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Christian Counseling - Monitoring Your Teenager

When most of us were growing up, it was pretty easy for our parents to monitor our relationships with peers. If we were talking on the phone, the phone typically had a cord that could only reach so far. If they were in earshot, they could eavesdrop and get some idea of the content of our conversations. Now, with the increase in technology, it has become more difficult. As an example, most teens have cell phones with unlimited texting. With texting, they can be having numerous silent conversations while in the presence of their parents. In addition, they can be texting under the covers well past midnight.

Along with the increased technology, we are also experiencing numerous changes in family structure. The increase in single-parent households as well as the number of dual-income families has decreased the amount of time parents are spending with their children. As a result, parents are often anxious about what is going on in their child's life and looking for other ways to monitor their behavior.

As I work with families, here are some guidelines in terms of monitoring your teenager:

1. There can be no reasonable expectation of privacy for a child on the internet or their cell phone. Information we post online or text to someone can potentially be hacked by someone else or shared by the person we gave it to in the first place. Therefore, parental monitoring of text messaging or email can be appropriate.

2. I recommend that parents insist that they are added as Facebook "friends" on their teens account. Again, Facebook is not a place to post your most private thoughts as they cannot be expected to continue to be private for long once they are posted.

These guidelines of monitoring are not meant to replace a relationship. As parents, we need to be investing time in our relationship with our children. Monitoring email or text messaging is like following your child around. You can follow them around without having a relationship with them. Many people, when in high school, have a crush on someone, and through observing, not stalking, come to know who their friends are, what they like to do, what they like to eat, etc. However, this does not constitute a relationship. They could know all of this information and still have never spoken with the person.

Finally, there is a significant areas that is off limits when monitoring your teen. This area would be their journal or diary. When someone writes in a journal or diary, they are not intending for anyone else to read what they have written. The writing is designed for them to understand themselves better and express themselves. There is an expectation of privacy that goes with keeping a journal or a diary. Many parents are tempted to read their teen's journal or diary. It is a quick way to get at information that they may never feel comfortable sharing with you. While tempting, this violation of trust in the relationship can, and usually will have significant long-term consequences to the relationship between parent and child.

If you are considering reading your teen's diary, please see it as a sign that there is a brokenness in your relationship that needs to be repaired. In addition, the desire may also reflect significant concern regarding some aspect of the teen's life that needs to be addressed. Address the concerns in a healthy way by attempting to have a conversation with them. If they will not talk to you, consider seeking family therapy to begin to bridge the gap.

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