Is It All Right to Snoop on Your Child Online?

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Teens take note: Even if you don't give your parents your Facebook passwords, they may still sneak in.

According to a survey released by the Internet privacy company TRUSTe, 10 percent of parents admitted they secretly logged in to their kids' Facebook accounts.

Out of the 1,000 parents included in the survey, 72 percent said they monitored their kids' activity online. Eighty-five percent said they checked out their kids' Facebook pages at least once a week.

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Fran Maier, president of TRUSTe, said the survey shows that parents are trying to find a happy medium between protecting their kids and trusting them to develop their own relationships online.

"There's a fine balance between spying and friending," she said. "It's something that parents have to think carefully about."

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While one in ten parents may sign in to their kids' accounts in secret, 86 percent say they are friends with their children on Facebook and 40 percent said their kids have granted them access to their account.

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But if kids aren't forthcoming about their online activities, how far can parents go to find out?

Monica Vila, founder and chief technology mom of the parenting website The Online Mom, said she frequently encounters the hot-button topic when she talks to parents around the country.

And that 10 percent figure? She said that, anecdotally at least, it sounds low to her.

"It's one of those issues that really divides parents," she said. "Can you trust your kids until proven otherwise, trust but verify, or just totally not trust? It's a little bit [of an] in-the-gut kind of issue."

VIDEO: What not to share online.
Too Much Info for the Web

And she said it doesn't just apply to a kid's Facebook page, but to e-mail accounts, text messages and other Internet-based communication too.

For parents thinking about some online sleuthing, Vila said to start with why they're considering it in the first place.

"If you're in anticipation mode, nothing's really happened to worry you necessarily… I really strongly advocate for the trust conversation," she said.

'Trust but Verify: Monitoring Your Kids Online

Talk to your child about the basic risks and rules that accompany online activities, she said, and tell her that though she has 100 percent of her parents' trust, once lost, it will be a long road back.

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But if you've learned that your child has been involved with inappropriate content, contact or conduct, or your child has become more irritable or withdrawn, she said you might want to consider the "trust but verify" approach.

"Sit down with your child and say, 'My number-one job is to protect you, and there are great things going on online and there are some godawful things going online. In that vein, I have the tools in place on your computer to monitor both your conduct and any contact that may occur that I may need to step in,'" she said. "It's not unlike you in the playground. 'I'll be watching. I may not be next to you holding on to the monkey bars but I'm watching.'"

Ahead of the Curve guest
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If your children know that you have the capability to check their online behavior (through software that monitors browsing history and e-mails, alerts parents to messages sent and received and others), she said parents can occasionally monitor without breaking the trust relationship with their child.

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