Snooping on our children won’t prevent another case like Megan Stammers

Our digital age allows teens to hide their secrets from adults - and we must accept that.


How many parents will have surreptitiously looked at their daughters’ Facebook pages this week? Or waited until they have gone to sleep and then scrolled through their text messages? As details of the connection between and movements of 15-year-old Megan Stammers and 30-year-old teacher Jeremy Forrest emerge, fear and panic emerge too, for all mothers and fathers of teenage girls.

They discover that BlackBerry Messenger correspondence (a preferred method of communication for many youngsters) is easily deleted; and that their Facebook account, the one that accepted you as a “friend” when your child was younger, is dormant – they share their pictures and innermost thoughts under another name. You are not a friend of that person; you don’t know who they are.

The problem is that all of this is perfectly healthy, most of the time. It is important for young people to develop their own personalities and relationships without mum and dad breathing down their necks. The general rule is that no good can come of prying into your child’s social media activity – like evesdropping on phone conversations of old, it’s difficult to get the whole picture and it’s easy to get hold of the wrong end of the stick.

Searching for the kind of information that parents think they want to know only shows them what they don’t need to know. Yes, teenagers look at porn; yes, they get pissed and take photos of each other in front of beer-can mountains; yes, they get crushes on people and do whatever is the digital equivalent of practicing their married signature.

It may make parents shudder, but it is very unlikely to reveal a teen’s state of mind, or their secrets. Our digital age allows them to hide that from adults; that genie is out of the bottle. We must accept that.

(The exception to the rule is Twitter, strangely, where Stammers and Forrest exchanged comments that can be read by all: this public forum for declarations and opinions is latterly being adopted by young adults for whom bragging is irresistible.)

And yet… It would an utter dereliction of duty for a parent to ignore their teenager’s vulnerabilities. Parents must be vigilant; the search for signs of obsession, withdrawal or danger must be in place. But it will have to be in person. Adults are as guilty of spending time on our laptops and iPhones as children. We must put them down to look, and listen, when a child is around. I believe, truly, that the signs are often there if we can only slow down to tune our antenna in the right direction.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.  

The Only Way is Ethics: The birth of a royal baby will not top the news for long

Will Gore
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk