Most teens communicate with their friends through text messages. Should you allow yours complete privacy with texting, or read them whenever you want?

How much privacy do you allow?

Some parents have no problem with snooping through their teen's text messages. Here are three things to consider regarding your teen’s privacy.

Before texting became the standard method of communication between teens, having a private conversation meant hiding in the closet with the home phone. With hundreds (or thousands) of text messages sent to and from your teen’s cell phone each month, everything he is talking about is private. How do you decide how much privacy to allow?

Privacy – a right?

Many teens would say that parents monitoring text messages is an invasion of their privacy. You may have no reason at all to suspect that your teen is doing anything wrong, but it is your job to teach her to be responsible with communication. In this cyber-based world we live in, anything you send out via email, text, IM or Facebook status never truly goes away. Teens need to understand these messages aren’t really private at all, and your monitoring them occasionally shouldn’t be a big deal. “Review personal posts, texts or emails periodically reading only enough so your teen knows you’re checking,” suggests Michele Borba, Ed.D. and parenting expert.

Learn how much privacy your teen should have >>

Trust only goes so far

Many parents have no reason to suspect that their teen’s text messages contain anything but harmless LOLs and OMGs. Most of the time this may be true, but the inherent privacy of cell phone banter also opens the door to behaviors you may not expect from your teen. Your daughter may get pulled into a cyber-bullying situation or talked into sending a provocative picture by a persistent boy. You may be saving her from a bad situation by just monitoring her texts occasionally. Borba says, “Fifty years of child development research also shows the best way to reduce kids' risky behavior is “hands-on” parenting: knowing your kids’ whereabouts, having a strong relationship with their teen, setting clear rules and not [being] afraid to say no – those apply also online.”

Learn how you can trust your teen >>

Set the example

"Teaching your teen the proper use of his cell phone starts with your own behavior"

Do you often cover your screen to hide text messages from your teen? If you are talking to your teen and a text message comes in on your phone do you immediately respond, or wait until your conversation is over? Teaching your teen the proper use of his cell phone starts with your own behavior. If your text messages aren’t fit for her eyes, you are setting the precedent that inappropriate activity is acceptable in text messages.

By staying involved in your teen’s texting, you stand a better chance of keeping her out of difficult situations.

Read more about parenting teens

A peek inside the life of your teen
Anti-social kids in a social networking world
How to engage today's teens and help them mature

Tags: text messaging texting rules

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Comments on "Do you read your teen's text messages?"

Maria June 11, 2012 | 8:45 AM

This is a very important topic. My kids are all little right now, but when they're older I do plan on trusting them until need be. I'm hoping my kids will be open and honest with me, and that there will never be a need to read their text messages or check their internet history.

Beth May 07, 2012 | 11:47 AM

Nowadays lots of young people are attached to their phones like umbilical cords. I used to teach high school and almost every single kid had a cell phone. Kids were sitting next to each other texting and tweeting and not interacting with one another. There is a whole other virtual world floating around out there separate from the real world. I teach my kids to use moderation with their phones. Cell phones have many essential uses, but they can become a crutch. I don't want my children's social skills to become stunted by too much online chatting, so I encourage them to live in the real world. I take them to museums and parks, malls and concerts. We volunteer and go for hikes and take bike rides. I don't want them to live vicariously through a computer screen when there is a beautiful world around them for them to explore.

Katie May 05, 2012 | 6:39 PM

I don't have a teen yet...but I have a problem with anything that seems like spying on your child. I would hope that our relationship can be good enough that I can either ask to see the messages or they will talk to me about stuff. Maybe that is naive, but I do teach high schoolers. And the ones with a good relationship with their parents seem to have a less need to be "monitored".

Mary May 05, 2012 | 6:32 PM

After having sat on the jury of a recent offender case involving not one, but two teenage girls -one 13 and the other 14 - and having two teen boys of my own, I strongly believe that being involved and being present in your child's life, even in thier cyber life is a MUST! A random check once in a while lets them know you are monitoring things, and you may just save them from something aweful! We never want to think our kid will do anything wrong or risky, but we need to know who their friends are, who they areatting with, and what they're up to. It's our responsibility as parents to help them make good and responsible decisions while still giving them some room to grow.

Janice May 04, 2012 | 2:32 PM

This is an important topic that comes up a lot nowadays. Some friendships are deemed safe and are free from mommy's surveillance, but other friendships require more scrutiny. The texts from friends on the "safe" list will not be monitored, but the friends who haven't earned the parents' trust yet should be spot checked.

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