By LAUREN FORCELLA
DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Our two teenage daughters give us few problems. However, their phone accounts are in our names and we routinely check their messages without their knowledge. Our youngest, age 16, has a male friend from a good family who has been texting her with extremely personal questions about female anatomy. He is also 16, attends a different school and they rarely see each other. To her credit, my daughter has ignored these texts; however, I’m so upset I’m considering informing his parents — but then I’d have to confess to eavesdropping. I snoop only to keep my children safe. What does your panel think we should do?
— Concerned parents, Carmel
Hannah, 18, Auburn: I was caught sexting freshman year and got in big trouble. Your daughter hasn’t done anything wrong, so keep this to yourself — unless you want her mad at you for a long time. Seriously, unless you want to get caught, stop snooping now! If you’re concerned about your daughters’ safety, keep them close to you through trust.
Julian, 17, Auburn: At 16, it’s normal to be curious about female anatomy and to ask a close friend. The boy is probably harmless. As for snooping, we are all entitled to privacy unless we have done something to sacrifice that privilege. By your own words, your daughters have done nothing to deserve such invasive behavior.
Lara, 18, Moraga: If a guy sends me dirty texts, I ignore them, just like your daughter is doing. They are immature and dumb and shouldn’t be taken seriously. My relationship with my mother is so accepting that I tell her everything and snooping is unnecessary. My dad had a harder time trusting. He snooped regularly and found things he couldn’t handle, which led to many long fights. As a consequence, it was hard being honest with him because he wasn’t honest with me. Don’t snoop. Ask questions and get to know your daughters instead.
Nicole, 20, Arcata: I’m shocked by your actions! You want to raise honest kids, yet you go behind their backs on a regular basis?! The texts you describe are not out of the ordinary.
Lennon, 22, Fair Oaks: Parents can barely be faulted. The news plays into their fears that harm to their children is lurking behind every corner. It’s so messed up! Wait and see if the situation progresses.
Brie, 18, Ashland, Ore.: This guy is obviously not dangerous, so I see no harm. You need to have more trust in your children, otherwise they will stop trusting you. You want that trust so they will come to you when real situations arise.
Jack, 18, San Luis Obispo: Even minor children have the right to know you are snooping. You have “few problems” only because they are unaware of your outlandish breaches of privacy.
DEAR CONCERNED: My stance: No snooping without cause. Your daughter appears to be handling these texts maturely, so drop the snooping while you’re ahead. If you haven’t warned your kids upfront that you will be monitoring their texts, going behind their backs with unjustified snooping can cause terrible damage to your relationship. Instead, work on building trust through open dialogue. When can you snoop? For unexplained behaviors that indicate your child needs help, please, snoop away. Some examples: truancy, failing multiple classes, social withdrawal, depression, out-of-character anger, risk-taking, abnormal eating and sleeping patterns, reduced hygiene, frequent illnesses, alcohol or drug paraphernalia. — Lauren
Adapted from a column from Aug. 26, 2009. Straight Talk TNT.org is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at StraightTalkTNT.org or P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol 95473.