When your kids hit their teenage years (and sometimes a bit before) they will start to want to exert their independence. An important part of growing up, this time can be nerve-wracking for parents. While wondering about how much freedom you should let your kids have there will be a fear of the risks they may be exposed to, and some parents will feel apprehensive as they remember their own teenage years! Of course, these days, the addition of social media and online life has made things more complex than ever.
The temptation to spy on your kids, whether that is snooping through their online activity, checking their phones, or searching their room while they are out can be huge. \however, spying on your kids comes full of potential problems, including, most obviously, when do you reveal that you have been snooping about?
On the one hand, you might decide to keep your searches a secret, collecting information and keeping an eye on what your kids are doing. But how long will you do this for, and what is the desired outcome? Chances are, it is mainly to make yourself feel better. Alternatively, and also should you feel you have discovered something you need to address, some parents will reveal they have been spying on their kids in the hope of making them safer, but this will also lead to a huge loss of trust, which could only make things worse going forward.
Studies have shown that those adolescents who thought their parents had secretly listened in on their conversations or searched through their possessions without permission shared less information with their parents than those kids who felt their privacy was being respected.
Research has also shown that the kids of parents who spied weren’t doing anything worse than the kids of parents who didn’t spy.
But what should you do if you suspect your teenager is in trouble?
Most experts agree that the best thing you can do is actually ask your teen. While kids are pretty tight-lipped, research has shown that they tend to feel that their parents have the right to know when it comes to things that may be unhealthy or unsafe. However, there is a sting in the tail here, since kids who are already engaging in things like drinking or smoking are less likely to own up to them for fear of punishment or disapproval. In these cases, the best thing is to reassure your teenager that you won’t lose the plot and actually just want to know they are OK.
If your teen does admit to something bad, at least it is out in the open and you can help them deal with it, which is the whole point!
Of course, setting boundaries between what is acceptable is always going to be a struggle between parents and adolescents who want to push their boundaries and gain more independence.
Rather than spying on your kids, could you work to improve the channels of communication and trust?
That said, there may be times when, as a parent, you simply feel you have to snoop around a little. This should be for extreme circumstances only, and you should also have a good idea what you will do if you uncover something that you’d rather not have seen! You should also be prepared for your kids to react badly if you find out you have invaded their privacy, regardless of what you find!
Finally, for those tempted to spy on their kids, there is the question of legality. While it is not illegal to put your kids under surveillance, you don’t have the right to snoop on other children or adults, which can become tricky when they are in a conversation with your teenager!
Generally speaking, it seems that your best bet is to open up communication and trust without blame and recrimination if you want to help guide your teenager into adulthood.