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.