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Is It Okay to Read My Kids' Text Messages?

How to navigate cell phones, privacy and screen time as parents

Published on: August 01, 2019

mother looking over shoulder at daughter's tablet

Is it OK for me to read my kids' text messages on their phones?

Parents: There's no absolute right answer as to whether it's okay to read your kid's text messages. It depends on your kid's age, personality and behavior. The most important thing is that you discuss responsible texting behavior. Remind them that any text can be forwarded to an unintended audience — and texts that involve drugs, sexting or other illegal things can get kids into real trouble.

The ideal time to establish rules around how the phone will be monitored is at the very beginning, when you first give it to your kid. It's easier to relax your rules as you go along, rather than suddenly introduce new ones.

You can always simply ask to see their messages. If your kids recoil in horror, ask why they don't want you to see them — it's very likely that there's nothing bad.

If you have reason to suspect that your kid is going through something dodgy that he or she won't discuss — and you notice changes in his or her behavior, appearance and actions — then you might have probable cause. You also can consider purchasing a text-monitoring service through your wireless carrier.

Bottom line? Discuss appropriate cell phone behavior, set consequences for infractions, and monitor your kid's behavior. Every parent faces this dilemma at one time or another, whether it's regarding text messages or Instagram posts. If you do decide to sneak a peek, be prepared to see things you won't like — and to have to choose whether or not to confront your child about what you've discovered.


Originally published by Common Sense Media and republished with permission.

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