As parents, we all want to know what our kids are up to—but getting the information we need isn’t always easy.
This week, our local Moms Council discusses the issue of privacy.
Do you snoop through your kids’ stuff? Is it prying to read your child’s diary, monitor their online habits and listen to their conversations—or is it just responsible parenting? Is snooping wrong—or necessary?
Stacey Ross: Good question! To what degree do our kids deserve privacy since they are our dependents, after all? I think if we suspect something or are looking out for their wellbeing, our snooping is not only warranted, but responsible parenting. Their rights are trumped by our obligations to see that their activities or possessions are things we approve of.
If we are, for example, reading our child’s diary, checking his/her backpack for notes or drugs, looking over emails—and we have a strong motivation to do so—again, good parenting! I would go to the lengths of testing urine! The way I look at it, as long as our kids are in our house and not supporting themselves, their personal privileges only go so far. They are our responsibility .
Carol Yeh-Garner: My kids are almost 8 years old and 5 years old. I already “snoop” in a way by listening in on their conversations when they have friends over to hear what they are talking about. When our kids have cell phones, we plan to have a rule that parents can look at texts and emails whenever we want. I'm not sure I'll be going through their rooms item by item, but I'll definitely be peeking here and there.
I think that it is a necessary thing because it's important that parents know what their children are talking about, what their friends are saying to them and what influences they are being exposed to.
Judy Halter: Children in the teen years who are not big communicators may benefit from a parent checking out diaries or text messages. These are tricky times and if the communication isn’t strong, it may be the only way for a parent to see if there are any issues.
I wouldn't recommend making a habit of this, but if a parent feels something is out of sync and is having a hard time finding out why, it might be helpful to check Facebook, texts or a diary. Sometimes teens put the information there for you to find it.
Jennifer Zeglen: I think snooping is absolutely necessary. First and foremost, it's important to set up a good relationship with your kids with open lines of communication. But that doesn't always work out the way we like to think it does. Snooping is a good way to try to confirm that what your kids are telling you is the truth and to spot problems before they become huge. I don't think parents should necessarily confront their kids about what they find—it’s just another source of information to try to keep tabs on their social, emotional, and physical health.
Genevieve Suzuki: Quinn is still too young for me to worry about violating her privacy. That said, I'll totally keep on top of her when she gets older. At the very least, I’ll have open access to her bedroom and to her laptop. If she has a Facebook or MySpace account, I’ll share access with her. There are too many dangers out there facing children to leave it to our kids to make certain decisions on their own. It’s not even that I wouldn’t trust my daughter – it’s more that I don’t trust the rest of the world.
The one thing I’d likely leave alone is an old-fashioned diary. There, she could keep private thoughts completely private, away from the public’s and my prying eyes. (Okay, unless I had probable cause to check on any suspicious behavior. If it’s good enough for the cops, it’s good enough for me!)
Ray Pearson: My three kids have each been treated with mutual respect as long as they have respect for the family. In their teens, privacy was always important to them. That was upheld until it warranted some snooping. Examples of snooping included when homework, medicine, glasses and parent request forms were missing, I would check their backpacks or rooms.
Meet our moms (and dad):
Genevieve Suzuki has one 2-year-old daughter. In addition to having her own law practice, she writes feature stories for Encinitas Patch. She is also the author of "The Original Poi Cats on O'ahu," a children's book published in Hawaii.
Carol Yeh-Garner is the mom of a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl who are constantly teaching her how to be a better person. She is also a local HypnoBirthing instructor and HypnoFertility practitioner.
Jennifer Zeglen is a mom to two imaginative girls, ages 4 and 6. She is also a local naturopathic doctor with a family medicine practice.
Ray Pearson is the father of three children, ages 26, 23 and 17. He lives with his wife in Carlsbad and devotes most of his nonwork time to young people and the Rotary Club.
Stacey Ross has one 7-year-old boy and 8-year-old-daughter who remind her daily how precious life is. In addition to running two websites, she writes feature stories for the Carlsbad Patch as well as shares local and national deals for the "Frugal Family" column.
Judy Adams Halter and Edie High Sanchez are certified Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) instructors with a combined 50 years of parenting experience. Halter is the mother of four children, ages 21, 19, 17 and 14. Sanchez has two grown daughters and three grandchildren; two girls, ages 1 and 5, and a boy, age 7. Both women live in La Jolla.