Should I read my child’s texts: Q&A with a digital parenting expert

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Should you read your child's texts?

We know that parents want to keep their kids safe when they’re online. Reading text messages can be a way to ensure your kids are making safe choices, and that you’re aware of any possible issues they might be encountering, whether it’s with friends or personally.

However, there are a few considerations for deciding whether you should read your kid’s text messages.

  1. Why do you want to read their text messages? If your child has a history of making poor choices, or has had some difficulties with friends in the past, it might make sense to check in on their text messages. But, if they’ve given you no reason to be suspicious, and you’ve spoken with them about proper texting etiquette (speak kindly, read carefully, and don’t text anything you wouldn’t want on the cover of the New York Times), then you might consider otherwise.
  2. How will you access their texts? Will you get all their text messages sent to your phone? Will you randomly check their phone at any time? Or when you’re feeling suspicious of their behavior? Keep in mind that kids may feel as though their privacy is being violated (which is a real thing kids experience, and a fair feeling), so it’s important to discuss how you’ll check their messages so they know what to expect.
  3. What happens if you don’t find something (or if you do)? If your kids are making good choices, you might consider loosening up your reins and giving them more freedom and privacy because of it. This is a smart way to reinforce this positive behavior. On the other hand, if you’re finding messages that are problematic, know how to approach them about it (aka don’t freak out!), and determine whether you might need to tighten things up if they’re unable to make good choices or figure out ways to hide what they’re doing (on Snap, for example).

There’s no one-rule-fits-all with texting and kids, but it’s important to mitigate a power struggle with open communication, and positive reinforcement for good choices. You want this to be a learning and growing experience, not something that interferes with your relationship with them.

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