Children & Discipline

Is it ever ok to stalk your kids?

Published: 10 Nov 2013
Is it ever ok to stalk your kids?

It’s time to ‘fess up. If you were cleaning up your child’s room and saw their diary – open – on the desk, would you take a peek?

How about if you signed into the computer and discovered that your teen was still logged in to facebook? Would you snoop?

There are strong justifications for stalking and snooping. Many parents justify stalking their kids because of:

  1. Safety
  2. Digital reputation
  3. It’s my house so it’s my rules.

Our kids’ safety is paramount. It’s understandable that parents want to know what’s going on in their children’s world. Plus, it’s easy to stalk your kids. You can use their phone as a GPS tracker, receive emails with full transcripts of what your kids do on their phone or computer, or even monitor every keystroke they make.

But is this a good idea? Is it ok to stalk, listen in, and be privy to your children’s every lol?

Keeping secrets from mum and dad is part of their development as they slowly separate themselves from us. It’s normal behaviour. But the secrets they keep from us make us want to find out what we’re missing. Are they hiding something from us?

While we couch much of our snooping on concern for our children’s safety, for most parents in most situations our desire to snoop comes out of curiosity. There are circumstances where our children may be doing something dangerous and we feel concerned for their wellbeing, but more often than not we just want to know what’s going on.

What are the signs snooping might be justified?

These are a few warning signs that snooping may be justified:

  • Moodiness and aggression
  • Not being able to turn away from the screen – addiction and obsession
  • Refusing to talk
  • Your child is being bullied, or being a bully
  • Lying
  • Our kids closing windows, or tabbing across screens when we enter a room
  • Physical signs of bullying

If you perceive your child may be in danger, you might snoop. But it should be your last option.

If I don’t snoop, what do I do?

Snooping will almost always hurt a relationship in the short term, and often that breach of trust may persist into long-term consequences. Snooping and stalking demonstrate to your child that you don’t believe what they say. It undermines the relationship.

We should remember these three things when deciding whether or not to snoop:

  1. Secrecy is a rite of passage
    Kids hide things from their parents. They tell their friends instead. And they’re even MORE likely to hide things from us when they fear significant negative consequences. Failure to communicate does not always mean something’s up and we need to investigate. Sometimes we may need to, but sometimes we might not. Go with your gut.
  2. We need to be transparent
    If you’re concerned about something, be upfront, clear and direct. Tell your child you’re concerned and why. You might let them know you thought of snooping but wanted to communicate with them instead. But think ‘eggshells’. Tread gently. Couch your concern with care and love.
  3. Off-duty talk time is the best solution
    Keep your relationship strong by spending time ‘in’ with your kids. Leave devices behind and hang out with one another – no parental agenda. As they feel you let go of pressure, they’ll be more likely to open up. Don’t interrogate. Just be with them and let them take the lead.

To snoop or not to snoop?

Truth is, it depends.

When the kids go quiet and become obsessed with their online world, there may be appropriate cause for concern. Perhaps they’re being bullied and can’t pull themselves away from the train wreck happening in front of their face. Maybe they’re bullying and it might be your intervention that prevents a tragedy. Or perhaps they’re caught up in a pornography or gambling addiction that is slowly eating them alive.

Reading your kids’ private messages may give you insights into their inner world. But it’s much better if you can read your kids instead of having to read their messages. And that only comes through taking the time to turn the screens off, getting out of the virtual world, and spending time together in the real world.


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