Snoops and tattle tales

October 20, 2008

by Jen Bakken

Recently while listening to the Ian and Margery morning radio show on 107 FM, a subject they were discussing really caused me to think.

They were talking about parents reading their kids cell phone text messages.

It was surprising to me the amount of parents (mostly mothers) who called in to report that they do read their teen’s text messages.

Some of these moms felt that, since they pay for these cell phones, it was their right to snoop. A few of them actually tell their children they are reading the messages, and others admitted to doing it secretly.

One mother said she hides in the laundry room to do her text message snooping.

I must admit that once my son forgot his cell phone at home, and I did peek at a couple text messages. Honestly, there was no incriminating evidence to prove that he was anything other than a teenage boy, and all this snooping did was leave me feeling guilty. I haven’t snooped since then.

It made me think of how I would have felt, when I was his age, to have my mom be that nosey. Although, back when I was a kid, my mom would have had to get a hold of all those notes passed in class to snoop on me.

I’m sure I would have felt un-trusted, and in return, I wouldn’t have trusted my mom. There would have been even more effort put into hiding things from her.

I guess this is why, as my younger two children get older, and eventually have cell phones, (no, my 11 year-old and 8 year-old do not have cell phones, even though they tell me ALL their friends do), I just will not snoop on them.

I suppose it will be different if they do something to lose my trust, and I feel I have to snoop for their own good, but if they don’t give me reason to, why would I?

Yes, as parents in this day and age, we have to watch out for our children in different ways than ever before. With Facebook, Myspace, chat rooms, and text messages, we can’t just turn a blind eye, but I believe there are some lines we don’t need to cross.

Of course, this is a personal decision each parent has to make for themselves, and I would never judge anyone for the choice to snoop or not to snoop.

I asked a high school age girl about this, and she told me it’s a total violation of privacy, and she happens to be close to her mom because they can trust each other.

When I asked my son what he would have done if I’d been reading his text messages, he told me he would have just stopped texting or given up his phone all together. Basically, these two teens would feel betrayed.

On another note, kids can feel betrayed by us parents in many ways, which I proved last week.

While volunteering at Delano Elementary School, I had seven third graders in a room working on reading activities. One of them was my daughter.

Usually, the kids listen and cooperative quite well, but on this day a few of them were having trouble focusing, staying in their seat, and listening. Once again, one of them was my daughter.

At one point, she was so fidgety that her bracelet practically flew across the room. A boy picked it up and, trying to be silly, put it over his ear.

It looked as though he was wearing a big hoop earring. He put his hand on his hip and batted his eye lashes pretending to act like a girl, to which all of the kids giggled.

I was quickly losing control of this group of third graders. (I often wonder how in the world teachers are able to keep a classroom of twenty or so young children from breaking out into utter chaos.)

The next thing I knew, my daughter took off after this boy, laughing and trying to retrieve her bracelet. Of course, he ran from her and even more giggles erupted from their classmates.

Thinking this looked like fun, another girl joined in the chase, but then my daughter slipped and fell hard on the floor, ending up with a really bad rug burn on her elbow.

Fortunately, I was able to regain control of the small group, but when I took them back to the classroom, I did tell their teacher about the misbehavior. I gave her three names of students who were a bit out of control, one of which, of course, was my daughter’s.

That evening when I came home from work she said, with a look of betrayal on her face, “Mom, why did you tell on me?”

Though I tried to explain that I had to tell, because the teacher could have taken one look at her elbow and known something had happened, she was still visibly upset.

“Geez, mom, I didn’t know you were a tattle tale,” she shot at me as she stomped off to her room and slammed her door.

I may try not be a snoop, but I guess I am a tattle tale.