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A friend of mine wrote recently about an incident in her childhood that left a bad taste in her mouth. Her father had set her up on a private computer, telling her she could write about anything she wanted to without worry of anyone seeing anything. What he didn’t tell her was that he had mirrored this computer on his own, allowing him to see EVERYTHING she was writing. She only discovered this when writing about personal feelings, and her father came to talk with her about it.

What this dad did, in my opinion, was commit a gross violation of his daughter’s trust. He led his daughter to believe she could be her most candid. And then he took advantage of that. His actions had the danger of affecting his daughter’s feelings about trust for life.

But even after saying all that, I do believe a parent has the right to check their children’s online activity. In fact, I think it’s mandatory!

My kids are now 15 and 12.  Several years ago when I first allowed them to go online, I let them know that I was to have access to all their passwords and would be checking on them from time to time. This included email and Facebook. I let them know right up front that their activity online was not private from me. This did two things – it forced them to make sure their online activity was at a standard their mom could live with, and it gave me the guiltless permission to check their online business.

This proved vital last year when my daughter got into a relationship with a guy who just wasn’t trustworthy. She became ultra sneaky, and I really questioned what was going on. My daughter had since changed all her passwords, but had a habit of leaving herself logged into my computer (perhaps on purpose…). The messages I saw between the two of them proved to be far beyond what a healthy conversation should be. And I confronted her.

The result? She was furious, of course. She felt betrayed, of course. But soon we were able to talk it out and come to some understandings.

Since then, we have a much more open relationship. I have made it safe for her to share with me what she needs. She has stopped being so secretive. I have no need to hack into anything of hers – though I’m sure she knows I will if I feel it’s necessary.

I feel like things would have been much different had I not been able to peek into what she thought was private.

So yes, I think parents should monitor their kids’ online activity. But they should also respect their child while doing so. It should be divulged upfront that the parent can and will access personal online data if the need arises. And things like private writings in a personal document must always be respected as PRIVATE (unless their are questions about the child’s safety).

What’s your opinion? Should parents “hack” into their kids’ accounts online?

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