Stop Reading Your Kids' Text Messages - InformationWeek
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
08:31 AM
Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci

Stop Reading Your Kids' Text Messages

Privacy has been on my mind the last couple of days. The other day, I talked to a woman who told me she reads her kids' text messages. She eyeballs every line of text they receive.

Privacy has been on my mind the last couple of days. The other day, I talked to a woman who told me she reads her kids' text messages. She eyeballs every line of text they receive.My colleague, Mitch Wagner, writes about a court case in which a company argues it has the right to read a former employee's personal e-mail. So there's a lot of chatter around this topic.

The woman's kids know she's looking at their SMS missives. She says she's only doing it to make sure they're safe from creeps. And yet, I find it an appalling breach of trust between child and parent.

Full disclosure: I don't have kids. It shouldn't matter, but many who read this will wonder. What I do have is a keen interest in matters of privacy. So let's pick this apart:

The woman told me that her sons are in middle school, and that they're good kids, who don't get into trouble. Don't they have a reasonable expectation of privacy?, I asked. "Not when I pay the phone bills," came the reply.

I'm no lawyer, but this situation stinks, and these kids need an advocate. I'd gladly represent them in Fake Privacy Court. Here's how what I'd tell the fake judge:

1. Even though this woman pays the bills, her kids are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy. Just as they expect to use the telephone in the house without anyone listening in on their calls, or listening to recordings of the calls after the fact.

2. The kids may have given their consent, but their well-intentioned but misguided parent gave them no other recourse. For practical reasons (social and family logistics), opting out of using text messaging is not a viable option.

3. There is precedent. A California court has ruled that employees' text messages are private, even when transmitted on devices their companies pay for, a U.S. appeals court ruled in June. The employee/employer relationship in that case parallels the parent/child relationships here. How? Both employer and the parent have similar motives: They want to restrict and control the activities of their charges.

I don't know what the fake judge would say. But I'd hope it would go something like this:

"Parents ought to tread lightly around electronic privacy issues. Just because they can snoop, doesn't mean they should. Kids need their parents to provide guidance and structure; not surveillance."

Am I nuts? Or is it wrong to read your kids' text messages?

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Natalie Adams
Natalie Adams,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/15/2012 | 11:14:01 AM
re: Stop Reading Your Kids' Text Messages
I am a kid... I honestly shouldn't be reading this but I was recently asked by my parents to give them my email password, I kindly replied with "No, Dad these are my friends and my secrets and random things we talk about..." at that time my dad said "Ok, if you don't want us to read your email it's fine." But a few days later I realized that someone had read my emails before I even had the chance to read it myself. Now through the emails I told my friend about my crush (IT'S JUST A CRUSH!! IT'S NOT LIKE THE GUY IS MY BOYFRIEND!!! I KNOW MY LIMITS!!), I thought my email was hacked, so, I changed my password. The next day, again I saw that someone read my emails before me, so, I created a fake account with my crush's name and pretended that him and I were dating. That afternoon my dad confronts me and says that he knows I have a boyfriend. So, I asked him how he knows, he replied with, my friend saw you and him together. So, I said "Dad that is impossible, because I don't have a boyfriend and I know you read my email because created a fake account with the guys name because I wanted to see if it was you who hacked my account. So, thanks dad, I appreciate that you respect my privacy!" I was angry and so was he... but even then he didn't understand! He now has my hotmail and facebook password, which I had to give him because I did not have a choice. Now tell me, is it fair that parents get a right over everything their children do?? Yeah, I get it somethings they have a right to ask you and force you about but they cannot rule our lives.

A WORD OF ADVICE TO EVERY PARENT OUT THERE - If you think that after you hack your child's account or ask for the password, that your kid is going to trust and respect you, then think again, because honestly after you do this your child is going to think you don't trust them and the amount of respect and trust they had for you will either be lessened or they will no longer respect or trust you at all. Kids are smart, they will make other accounts and carry on with their miserable lives but their entire life they will have a feeling that nobody can trust them because if your own parents don't trust you then who will??

Just remember, you can read our emails and our text messages but you can never regain the trust and respect we had for you ever again...
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2012 | 4:21:10 PM
re: Stop Reading Your Kids' Text Messages
I absolutely disagree! The rule at our house is "if you wouldn't say it out loud where someone could over hear it, you shouldn't be sending it electronically" My kids didn't have cell phones until they were 12 or older (one is now 13 and the other is 15). It is amazing the things that they will send and receive, comments and strings that I know neither them or their friends would ever say to each other in person. The trouble is it's all kept digitally to some degree and their immature mistakes can have huge consequences!
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