Whether or not checking someone’s phone is morally right is perhaps one of the most debatable questions in relationships.
It becomes especially tricky when the relationship is between a parent and their child.
On the one hand, parents have a responsibility to make sure that their child is being safe and protected, especially in the digital age where dangers abound online.
On the other hand, they need to understand that their children deserve privacy just like anyone else, and checking their children’s phones without their knowledge encroaches upon that right.
For mom Lara Estep, however, she will be forever grateful that she checked her daughter’s phone that one time.
Recalling the story on a teenager’s Quora question, Lara says it happened after her family had moved into a new neighbourhood when she wasn’t yet familiar with the local children and their families.
That was when she noticed there was something strange about her daughter.
“I was still figuring out who her friends were. After a few months something just didn’t feel right with my daughter and her friends. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.”
Lara spoke to her then-husband about going through her daughter’s Facebook account as well as her phone since she knew the passwords.
“He was adamantly opposed to my plan…He talked about her privacy and her rights and all the standard moral and ethical considerations,” she said. “I agreed with everything he said but still, something just didn’t feel right. “
When her strange feeling about her daughter persisted, she went ahead and checked.
“What I found sent chills through my body.”
There was on her Facebook messenger a string of messages texts from the father of one of her male school friends.
“The messages told her how her mother was too strict. That she should go spend the night at his house and he would lie for her.
“He told her he would bring her cookies, McDonald’s, or whatever she wanted but she would need to sneak out of the house and meet him at the end of the street, at night or during lunchtime at school.”
Lara was shocked to discover that a forty-year-old man had been texting her daughter, a man who she had not yet met.
It took all her restraint to stop her and her then-husband from doing anything stupid. Instead, she arranged a meeting with her daughter’s principal, who was left speechless by the messages.
She also called the police, but since the man hadn’t harmed her daughter, there was nothing they could do about it.
Lara said the hardest part about the whole thing was telling her daughter she is no longer allowed to be with those friends, which understandably the girl didn’t make very well.
In the following weeks, Lara and her daughter barely spoke at all. However, things around the house calmed down eventually, and her daughter met and made new friends, and this time Lara made sure she knew those families.
“I will never regret doing it,” Lara says. “And I don’t suggest doing it on a whim.
“My point is that sometimes we, as parents, need to trust our instincts and do what is best for our children despite what anyone might say.