Straight Talk: When do parents have the green light to snoop?

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: We have two wonderful teenage daughters who give us few problems. However, their e-mail and cell phone accounts are in our names and, without their knowledge, we routinely check their messages. Our youngest, age 16, has a friend from a good family who has been texting her very — and I mean VERY — personal questions about female anatomy. He is also 16 and attends a different school. They rarely see each and mainly communicate electronically. To her credit, my daughter has ignored these texts, however, I’m so upset that I’m considering informing his parents — but then I’d have to confess to eavesdropping. I snoop only to keep my minor children safe from cyberjerks. What does your panel think we should do? ~ Concerned Mom & Dad, Carmel Hannah, 18, Auburn: I was caught “sexting” freshman year and got in big trouble. Your daughter hasn’t done anything wrong so keep this to yourself — unless you want your daughters mad at you for a long time. Seriously, unless you want to get caught, stop snooping now! If you’re concerned about cyberjerks, TALK to your daughters about them! Jack, 18, San Luis Obispo: Sixteen-year-olds often talk about sex and since these two rarely see each other, you have little to worry about. Even minor children have the right to know you are snooping. You have “few problems” only because they are unaware of your outlandish breaches of privacy. Lara, 18, Moraga: If a guy sends me dirty texts, I ignore them, too. They are immature and dumb and shouldn’t be taken seriously. My relationship with my mother is so accepting that I tell her everything and snooping is unnecessary. My dad, though, had a harder time trusting my decisions. He snooped regularly and found things he couldn’t handle, which led to many long fights. As a consequence, it was hard to be honest with him because he wasn’t honest with me. Don’t snoop. Ask questions and respect the answers you receive. Nicole, 20, Arcata: I am shocked by your actions! You want to raise honest kids, yet you go behind their backs on a regular basis?! The texting you describe is not out of the ordinary. Plus, you think your daughter doesn’t write back? Perhaps she erases her responses because she suspects you. Lennon, 22, Fair Oaks: Parents can barely be faulted. The news media play into their fears that people wanting to hurt their children are lurking behind every corner. It’s so messed up! On topic: Wait. See if the situation progresses. Brie, 18, Ashland, OR: This guy is obviously not dangerous, so I see no harm. You need to have more trust in your children otherwise they will stop trusting you. And you want that trust so they will come to you when real situations arise. Julian, 17, Auburn: At 16 it’s normal to be curious about female anatomy and to ask a close friend. If they are not close, he is probably strange, but harmless. As for snooping, we are all entitled to privacy unless we have done something to sacrifice that privilege. By your own words, your daughters have done nothing to deserve such invasive behavior. Dear Concerned: My stance on parental snooping is exactly what Julian says: No snooping without cause. Your daughter appears to be handling these texts maturely, so drop the snooping while you’re ahead. Unjustified, it can cause terrible damage to your relationship. When do parents have a green-light to snoop? For behaviors below which indicate your child needs help: • Truancy at home or school • Failing multiple classes • Out-of-character depression, anger, risk-taking, sleep patterns • Shunning formerly enjoyed activities • Withdrawal from family, long-term friends • Frequent illness, reduced hygiene • Alcohol or drug paraphernalia To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.