult and somewhat wild kid, that was before cell phones but I read her diary.  I didn't scold her for what I read but it helped me to direct my conversations with her to help her through what she was going through.  When I read, she had sex,  I took her to Kaiser and put her on birth control immediately.   I would never tell a kid that I was doing this because what benefit would there be.   This is not an invasion of privacy, it's good parenting!!!!!  Also,  know their friends.  I often got information about my daughter through her friends.  I never disclosed to her that her friends told me but it helped me to guide her.  She is a 32 year old successful woman.  She has expressed to me that all that I did was necessary and she's grateful I stayed on top of her.

If there is an atmosphere of general trust and good faith behavior, such that no one has any reason to hide anything, then it seems like it would not be an issue and they wouldn't care if you read their messages. However, if they know you are reading their messages and have reason to want to hide the activity, they will do everything they can to conceal and cover their tracks. It all depends on the kid. When my kids got computers and phones, we told them that as parents we had the right to total access.  Even so, they changed passwords and concealed their activities and were angry when we wanted to exercise some level of access.  Both kids were definitely engaging in questionable behaviors (my daughter sending and receiving nude photos and my son accessing porn or downloading first person shooter apps, explicit music, etc).  I tried implementing rules and limits, and wanted to use parental controls, but in those days, they didn't exist or were difficult to manage. My son figured out how to highjack and bypass them all.  My husband decided he didn't want to deal with monitoring and thought we should be more "trusting", even with evidence that there was reason not to trust. I eventually gave up and decided that if something bad happened, they would have hard lessons to learn. One summer when my daughter was 18, I was aware of some of her activities because I saw mirrored text messages coming through on an iPad. I never revealed this to her because I didn't want her to lie to me and then make changes so that I would lose access to the information.  I figured it was better to know something than nothing and then find ways to bring up cautionary discussions in general ways so as to impart some parental advice.  Over the years, I have read some of their diaries, which my husband is adamantly against.  While I am not proud of doing this, there is a very strong draw to do it because of my desire to know and understand what is going on in their lives, how they are feeling in ways that they would never tell me.  And as long as what they are writing about is not life threatening or seriously dangerous, I will not act on the information.  It would have been nice if we could had developed better communication when they were younger - would their behavior been different?  If their behavior had been the same, I am not sure they would have shared more.  I really struggled with how to have a good communicative relationship with them and be an authoritative parent who set limits for strong willed adolescents.  When I was a teen in the '70s, I lied to my parents about what I was doing, because I knew they would have freaked out, never accepted my feelings or desires. When my parents did learn of certain behaviors they objected to, their authoritarian approach created a bigger chasm in the relationship.  Parenting is difficult, personal histories, family relationships and dynamics are complicated, and everyone is different.  You do the best you can with the skills and tools you have, given the unique situation. Is it naive to believe that modern cultural attitudes and technology seem to have made parenting more difficult?

I don't read my daughter texts (16 years old) but she talks a lot (although, I am sure, not about everything...) and I know her closest friends who are good kids.  I would do though if I feel I need to (doubts about her putting herself in danger) but I would never claim it as I right. I would not tell her if I had to read her texts and I would use the info otherwise. 

Good luck! Parenting 2 teenagers is not easy...