Is It OK for a Parent to Check a Teen’s Phone Without Permission?

My mom went through my texts while I was in the shower and I caught her while she was reading my texts from my boyfriend! We don’t sext or anything like that, but I got so pissed off about it cuz that’s my property. My mom said it’s hers cuz she pays for the phone and took my phone for the next two weeks. Isn’t that like a violation of privacy? How can I get my mom to see my side on this and convince her to give me my phone back?


Dear Cellphoneless,

Catching someone reading something private would upset me too and it is a breach of trust. But since your mom pays for your cellphone bill, then technically it is her property. I’m glad that there wasn’t anything bad on your cellphone that you were embarrassed by because I’ve definitely witnessed some former students get into all kinds of hot water for texts, sexts, inappropriate photos, tweets, etc.

The issue I think you still may want to address here is the fact that your mom felt the need to look on your phone without you knowing rather than simply asking to see it. I know some parents of teens who ask their son/daughter to see their phone at random times just because they want to remind them that their cellphones are a privilege and they want to build that trust by asking a teen who/what they’re texting and then check once or twice a week to confirm that. Other parents require their sons/daughters to give back their phones each night when they go to bed so that they aren’t on them late at night. These parenting rules may make you want to gag, but ultimately it’s up to them to decide and I really think it depends on the teen and the type of relationship the parent has with him/her.

I get that you want to have your privacy and be trusted, so here are a few things you can do to improve that:

  1. Respect her decision to take your phone for two weeks. Yes, it sucks, but this is your chance to show that even though you don’t agree with the way she checked your phone without asking, you still respect her as your mother and you want to earn your phone back.
  2. Try calmly sitting down with your mom and asking her what she was looking for or what she wants to know about. Is she concerned about your relationship with your boyfriend? Maybe you can put her worries to rest by opening up and being honest with her.
  3. While talking to your mom, try coming up with a clear understanding of what she expects when it comes to your phone and come up with a compromise so that she feels respected and able to check your phone while you still feel like you are trusted and have at least a little privacy. As for private communication with your boyfriend, at least you still have in-person conversations that remain between you two. And, isn’t that the best kind anyway?
  4. If you really want total privacy when it comes to your phone, save up your allowance/chore money if you get any, or get a part-time job so that you can pay for the monthly bill. (Click here for job ideas for teens.) There are plenty of reasonable cellphone plans now and even pay-as-you go phones.



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