Parenting teens can be a challenge, and they have a ton of technology at their fingertips! Do we need to monitor what they do on their phones? My answer is no, I don’t check my teen’s phone, and here is why.
I got added to a Facebook group a couple of months ago by an acquaintance who is also the mother of a teenager. This group has over 500 people in it, all parents of kids at our local high school.
Thinking that it might be filled with information about the local school and what was going on there I decided to check it out. What I found was a rapidly growing group of hundreds of parents all talking about the apps that kids use to hide nudes on their phones.
There were comments like “I don’t care if I’m a ‘mean mom’ I’m checking my son’s phone every day” and “We can’t trust these kids to know what not to do with their phones!!”
I was shocked, comment after comment of parents monitoring their teen’s phone, checking through their apps, and installing apps they used to get copied on every text their kid sends. There were threads about who had found nudes on their kid’s phones and what punishments the parents had doled out.
There were other parents on there “Oh my, I’ll have to check my daughters phone!” and “I never thought these kids would do anything like this!!”
It was like a witch hunt for catching your child with bad things on their phones everyone was all up in arms, parents who never would have thought about checking their kid’s phone were looking over them with a fine tooth comb. Then they were coming back to report to the other parents, and publicly tattle on what they found.
But not me, nope, I don’t check my teen’s phone.
You can call me crazy, or naive or too trusting, but at the end of the day I make the choice not to check my teen’s phone, here’ why.
First and foremost I trust my kids.
Yeah, Yeah I know, you’re saying, “she just thinks her kids are perfect” and no, no I do not. I am actually fully aware that you never really know what any one else is capable of. People can shock you, they can disappoint you, they can do things that you would never expect.
But does that mean you should live in a state of doubt, and distrust of those closest to you? I believe that answer is no.
I also believe that when your kids know you trust them, they show up. They value your trust in them, they value the privileges that come with it, they know that you believe in them, and they want to do their best for you.
My boys have told me on multiple occasions that they wouldn’t do certain things because they know I trust them and they don’t want to betray that trust. They know they have the freedoms they do because they make good decisions.
Does that mean their immune to doing anything that I wouldn’t approve of? No, however they also know that if anything comes up that we’re going to talk it through and discuss it in a calm understanding way. Our relationship is built on respect and a huge part of that is trust.
I don’t check my teen’s phone because I also believe kids need their privacy
Let me take you back to 1997 for a moment. My senior year of high school. Every day, multiple times, notes were passed in hallways, in classes, full of things I just had to tell my friends or that they had to tell me. They were full of secrets about boys, things we hated about our teachers, funny things, serious things…. All kinds of teenage communication.
Did my mother ever demand to see them? Did she tell me that when I got home I needed to empty my book bag and show her that I wasn’t passing any notes that were inappropriate? Nope. They were mine and my friends, full of personal thoughts and conversations.
If she had demanded that? They would have gone in the trash long before I headed home.
What if she had picked up the phone extension every time one of my friends called and demanded to listen to our conversations? Or sat in the room every time I had a phone call? I would have made sure to call my friends when she wasn’t around!
I had nothing to hide, I was such a goody-goody in high school, and I knew I could talk to my mom about anything, but you know what? I wanted my privacy when it came to my conversations with my friends!
Think of texts as those notes and phone calls. If you demand to see what your child is talking about with their friend, or monitor their texts they are going to make damn sure you don’t see the important stuff, they’ll be sure to delete what they don’t want you to see, or find some other way of communicating with their friends that you don’t know about.
I don’t check my teen’s phone because by invading their privacy you set them up to feel the need to sneak and lie, and break the trust that you have.
By trusting them and letting them have their privacy you encourage a sense of safety and honesty. They’ll come to you when they need advice or a friend needs help. By giving them their space they get the sense that they are trusted and that you are someone who they can trust in return.
I came across this website while getting ready to write this post and there are some very candid answers from kid’s whose parents monitor their phones. They are worth the read to see how teens feel about it!
If you really can’t trust your child then why do they have the phone in the first place?
Now I am not saying that if something came to my attention that I thought was harmful or upsetting that my kids were doing that I wouldn’t take action. If the trust was broken we would certainly address it.
What I’m saying is that when my boys got smart phones I also trusted them with the responsibility that came with them. We talked about nude pictures, internet safety, texting while driving…. All the things that come with having a phone. We decided they were ready and they got phones.
If I really thought they couldn’t handle it they wouldn’t have the phones! If you really think that your child is going to do inappropriate things with their phone, if you feel the need to monitor their activity, why not just give them a good ol flip phone and call it a day?
It really comes down to trusting what you’ve taught them, trusting that you’ve raised them to do the right thing and step up when they need to. Its understanding that they might make mistakes, they might make poor decisions and that they’ll learn from them, and you’ll address them when the time comes.
To me it’s like them getting a license, going to friend’s houses, getting on the internet. There are tons of times as parents that we don’t have control of our kids, we don’t have our eyes and ears on them, and we need to understand that their journey is theirs and that we’ve done the best we can to teach them before they are put into those situations.
If you feel the need to check your teen’s phone, it may be a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Has something happened that you don’t trust them, or that you don’t feel confident in their abilities to make good decisions. Ask yourself why? Are you acting out of fear? Are you wanting to keep control? Has your child shown that they are untrustworthy? Figure out what is driving your actions and get to the root of the real problem!
You might feel like things are different from when you were a teenager, sure we passed notes, but kids now are texting, sexting, sending nudes, randomly sending messages via social media, and all kinds of things we never had any access to! You might think I need to check my teen’s phone to make sure they aren’t doing any of that!
That’s true, it all is, and as a parent it can be really scary. But for me the solution isn’t to check my teen’s phone it is to have open communication. It is teaching them about responsibility for actions, and respecting people. It’s education them about dangers, and about consequences that I never even had to think about when I was their age. It is even more important that when our kids are facing things that we never did that we understand, that we realize that restriction results in rebellion and that as our kids are turning into adults they may make poor decisions and we need to be available to help them through those and let them learn from them.
We can be afraid of predators, of cyber bullying, of all the horrible things out there in the world, and yes they are scary! The best defense against those things is having a child that will come to you, that will talk to you, that will answer your questions honestly if you ask them.
Fear is pretty much pointless, it doesn’t change the outcome of a situation, it simply makes it stressful and keeps you from taking action and having conversations that would make a real difference!
So I for one won’t check my teen’s phone, I’ll be having conversations with them, giving them my trust and their privacy, and expecting the best from them!
As a parent you have to go with your gut, and do what you truly believe is best for your child, and your relationship with them. If you have cause for concern and worry you have to act on it. If you can trust your teen and give them freedom than let them spread their wings!