Is It All Right to Snoop on Your Child Online?

Survey: 10 percent of parents secretly log in to kid's Facebook account.

ByABC News
October 19, 2010, 5:22 PM

Oct. 20, 2010— -- 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.

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."

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.

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."

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.