True Life: I Read My Kid’s Phone, Now What?

ready my kid's phoneMy daughter received a cell phone for her birthday the summer before 6th grade, and she’s currently in 7th grade. We set up protections on the phone, such as she can’t download apps without approval and have no access to any social media, and we also set expectations on rules and who the phone belongs to (me, not her). I have been pleasantly surprised that we haven’t had issues with bad choices around the phone yet, but I was not prepared for some of the other issues that have come with her having her own phone.

Each night, I take her phone at a specific time, which varies depending on the day and our family schedule. I spend a few minutes reading her texts and checking out what she’s been doing on her phone. This is where it has gotten tricky. As she has started having more and more conversations via text, as more of her friends have phones, I am essentially overhearing her conversations with her friends. My daughter is quiet by nature. She talks to me about her life, but she isn’t effusive with details or gossip. So, when I first started getting all the juicy details about who was mean to who on the bus, or who has a crush on who by reading her phone, I was here for it.

Then one day, we were running errands, and she was telling me a story from school, when I chimed in with an opinion of someone based on what I read in her texts a few days ago. My daughter was completely taken aback. Apparently, the situation had completely changed in real life, and I had only seen a snippet in a text chain that was outdated. I was my own example of bad phone etiquette. We are always telling our kids that what happens in real life is what is important, not what happens behind a keyboard. It was awkward, and a lesson for me that while I may see what happens on her phone, it is merely a snapshot of her life.

We had another situation recently, where her school bestie declared she liked the same boy as my daughter. I could tell she was upset about it based on her behavior and her texts to other friends asking for advice. I had learned from the previous situation to keep my opinions to myself, but I struggled when the friend came to hang out at our house a few days later. I was kind to her because I’m a grown-up, but after the girls went upstairs, I was annoyed and venting to my husband about her. Once again, I realized I’m letting what I know from technology affect me, and I’m getting way more involved in my daughter’s life than I should be. Thinking back to my own middle school years, I had a similar situation where a friend ended up “going out” with my crush. It was major drama for me in 8th grade, but I’m pretty sure my own mom knew nothing about it. I didn’t tell her, and she didn’t have technology to use to follow along with my life.  I learned to navigate the feelings and the relationship all on my own, which I know is exactly what my daughter needs to do.

As parents, we certainly need to protect our kids from the dangers of technology, and I still believe in monitoring what is happening on her device. But I was surprised by my internal struggle with what to do with the information I am now privy to. While I wouldn’t read her diary, I read the notes app on her phone where she writes little notes to herself throughout the day. I wouldn’t eavesdrop on a conversation with her friends in her room, but I do read all of their group texts. I know this situation will only become more and more complicated as she grows and becomes more independent.

Does anyone else struggle with the balance of monitoring technology while letting their kids navigate their own relationships?


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