Reading your teens text messages

A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and prowled around my daughter’s bedroom trying to find her cell phone. The plan was to read her text messages. I suspected a relationship was brewing with a boy and I wanted to get past the vague answers she was giving me. After 1o minutes of stumbling around and nearly waking her up, I gave up.

Not a proud moment. Days later, I asked to borrow her phone to make a call. She was on to me….waiting next to me to return the phone. All I could think of was how much my mom must have enjoyed the juicy notes she found in my pockets from friends, filled with details about our latest crushes.

I remember about a decade ago, a mother at work told me that she read a note she found in her teenaged daughter’s pocket. A young single woman in the office overheard and was outraged. She called it a huge invasion of privacy. At the time, I just listened to the argument, not really having an opinion.

Flash forward and I totally understand where my friend was coming from. I don’t care how close you are with your kids, they say things to their friends they just aren’t going to reveal to you. Some of the stuff, I really believe parents should know. The best part is, we parents now have an electronic record of those conversations.

Readers, do you think it’s wrong to secretly read your kids’ text messages? Do you think you should make it known to them that you are doing it?

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I'm a crazed mother of three, Journalist, PTA volunteer. I aspire to be as cool as Kelly Ripa, as fit as Gwyenth Paltrow and as carefree as Lucille Ball.
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15 Responses to Reading your teens text messages

  1. Marie says:

    I think it is wrong to read your kid’s emails or text messages unless you suspect they are doing something wrong, which happened to me. My son has never been a troublemaker (having survived middle school without any detentions), but he has gotten in your typical teenage trouble at home for staying out too late or not telling us where he is going and just finished his first year at high school. I was recently talking to his best friend’s father, who told me that he was informed by his daughter, who is a senior in high school, that a lot of the freshman kids were smoking weed. That concerned me a lot because I know my son is also very impressionable and would do something because his friends do it. I have tried to give him his freedom to go and hang out with friends at their houses and sleep over there without asking to talk to a parent first to make sure someone responsible is home. He had already betrayed my trust when he went to a large nightclub which was having a teen night without telling us and said he was sleeping over a friends house. I went in his room and looked in his backpack and in one of the outside pockets ( one that I typically put his lunch money in) I found a note from a female friend and there was references to smoking in it. I also noticed that he seemed to be spending his lawn cutting money and could not figure out what he was buying. I found no other evidence in his room and his phone was in there so I finally decided to read his text messages. I found no direct reference to smoking weed, but to my dismay found that he was instead drinking at parties or when hanging out with friends, saw one text about his smoking a cigarette, and found some dialogue about going to this same club again. Now my son is also very athletic and knows (at least he told us so) that smoking and binge drinking, regardless of what it is, is very bad for you. If your kids are doing stuff like this and you ask them about it, I highly doubt they are going to fess up and tell you. Just about any kid will try it once if given a chance, and hopefully will not do it again until they are of age. I have now learned I have to keep a much tighter leash on him. I think it comes down to who they hang out with and what their crowd is doing. If their friends are drinking, unless you keep them in the house 24/7 you will not be able to keep you kid from doing it too. Remember, if you get pulled over in your car by the police, they have the right to search your vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion. As a parent, you should have the same right if you have suspicion. In then end it is for their own safety. It does not matter what you teach them growing up, their mind is their own and they can make bad decisions. That is why they are still living with you. Be glad that we have such tools as cell phones to give us this information. Our parents did not have it so easy. Will I tell him that I read his texts? If I have to I will, although I am going to try to get something out of him by asking him where all his money went. Since he had broken my trust once, that will be my reasoning to him. But please, don’t read their stuff just for the sake of it. When it comes to teenagers, if they are doing something wrong it will start to leak out eventually and then do your job as a parent and make sure your kids don’t get themselves hurt.

  2. I wouldn’t do it. If something is in plain sight on the other hand, like messages left open on the computer, it’s fair game. Teenagers are entitled to some privacy. Respecting this helps to build trust, I believe, which in turn makes it more likely that they will be willing to confide in you about the important stuff. But of course, I could be completely wrong. Teenagers do not exactly build up your confidence in parenting skills.


  3. Stefanie says:

    I have a 17 year old son who likes to get into trouble every now and then since he turned 15. Smoking, including some weed, running around in the woods after midnight with a friend to shoot airsoft guns, ect…
    All things I only know because I suspected he is lying to us. The dilemma is big, do you confront your Teen? Yes, you have a lot to say to your Teen about what you read, but you only know because electronics these days make it so easy to snoop. Text messages, Facebook, e-mails, we didn’t have all that growing up and our parents were none the wiser as to what we were up to.
    I can tell you we tried addressing the bigger things we found, which first requires a confession about you snooping ( not feeling that great saying it out loud to your kid who’s not supposed to invade your privacy) and then we noticed it doesn’t make a difference what we say. At 17 they are already so set in their ways, thinking they know best ,that they just get better at lying to you because now they know you are looking for something. Snooping can backfire ! Yes, it is hard to know your kid is up to no good, but how far will you go to stop them once you know? A question you may want to ask yourself before you look for something incriminating.
    I know my son always tells me where he goes and who he’s with, but in the end I will never know if that is the truth…unless I start snooping again. A vicious cycle!

  4. TeeGirl says:

    I believe as parents we have the right to read their cell phone messages whenever we feel like it, whenever we feel the need to do so. We are paying the bill for the phone and for almost everything else our children “own”. Many of our teens have not matured enough to make the best decisions and they need our guidance even when they don’t want it. There have been times when I have stumbled upon some information in my teens texts or emails (yes, I read her email too) that have opened the door to some very meaningful and important conversations. I don’t read them everyday, must every now and then. I am also a “friend” on her Facebook. I hide her and only read it on occassion but whenever I do, I find a post or two that warrants a conversation with her to steer her back in the right direction. Only a few times have I found things that I would consider urgent, things which had to be dealt with with a stern punishment. Think of the things you tried and got away with during your teen years and then consider whether or not your teens deserves total privacy.

  5. Dad says:

    Any parent who doesn’t at least keep the option open, either lives with an angel or is an ignorant parent. Of course you need to be aware of what is happening. They are kids and YOU are responsible for their success, happiness, and safety.

  6. Sami says:

    I have recently found out that reading them is critical at times. I found out recently all the things I suspected that he was lying to me about. Namely him and his g/f tried to break into our old empty house to do what his other texts eluded to (and I’m guessing on that one). But he is a 16 (almost 17 year old boy) and has sex on his mind. A lot of sexual talk in the texts which now you see why you must stay on top of your children. I suspect but can’t prove short of following him around like a stalker. I do believe they need privacy…when it warrants it and they deserve it. Mine doesn’t deserve any of it. I have to remind myself “who pays the cell phone bill???” because he sure does NOT. So at that point he is under my jurisdiction. You want to be a man/woman…get a job, move out and pay your own bills. Sorry if this sounds so “old school”. But this is how it was when I grew up and I’m only 41. But I didn’t end up a pregnant teenager. Incidentally, his 15 year old friend was given the green light by his parents to have his g/f come over, go upstairs, shut the door and do who knows what. Yeah well, they now have a 7 month old daughter and the mother is 16. It’s wonderful saying he is such a good kid and being a good father by watching his daughter when mom goes out to learn how to drive a car. Really??? Ultimately, he is not allowed to be alone with her (and her mother agrees) at any time. He also told her he smokes from time to time, snuck out at night (not on my watch but I’m sure on his friends’ parents watch), tagged a building close to our home (now I will start looking), etc. I didn’t tell him I read the texts because that would cause too much trouble. Just a reminder for me to not be slack on my efforts. Take this as an example. I do not at all feel guilty for reading them. Weak parenting is a just that…weak. He hates when I take his stuff away and I don’t really care!

  7. ANONYMOUS739 says:

    Reading your child’s text messages is just plain wrong. Reading the personal, private conversations your own child has bern having is a HUGE invasion of privacy. If they don’t tell you something, it’s probably for the best. I mean, 99% of the time they know their social interactions far better than you do. Leave it to them.

  8. nolagurl49 says:

    Mmmm…husband got new iPhone recently. Signed into iMessage and suddenly began getting texts that our 18 year old high school daughter was sending/receiving. We were shocked to read and see the filth these “smart” and “sweet” college bound kids text each other. Group texts where one of the girls constantly (about 5 times/day) sends pics of herself partially nude. Vile language and very casual and nonchalant chit chat about sex, smoking pot, drinking, fake ids, etc. Her boyfriend, who we didn’t like in the first place, sent pics of himself and bong in his room. My husband and I are definitely going to have a serious talk with her soon. This child is an honor roll student, never in trouble, going away to college in the fall. We are so sad and disappointed in the secret lives of these kids and afraid for our daughter. It just seems like she has been making better choices than she apparently really is. And, yes, we thought we had a very open relationship!

    • Jeanette says:

      How did the talk turn out for you? This happened to me and I found out some very dissappointing things about my daughter as well. She must have figured out how to “turn it off” because no I cannot see the texts between her and this supposively xboyfriend. She said I invaded her privacy. I now look at my bill just to see if his number is there and it still is. It makes me so mad. I just asked her why she still talks to him and all she can say is that I’m invading her privacy! She is 17 and we pay her bill.

  9. Brian says:

    I am surprised by the parents on this blog. Did you not make mistakes when you were teens? Did you not use bad language with your friends and talk about sex? Did you not go to parties? Drink or smoke weed? I know I was not the only one who did. I also went to college, graduated with honors, completed my masters degree and I am now an executive with a large company. What I did when I was young was stupid and when I got caught, I got in trouble. The difference was that I had the freedom to screw up. When did we become so obsessed with preventing our kids from making mistakes? Yes, you pay the bills and have the right to monitor their phones, but do you tell them that in the beginning? If so, then it’s ok because they understand the ground rules. If not, then you are going lose their trust and they will work harder to keep you from finding out what the do. Either way most will find a way to screw up. Oh, and I had a great relationship with my parents, but no matter how open you think you are, there are some thing your kids just aren’t going to tell you.

    • teenager says:

      i agree with u parents should not try to corner their kids into a place were theirs no privacy i mean they did the same things wen the was young

    • Dan says:

      Brian, you had some good points and here are some of mine. You say you did all these things which I know is somewhat normal, but where your parents aware or did you lie to them and build their trust in you based on lies and if you had to lie about the things you were doing how much trust did you have in your parents to have to lie to them? So if trust was already an issue how much worse would it have been if your parents where using any avenue they could find to try and figure out where all your lawn mowing money is going for example, if they could not rely on you for the truth. You have my curiosity now. If you are an executive at a very large company why are you trolling here? Are you the executive here at this site? Or maybe you have children and you were wondering about the same issues and after reading a few posts (whether it be here or some other site) you decided it was way to much work for an executive and decided to come up with some points and convince yourself your justified in letting your children lead there own lives.

  10. Beth says:

    What is the boundary between trust, their privacy and good parenting?

  11. teenager says:

    i was looking uo this topic and surprised by how u parents think of us as ur properties that as long as we live under ur roof we gotta do watever u guys say, we will grow parnoid in trying to hide things from u instead of “helping us” u guys are causing us to want to rebel against ur comannds we will find a way to keep our privvacy no matter wat u guys are jus breakin the trust we had in you

    • Dan says:

      To bad an ungrateful teenager such as your name suggests has parents that actually care about you. Are we as parents not supposed intervene in any of your obvious mistakes?. And if not when is that supposed to start then? I mean should we just let our kids play with gas and matches and give them privacy to do it at age 5? 8? 12? And yes “Teenager”, in away you are your parents’ property if you want to bring it down to that level. If a minor breaks the law, who ends up responsible for the financial end of it? The “teenager”? That would be the parent paying for their property. If you need to have your stomach pumped or other emergency treatment done after a responsible night of drugs and partying who pays? Your owners do if that’s in fact how you feel. Most owners love their property and want to help them any way they can but honesty breeds honesty and likewise with the opposite. Only when a “teenager” is being dishonest it is for self interest and to prevent parental hassle. If a parent ends up doing something considered to be dishonest or “trust breaking” it is almost always out of desperation. Don’t for a minute think it is because parents are bored and live to ruin a good time, It’s way to much work. It would be way easier to just let you do whatever you want as the sea turtles do. Squirt you out on the beach and call it a day.

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