Confessions of a Snoop Mom

Why this mom snooped on her son and why you might too.

Some parenting decisions are easy to make. Breastfeeding was a no-brainer. And even though it proved to be a lot harder than advertised, I’d do it again. No question. On the other hand, I’ll never again succumb to my children’s pleas for another pet when we already have a perfectly good one at home.

Most parenting calls aren’t quite so easily made. To snoop or not to snoop, for instance. A year ago, I would have said, “Nope. Not gonna do it. Kids deserve some amount of privacy.” I would have believed every word of what I said, too. That was last year. This year, I snooped. And I’d do it again.

Because I do still believe my kids have a right to a certain amount of privacy, I won’t go into specifics over what set off my parental alarm. Suffice to say, the alarm went off and some deeply rooted parenting instinct cried for more information. Part of me said it was wrong, wrong, wrong to pry into my son’s personal communications. Part of me said I wouldn’t have to pry into my son’s personal communications if he’d have actual conversations with his parents.

So, I snooped. I learned enough to be thankful that I did. I resisted the urge to run to his school, yank him out of class and present him with my findings. Instead, I met him at the front door and told him we were going for a drive that would end at an Oberweis ice cream store. A giant milkshake is a powerfully motivating force. My son talked about his problem and actually listened to what I had to say. The problem has since resolved and he’s wiser for it.

I spent a fair amount of time kicking myself for invading his privacy. I felt bad enough about it to ask some other parents if they’d ever snooped on their kids. One parent had just attended the District 204/Naperville Police joint presentation on heroin use. What she saw there changed her from “never gonna snoop” to “get me my Dick Tracy kit” in the space of two hours. “If something bad was going on ‘under my radar’," she said, “I would never forgive myself.” I know how she feels.

As I prepared to write advocating that parents spy on their children, I felt I needed to come clean with my son about my own clandestine efforts. He informed me that all of his friends’ parents snoop and all of his friends know it. He even thought some of the parents were justified, including his own. I promised not to spy again unless my parental Spidey senses started tingling. He knows, though, that if he’s more forthcoming then we won’t feel a need to pry.

There are a number of resources for parents looking to monitor their children’s communications and internet activities. “How To Spy On Your Children Online” from Parenting.com offers a primer.

The Sentinel April 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Janicxe, as far as I'm concerned, it's MY opinion that kids living at home do deserve SOME privacy but parents DO have the right to "snoop" on them as much as they want. Do're 100% correct in doing what you did and should feel comfortable with yourself to continue to snoop. Check his phone to see what he's been doing and check his computer too. After the kid is 18 and either away at college or moving out, then his life is his own and you're there to stand by for support. Good article.
Janice Lindegard April 30, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Thank you. I was quite relieved when my son said he actually expected to be snooped. But even if he'd been mad, I would have done it.
Suzanne Flynn April 30, 2012 at 11:37 PM
My boys are only 9 and 5, but I am already terrified of the teenage years and hoping that not only will they make wise decisions, but that I will too as a parent. I plan on snooping...until they are adults, knowing that it's my right as a parent to make sure they are safe and making wise choices and I would never forgive myself if something were going on under my nose and I didn't snoop.
Janice Lindegard May 01, 2012 at 01:53 AM
The school social worker at my son's high school said that he has already informed his two children, younger than yours, that Mom and Dad will be checking up on them on their cell phones, computers, etc. That's brave! I know so many parents who feel the way you do.


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