Snooping, Yes or No?

Should a parent investigate their children’s activities by spying on them and rummaging through their belongings?

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | April 29, 2015

To snoop or not to snoop, that is the question. Is it nobler to turn a blind eye or should you become a detective?

In Parents Anonymous meetings, parents had many lively, informative discussions on a myriad of topics. This time it was snooping and whether or not it is advisable to spy on our children.

Two parents agreed that snooping would be wrong under any circumstance and would never entertain the idea. One said she never enters her daughter’s room without knocking first and when putting away clean, folded laundry she leaves her clothes in a basket by the door.

“Do we teach our children to be honest and trusting by sneaking around through their belongings? I don’t think so,” the mom said.

Good point well put; trust and honesty are important values to consider but some parents felt differently with their own views.

Snooping or spying is much like spanking in that parents either support it or they don’t, there is usually no middle ground. Another mom said she does knock before entering her children’s rooms but if the children are not present she will look through papers or peek inside drawers, more out of curiosity than suspicion.

Should parents obey their children and stay out or should they take that to be a warning sign that something is wrong?

“How else would I know what they are into? Do I respect my kids? Yes. Do I trust them? No, they are only human,” she said, “And they are just kids!”

If there were a middle ground I may have been on it. I was never the parent that says, “Oh no, not my child!” and I felt like I was ready for just about anything when it came to my girls. I was pretty busy with work, the house and our schedules so I really would not take time to snoop… unless there were a red flag and a good reason to make time.

Kids may swear, draw pictures of naked people and tell dirty jokes, that’s normal stuff kids do. Girls chatter about other girls and the ‘cute’ boy in row three. They talk about the teacher they think doesn’t like them and sometimes wish they would get the flu and a substitute would be assigned – all normal. In fact the more you smile reading this, the less likelihood there is a problem.

One day when I was putting away laundry I opened Katie’s drawer and pushed clean socks into something cold and clammy; it felt like a dead animal and I immediately took a step back. Pulling the socks out slowly I was genuinely shocked to find a partially-eaten one-pound block of mozzarella cheese between socks and underwear. Katie loved mozzarella cheese and since I let them choose their own breakfast or snacks, she picked cheese the previous day and forgot it in the drawer – a true eye-roll moment.

Items found in laundry were sometimes a first clue to look further. More often than not my snooping ended there but I would always keep my eyes open. From other members in my group I occasionally heard about drugs, tobacco, shoplifting, having sex and other things in group so I was determined not to be the proverbial ostrich with my head in the sand.

When thinking about spying, I always considered their age and my role as a parent – to guide and supervise. If I turned a blind eye to any red flags wouldn’t that be the same as allowing my child to make adult choices like using illegal substances or having sex?

When it was pointed out to me that the room belonged to my child I explained my view, “My child does not pay the mortgage – I do. The room belongs to us but we allow them stay there rent-free until they are eighteen.”

I am also responsible for my children until they are eighteen and I think I have the right to decide if they get a pet snake, join a gang or set up shop as a drug dealer. I would want to know if my child has illegal fireworks, the makings for a bomb or a handgun. Because what my children can do also affects me until they are eighteen that makes me legally responsible.

In the end, every parent has to take into consideration all the pros and cons and to make a decision that works best for their own family. Katie and Chelsey are grown now but as for my family, yes, I would probably snoop again – but only if there were red flags. Trust is one thing being willfully blind is another.

Tell me your thoughts on the matter. I am genuinely curious what other parents do and how they make the decision.


Be entirely tolerant or not at all; follow the good path or the evil one. To stand at the crossroads requires more strength than you possess. ~ Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856)

The highest result of education is tolerance. ~ Helen Keller (1880 – 1968), ‘Optimism,’ 1903

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ~ George Bernard Shaw

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor E. Frankl

To say the least, a town life makes one more tolerant and liberal in one’s judgement of others. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882), Hyperion, 1839

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers. ~ Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. ~ Frederick Douglass

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. ~ Barack Obama

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. ~ Ralph W. Sockman

Once lead this people into war and they will forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. ~ Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924)

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

PHOTO: Courtesy of Paurian Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Emma Craig Under Flicker/CC License.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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12 Responses to Snooping, Yes or No?

  1. Gronda Morin says:

    I had one daughter who I trusted completely and so no, I would not snoop in her room. Besides she had a pet snake that guaranteed I was not entering. On the other hand I had a son who liked to push the envelop. Yes, I did snoop and we did end up having some heart to heart discussions. It depends on the young person’s situation. For example, I did find signs of cigarettes. The few months after I and his Dad divorced, he acted out and I had to keep a firm hand. My answer is that it depends on the child and circumstances. You are always a parent first looking out for his/ or her best interests. For example, I have always wondered how parents could not know that there sons were building bombs in the basement.


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      I agree with you 100% – it depends on the child and the situation! The snake would have to go, though; there is no house big enough for me and any snake. 🙂 Like you, I had no reason to snoop until there were red flags. One was when a friend of my daughter acted like something was up; I dealt with the issue and kept an eye on things until the trust was back again. I found cigarettes once and I believe that was a friend as well so the issue with me there was my daughter being so easily led. I truly was lucky with my girls. I expected them to rebel and take chances but they really were good kids. I do know that some parents do not open their child’s door or ask questions so I could understand about the bombs in basements. Isn’t that the scariest thing?! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gronda Morin says:

        I was always befuddled by the Columbine killings. I guess it is possible but sometimes, I think it is lazy parenting.


      • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

        You could be right about that. Or they have complete trust in their child. I look at it this way, kids learn and grow little by little until they reach adulthood; until the time they can go on their own after age 18 then parents still need to monitor occasionally. Active parenting is what is needed until then, not to hover over them but to guide.


  2. renxkyoko says:

    I’m a daughter still living with my parents, and for sure, I wouldn’t want my parents snooping. But then I have nothing to hide. My bedroom door is always open . My Mom does the laundry for everyone, and she has all the freedom to enter my room, and bring in freshly washed clothes., and she opens the windows for fresh air to come in while I’m away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      I doubt your mother would snoop on you because you seem to be responsible and respectful; you’ve got your head on straight so to speak. If you are under 18, though, and your mother saw signs of trouble, I have no doubt that she might snoop to see if she can learn what was going on and determine if she could help.

      Signs that might trigger red flags for a parent would be not opening the door to parents, avoidance of parents, not wanting to go to school, strange odors coming from the room, child not answering parents, door being locked when friends are visiting, things found in the laundry like notes, matches, tobacco, pills, powders and so on.

      But you are no doubt a well-behaved young lady, one her mother would feel blessed to have. ❤


  3. saymber says:

    Great topic. My Mom snooped too much but she did it rather cleverly and without raising my suspicion – spring cleaning. When we spring cleaned my room I helped so I was there to see what she “discovered” – some things embarrassing lol. This served us both well. I learned to keep my room clean and she got to see what I had going on!


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      This makes me smile. It sounds like your mother did a good job as a parent. My children might be embarrassed, too, but it was only my job to make sure they were not into drugs, gangs, doing dangerous things or having unprotected sex. Embarrassing them was not my goal.

      Give your mom a hug for me. ❤


  4. Ya this is a tough one for parents – when to snoop and not


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