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Is it Okay to Spy on Your Kids?

Is it Okay to Spy on Your Kids?

It’s a mom’s job to know where her kids are and what they are up to. But is opening your child's e-mails, rifling through her room, or peeking into her journals an acceptable approach to staying on top of her activities? Circle of Moms member Loureen K. wants to know where the line is: “How much privacy should parents give their teens, and when is it appropriate to snoop?” she asks.

With so much of kids' lives unfolding online and through mobile phones, parents can feel clueless about what’s really going on. But parents also have access to new tools  not only web filters and tracking software like SocialShield, but GPS  that allow us to follow our kids' every move. Are we turning into bigger sneaks than we’d care to admit? Here, a breakdown of all the different places parents commonly snoop, from their kids' Internet browsers to their backpacks, plus Circle of Moms members' views on whether each type of parental spying is ever okay.

Cyber Sleuthing

Yes: It's a Safety Issue

If your gut tells you that your teen or tween is viewing banned sites or receiving inappropriate messages, a show of hands among Circle of Moms members says you should monitor their online activity. "My kids are my responsibility, and so is their behavior,” says Shawn L. “There is absolutely NO electronic privacy in our household. I guess I look at it this way: If my kids did something inappropriate, and I found out about it later, I'd be appalled. I'd be embarrassed, and most of all, I'd be extremely upset. I have all of their passwords, and regularly check their online activity, Facebook pages, etc."


Nikki S. agrees, adding, “As far as Internet use goes, I will check everything that they do on the computer for their own safety. I will be upfront about restrictions and conditions of Internet and phone usage. There won’t be any "snooping" because they will know it is going to happen.”

No: Kids Who are Trusted Become More Trustworthy

Other Circle of Moms members believe that tweens and teens need to know their parents trust them in order to make good decisions. They say that monitoring their Internet usage violates not only this trust, but also privacy: “I don't agree with parents invading their child's privacy at all, ever," says Emma. “That includes demanding access to their Facebook and MySpace [accounts], and [being] friends with them on Facebook. If they're allowed to use these things then they should have their privacy respected. Just because your kid doesn't want you to read everything they say to friends doesn't mean they're up to no good.”


Checking Cell Phones and Logs

Yes: It's a Parent's Job to Monitor

In a world of cyber bullying, sexting, and child predators, it's important for moms to monitor their tweens' and teens' cell phone usage, some Circle of Moms advise. “It is my job as a mother to know. It is my husband's job as a father to know,” says Melodie. “We have 2 boys, 10 and 12. If either one of us think something is going on that shouldn't be then we are going to snoop. I check my son's cell phone all the time. My kids are well aware of that and as long as they are going to live in my house and enjoy all the things our hard earned money provides them, then I can snoop whenever I feel like it.”

Angel M. says she monitors her teen’s mobile phone activity because, “How else are you to protect them from cyber bullying, sexting, and child predators?"

No: Kids Deserve Some Privacy and Respect

Many Circle of Moms members share an opinion voiced by Nicole M. who says: "Until your child gives you a reason to be suspicious, and by that I mean more valid than hanging out with a "lost soul" and not telling you all her secrets anymore, they deserve their privacy and respect.” She adds: “If they break that trust, (and for me it would take more than one little 'Hey Mom, I'm going over to A's house to study' when you know well and good they are going out to the movies with Boy B), then all bets are off. I just think, if you show them respect, they will grow and learn to respect you (and others) more too.”

GPS Tracking

Yes: It's So Reassuring

Some Circle of Moms are so intent on monitoring their kids that they've installed a computer chip in their teen's car or are using their teen's cell phone GPS to track its owner's whereabouts. "We have one on my son's car and love it,” says Shea J. “You can have alerts sent to your phone that let you know where he is, how fast he is going. To actually track his movement you have to go online and log in. It works great.”

Patty H. says she feels GPS tracking isn’t snooping. "My philosophy is you have to trust but verify," she explains. "This way I won't have to worry about him; I can look online and see exactly where he is."

No: Leave Tracking to the Police

Other Circle of Moms members feel that getting instant updates on the speed your teen is driving or where he is in the car is taking it too far and is disrespectful. It’s not a good way to help build their self-confidence and show them you trust them, say moms like Jodi. She believes that parents should at least start “by having a talk" and  giving your kids a chance to share where they are and what they are doing.


Bedrooms, Backpacks and Journals

Yes: It’s a Parent’s Duty to Snoop

Going through your child's personal belongings periodically is just part of what a responsible parent does, say some Circle of Moms members. “I agree that it's okay to go through your kids’ stuff,” says Lisa W. “If I find something inappropriate I find some roundabout way to bring it up to her and see if she'll open up about it. By no means do I say, oh, I was in your room snooping and found this or that. You have to protect your kids.”

Kim B., who checks her daughter's backpack, room, cell phone, e-mail and Facebook periodically, maintains that as  long as a child is living under her roof, she "basically has no freedom."

No: You Will Lose Your Child's Trust

Other Circle of Moms feel strongly that children should have a safe place for their private thoughts and feelings and that reading journals and rifling through rooms is an invasion of privacy. “I don't snoop,” says Tara K. "I have a 14-year-old son. If I were concerned about him or anything he was doing, I would talk to him. And if I felt he was being dishonest, I would let him know that I can find out the truth, be it through his friends, their parents, the computer, snooping in his room, etc. He knows I have the power to do all those things, but I have never had to. Snooping under any but the most extreme cases is wrong. My mom read my diary once; I didn't talk to her for a month. She had no reason, no right and I was appalled that she would be so disrespectful of my privacy. She felt awful and admitted to just being curious. Not okay in my book.”

Do you spy on your kids?

Image Source: kellyxrene via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

ClaireSouthern ClaireSouthern 5 years
I think its wrong for the parents to snoop. It just ruins the trust between the parent and child. My parents stay away from my sister and I's Facebook accounts as well as our phones. They trust that we aren't doing anything stupid on there. How would the parents that snoop through their kids stuff like it if their kids went through their stuff? That's why my parents stay out of our stuff. They know we aren't into any sort of illegal activity or whatnot, so there isn't any reason to be into our stuff.
minna85520 minna85520 5 years
I don't snoop on the computer or in drawers. I do periodically say let me see your facebook and then read till I can't stand it anymore. My deal is If you're doing well [grades,attitude etc.....] then you deserve some privacy. If you screw up -all bets are off and I turn into the warden. My 17 year old is heading away to college next fall and honestly, his business is his business. My 14 year old obviously requires more oversight, but I''ve been trying to teach him that freedom comes with responsibility and visa-versa. I try to keep a loose rein but a sharp eye. Minna
TheresaBallard TheresaBallard 5 years
my stepson is in jail, vehicular homicide, driving while under the influence of drugs....he was out a few years, and went back in...drug related....his parents never snooped....they suspected, but didn't want to infringe on his privacy....sorry...i feel its a fair trade...had they snooped, perhaps he wouldn't be where he when my kids were of age i snooped immediately (mcGruff installed on the computers)...but i never heard anything increminating...i had to stop because i felt like a voyeur... honing in on things not my business....and not trusting my kids.....and that's the difference...i do trust my kids, but never did i trust my unless they give you reason to snoop, i believe you need to respect your kids' privacy..
StephanieWimber StephanieWimber 5 years
I agree we need to know what are kids are up to and what is going on in their lives however I think it starts with building that relationship of trust with your kids. Talking to them, asking questions, reassuring them that you love them and want to know and explaining that the reason you look at their stuff is because you care. We have to explain the dangers and keep them safe. 2/10 kids go missing due to run aways everyday. We have to know bottom line... It's no snooping it safe guarding. With having a phone and computer comes responsibility. If they use it the accept the monitoring.
LillianMcWatters LillianMcWatters 5 years
I keep Track of my daughters internet activity at home and have "Blue Coat K9 Web protection" on my computer. However that doesn't protect her when she is at a friends house using their computers. I have "eye guardian" which monitors her Facebook chats, friends, and emails etc for suspicious activity. This is the way I found out that at a friends house a 18 year old (she's 13) tried to seduce her and that she was going on a site called Omegle (Talk to strangers is they're motto.) At this age she is already proved that she is to young to make wise decisions when it comes to online safety: and these are things she would never tell me herself. My rule is Paper Journals are private but until she's a lot more mature there is NO electronic privacy. I do not want to end up with the daughter who is cyber-bullied or being stalked by some online predator. If she doesn't want me to read it it has to be in her journal.
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