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Do you read your teen's text messages?

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

How much privacy do you allow?

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

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

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

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