What Are the Consequence of Parents Snooping on Their Teen?

Today, there's a multibillion-dollar industry that capitalizes on parents' anxieties about their teens, according to a September 2011 article in USA Today. Spying devices can be installed in cellphones to read text and email messages, in computers to monitor Internet use and in automobiles to track your teen's location. Sixty-one percent of parents have logged into their childrens' Facebook pages without permission, according to Forbes magazine 3. Although snooping might temporarily relieve your fears, it can have serious adverse consequences.

Loss of Trust and Communication

Snooping sends your teen a message that you don't trust him or his ability to make sound decisions, according to counselor Terri Barnes of Jacksonville's Youth Crisis Center. If your teen sees that his parents don't trust his ability to make responsible decisions, he could internalize that message and not believe in himself. As an adult, he'll lack confidence in his own problem-solving abilities and rely on others to solve challenges for him, making him less self-sufficient. Your lack of trust in your teen could cause him to become more secretive and stop communicating with you altogether.

Never Learns From Mistakes

Teenagers begin developing their autonomy by making decisions and choices that might be different from your own. Through trial and error, teens learn from their mistakes how to make more skillful choices in the future. Allowing him freedom of expression is a necessary part of becoming an independent and emotionally healthy adult. If you spy on your teen and then reprimand him for behavior that you don't approve of, you're depriving him of important learning opportunities. Allowing teenagers to make mistakes and then experiencing natural consequences is what helps them grow into successful adults, according to Patti Cancellier, education coordinator for the Parent Encouragement Program.

Rebellion and Anger

Snooping is a way of trying to control your teen's behavior while he's developing his independence. If you snoop on his Facebook page, eavesdrop on his phone conversations or hack into his computer to read emails, you're showing a lack of respect for this stage in his growth. As a result, he might become angry and rebellious that his privacy and freedom are being violated. He could act out his frustration through poor academic achievement, delinquent behavior, drug or alcohol use, constant arguing or becoming emotionally unavailable.

To Snoop or Not to Snoop

Nurture healthy communication with your teen rather than snooping. Instead of showing mistrust by spying, let him know that you have full confidence in his ability to know the difference between right and wrong behavior. Honest and open communication is a more powerful and effective tool in the long run than snooping, which can destroy trust. If you suspect your teen is engaged in illegal or dangerous activities, such as:

  • alcohol or drug use
  • checking his online activities might be necessary in those cases
  • according to Kensington
  • Maryland
  • clinical psychologist Kay Abrams
  • who was quoted in Bethesda Magazine 4