Monitoring Children's Cell Phones
Burman, Critton, Luttier and Coleman LLP Blog
“Is it legal for me to read or monitor my child’s text messages, Facebook, e-mails, cell-phone records, and other technology-based communications?”
Recently, this issue was raised between a father and mother. The mother saw absolutely nothing wrong with viewing the text messages, e-mails, and list of recent phone calls made and received on their 14 year old child’s cell phone. The father was concerned about the child’s privacy rights. Generally, a minor is a person under the age of 18 years.
In a short and over-simplified answer, the mother was right. A parent is within his or her legal right in reviewing a child’s cell-phone and computer communications, postings, and records. There is ample software available that allows a parent to do just that. The FBI website and other Law Enforcement websites will tell you that such monitoring is simply being a good parent. Such sites offer tips on how to address these issues with your child.
Interestingly, I posed this same question to a group of parents with children of varying ages. Their response was almost unanimous in stating that “you’re darn right, I monitor my child’s cell-phone and computer communications. It is simply being a good parent.” That being said, most parents agreed that the perimeters of what is appropriate and inappropriate in using a cell phone or computer should be openly discussed between the parents and child. Most found that open and frank discussions lead to responsible use of cell phones and computers. More often than not, it is the parent that pays for the cellphone and internet access. Most also agree that a cell-phone, computer or other forms of technology should not become an extension of the child’s personality. Use should be limited to when it is a necessity. – Mom. Can you pick me up from practice? I need to do research for a school paper. And so on.
Children, even when living under your roof, do have protected privacy rights in other matters. Most of these areas that are constitutionally protected are common sense and would be more appropriately discussed in another blog.
Use common sense. Create an atmosphere of trust with your child. Make sure they understand what is appropriate use of technology-based communication. Make sure they know there are consequences, sometimes heart-wrenchingly serious and/or legal consequences, to what is said in a text message or posted on Facebook.