Good Parents Don't Need to Spy on Their Kids' Text Messages

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textingSo picture this. Your kid reaches that magical age when you decide they're ready for a cellphone (I'm not going to put a number on it -- you know your kid better than I do). For giggles, you throw a texting plan on there. And now you want to know: what the heck are they saying to their friends?

Do you: A) ask your state to pass a law that would require the cellphone company to give you access to your kid's texts, or b) talk to your kid about responsible texting. If you chose A, quick, get on a plane to Arizona! The Grand Canyon State could soon become the first in the nation to humor parents who would prefer the state take over the job of being a parent.

Oh sure, they're saying this is all about protecting kids from the mean old cyberbullies who send nasty texts, but let's call the plan introduced by Arizona's Republican legislator Rich Crandall what it is: an attempt by parents to circumvent the age old tradition of doing their jobs.

I know I'm going to be called out for oversimplifying things, but the older my (not allowed to have a cellphone yet) kid gets, the more I'm finding that the best answers to the most complicated parenting problems are the simple ones. If we're proactive as parents, we don't have to clean up a mess in the end.

More from The Stir: Tracking Your Kid's Location Via Cell Phone GPS - Do You Do It?

So let's lay this out. When you sign your kid up for a texting plan, the first thing you need to do is sit their little hiney down and have a talk about expectations. They are not to send pictures of themselves butt nekkid to their buddies. They are to tell you if they receive anything untoward from someone else. And as the person who is paying the bill, if they violate any of the rules, you will have the ability to yank that sucker out of their hands.

Wow! No need to get the state involved there, huh? And frankly, with open communication, you save yourself the headache of looking over a string of texts with no context and getting yourself freaked out that you're raising a serial killer because autocorrect turned "gunna" into "gunman."

What are the cellphone rules that you've laid out for your kids? Do you read their texts?


Image via jhaymesiviphotography/Flickr

30 rock, bullies, discipline


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jenni... jennifert39

If the plan is in the parents name then the parent has a right to see it. Why the need to pass a law? I don't know many 12-16 year olds able to get a cell phone in their own name.

nonmember avatar Cee

Can we just put all the right wing nut jobs in that state? That state makes crappier decisions by the day! Jan Brewer and all her buddies are such a pain!

the4m... the4mutts

I say get them a cell plan that allows you to control, via the internet, what they can, and cannot send, and to whom. My 8 year old son has a cell. The only numbers coming in, or going out, whether calls or texts, are

1. Me

2. His dad

3. My SO.

THE END. When he starts being allowed to call/text friends, their numbers will be added. But the thing is, I reserve the right to grab that phone, and read anything in it. If they "won't let me" by hiding it, or deleting things, that's when I remove numbers allowed on the company website.

Oh, and he's not able *because I blocked it* to send or receive pics, to/from ANY phone. If I want to send him one, we do it via bluetooth, that I have protected with a password. No need to even allow pics. No naked things to worry about.

Simple. No law needed. Rules laid out. End of discussion.

More parents need to enforce rules they lay down, by taking it away when its abused. If parents did that, there would be no abuse of it.

Sweet... SweetPieMama24

I wholeheartedly agree that parents should be able to read their kids text messages!!! If the plan is in the parents name (which it is until they're at least 18 i would think, no?) - then the parents have every right for that access! They pay for it - what if they're planning something illegal, or talking dirty to someone, etc etc. You never know who is out there! and the4mutts - i applaud you! my stepdaughter who is 10 has had a cell phone for 2 years now (on her 3rd one b/c she keeps losing them) and she has full access as a regular phone (she does have a droid, after all). and i dont agree with it - at all. she has internet access, apps, full texting plan, a FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, and email (what 10 year old needs email?!). her mother is just setting her up for perverts, but i digress.

Stacey. Stacey.

Or you can just block incoming/outgoing texts from numbers you dont approve of.

Eques... EquestrianMom

Ok, so heres my argument to having the state approve this. Lets say that you have a generally good teen, who usually doesn't lie etc. Now, you suspect they maybe started using drugs (going to parties, whatever your no-no is) and you ask them about it. You now think they are lying to you. SO, you go through their room, explaining why you are. You listen to their phone calls, you take their phone, you restrict driving, whatever. Now, you get a suspicious text on their phone, but you don't know what was said before hand, because they deleted the texts. Now what do you do? It actually is pretty hard to get the records pulled on outgoing/incoming texts. 

 I think it is a good law to pass. I don't think it is lazy parenting, I think it is just another tool to have for a method of communicating that can often be hard to monitor otherwise. It isn't like a phone call, kids can text and delete awful fast, and now you have no clue what was said.

Jadem... Jademom07

Why does this mean that a parent is lazy.  Kids hide things, texts, delete them, and don't always tell parents the truth about what they see is 'personal'.  As of now, unless a parent gets the phone before it's deleted, there is no way to recall.  Why shouldn't a parent be able to check up on what their kid is doing?  We do it on the computer all the time, why not on phones?

nonmember avatar HS

I agree with jade and equestmom. I've been trying to get copies of my text messages to and from my son's father to use in court and the cell phone company won't give them up. They say the only thing they're allowed to give out is the history of incoming/outgoing texts and the phone #s but not the actual message itself. Any kid with a brain knows to delete everything on their phone they don't want seen. Shucks, I would always delete my web history when I was in high school and using AIM (remember that? My generation started it all off lol.) So I think that's the sort of info the parents want. They don't want the state to parent for them, they want the state to demand cell companies to release their records when requested. And as a consumer, we should have that right.

Mama2... Mama2MonkeyBoys

@the4mutts - I like that, A LOT. I will make sure we do that when our kids get about 6-8 years. :)

butte... butterflyfreak

We should absolutely sit down with our kids and lay out the ground rules BEFORE allowing them a cell phone. BUT I also think this law is a good idea, simply because cell phone companies require a subpoena from the courts before they will allow any records to be released. How long is such a process going to take and what could you present to the court as to why you want the records? What if your concern is that your child is suicidal, or something along those lines? Do you really want to have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get information that you SHOULD have simply because it is YOUR plan that YOU pay for? I don't see this as lazy, I see it as how it should always have been.

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