What Kind of Parent Are You?


One of my Facebook Friends posed a question to her fellow friends today. 

"Just curious. Do the parents of teenagers out there check the contents of their childs cell phone on a periodic basis? I really think it is important that I know what he is using his phone for. Although there are many ways that they can hide text messages and pictures that really surprised me when someone showed me this. Just curious what other parents do."
 A barrage of comments followed from other parents, most affirming that they do indeed 'snoop' (is it snooping if you're doing it for the purpose of protecting your kid?).  Some parents let their kids know, some parents hide it from their kids.

My comment(s) in response to this were:

"Mymobilewatchdog.com. I guarantee I'll do this and I'll let him know that everything he does, sends, or receives, I will have access to."
and

"I'll probably low-jack* his car, too. :P. He's going to hate my nerdy side from about age 11 until he's a parent himself."
*I meant lo-jack, but my iPhone thinks it knows what I'm trying to say better than I, myself, do.

Anyway.  I'm sure there are many sides to this coin.  To snoop or not to snoop?  To be open about it, or to try to catch them in the act?  Parenting itself is one delimma after another, and this particular circumstance presents itself with several.

For me, though, I will snoop.  And not only that, I will be completely up front about it. 

I currently have parental controls on his iPod and his computer account.  I have his passwords, not him (a 7 year old has no need to know his own passwords).  We have parental restrictions on the TV.  We limit what video games he plays and how much and how often he plays them.

When he gets a cell-phone someday, I'll have it on lock down.  His text messages will be duplicated and sent to me (and Jason if he so chooses).  His history and usage will be monitored.  His emails will be logged.  Everything he uses that phone for, I will have the option of viewing and reviewing.  And I might check it religiously or I might not check it except on occasion. 

I think you have to take a look at the kid and weigh out (and possibly re-weigh on a daily/weekly/monthly basis) the right to privacy versus the need for accountability.

But because I will be completely up front about it, I will probably not catch him in some of the behaviors that I'll be trying to guard him against and I'm okay with that because every time he sends or receives a text message he will learn to think, "Should I send this?", "What's the right way to respond to this?", "Are my parents going to think this is acceptable?"

And that's what I want.

My parents raised my sister and I with a trust-based system.  As long as we were doing right and being responsible, we didn't have strict curfews and tight restrictions placed on us.  If they knew where we were, what we were doing and who we were with they were pretty fair with us.  And it worked well for my sister and I. 

I do understand that different things work for different kids, but this is my parenting goal because even as an adult, I measure my decisions and my behaviors against my parents expectations of me.  What would they say?  What would they think?  How would they feel if they knew what I said, did, or where I went?  (Isn't that what we, as Christians, should be doing, too?)

And that's how I want my children raised.  Not because I want them to bow to me their whole life, I don't view it that way.  But because I want them to grow up respecting me. 

Because I want them to grow up holding their decisions to a moral code. 

I want them to think about the choices they make when they make them so that hopefully they won't have to deal with some of the repurcussions that could result from them. 

But also...I want to know when they're doing something potentially dangerous or reckless because then I can help them and teach them and protect them.  Because that's my job as a parent.  I also want to know when they're being rude or hurtful or ugly, because my job as a parent is to correct that behavior, too.  Or if they're being bullied or if they're suffering from depression...I need to know that too.

And another advantage would be that they would (hopefully) learn to think before putting temporary thoughts into permanent words that have the potential to be shared with more than just the recipient.  This was a hard lesson for me in the days of passing notes.  A note in the wrong hands was a hard thing to overcome because your exact words were inarguable at that point.  They're your words in your writing.  But our kids will grow up with text messages and social media messages posted on the Internet for the world to see, read, and respond to.  There's a lot more potential for your words to be used against you in today's world.

I'm sure my kids will be like me, they won't do everything perfect (probably especially where words are involved!).  They'll make mistakes and stupid decisions and they'll have to live with them and learn from them, just like I did.  But hopefully they'll make a few good decisions, too.  Hopefully they'll learn the meaning of accountability and maybe eventually they'll learn to hold themselves accountable too.

So when the day comes, I'll snoop and I'll let them know.  Because it's important to me that they know I'm watching them and I'm watching out for them.  But it's also important to me that they learn to be mindful of themselves, too.
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a ten-year-old, and an infant.