Ask Dr. JPL: My Kid Doesn’t Know I Monitor Her Phone What Do I Do?

Ask Dr. JPL: My Kid Doesn’t Know I Monitor Her Phone What Do I Do?

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Question:

Dear Dr. JPL,

I have access to all my daughter’s texts. I recently saw a conversation between her friends that made me so proud. My daughter’s friends were trying to pressure her into attending a big party where alcohol was going to be served. My daughter, however, held her own. She not only told her friends they could go without her, but also told them that she didn’t “appreciate the pressure” they were putting her under. She ended by telling them she thought a party with alcohol was very “uncool and stupid.” I would like to give her a big hug and tell her how proud I am of her. My problem is that she does not know I have access and can read her texts and social media posts. I am afraid she will be furious that I am doing this but I really want to validate her choices. What should I do?

Answer:

Look at this situation as an opportunity to come clean with your daughter. It is good that you are monitoring your daughter, however, your question highlights a common dilemma. If you tell her that you have been monitoring her interactions, she probably will get upset. My experience is that most teens feel that this is an invasion of privacy when they suddenly find this out. You are better off telling her now because you also want to reinforce her good choices. Imagine if you read that she was going to engage in a dangerous behavior. You would most likely talk to her immediately. Monitoring is important. When teens know they are being monitored, it actually makes them feel safe. I advise parents who make the choice to monitor their kids this way to let them know this from the beginning. This encourages honesty and trust.

Start off by telling your daughter that you have access to her texts and social media. Explain that you only monitor the content for safety. Tell her that you are so proud of her. Let her know you think she is making smart decisions. Initially, she may be upset to learn you have been monitoring her interactions. Your positive reinforcement, however, will not go unnoticed. Your affirmation about her positive choices will encourage her to stay the course.

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Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder is one of the tween, teen and parenting experts that participated in the focus groups that helped form the new educational campaign and website, TheAlcoholTalk.com. Her expertise and vast experience were also tapped for much of the advice and guidance included on the site. Her unique understanding of the communication techniques necessary for The Alcohol Talk to effectively take place make her an ideal spokesperson for the campaign. Dr. Powell-Lunder is a clinical psychologist specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families. She is co-author of the book Teenage as a Second Language (Adams Media 2010) and the creator of www.itsatweenslife.com, an interactive and informational website for parents and tweens, and co-creator of www.Talkingteenage.com, an interactive informational website for the parents of teenagers. Jennifer is a regular contributor for outlets including Psychology Today, Parenting Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, GalTime, KnowMoreTV, Examiner, and North Texas Kids. She has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL’s ParentDish, Mamapedia and many other blogs and websites. As a parenting expert on both radio and television programs including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, NBC’s TODAY in New York, Better TV and WCBS, FOX and ABC affiliates, Jennifer talks about tween, teen and parenting issues. She was profiled in Westchester Magazine’s January 2012 feature on ‘People to Watch Jennifer is a published researcher, in-demand speaker and consultant on tween, teen, and young adult issues. She spent almost a decade as a Program Director of an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit at a private psychiatric hospital in the Northeast where she now serves as Senior Clinical Liaison. She is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University. Jennifer sits on the Board of Directors for Family Ties, a non-profit family advocacy agency serving Westchester County, NY and maintains a private outpatient practice in Bedford Hills, NY.

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