Dear Harlan: Should I or shouldn’t I look at my high school freshman’s text messages? She told me that she didn’t want me to look at her phone because it was an invasion of privacy. We had it out in the beginning of the year. I promised not to look. I’m now regretting this. She has been acting like something is wrong. She is sending messages back and forth. I see that she’s upset. She won’t tell me when I ask her what’s wrong. I have tried everything I can to get through to her, but she shuts down. I want to know what I’m missing. I know this would upset our daughter if I looked. I have asked other parents, and they feel I should do whatever I want. What’s your take on the situation?
— Privacy Problem
Dear Privacy Problem: Once you go there you can’t go back. It’s too dangerous unless there’s a compelling reason. A compelling reason would be suspected danger or self-harm. Uncomfortable teenage drama isn’t going to get a judge to authorize busting into her phone and reading her text messages. Find a different way to connect and learn about what’s going on in her life. Plan dedicated time with her. Ask her what she wants to do. Give her a break from the drama and angst. Make time with you safe, loving and free of drama. See if she can relax and be present. Tell her you are always there to listen to her vent. You can ask her if she’d like to talk to someone other than you. Make sure she has people in her corner other than you. If she can’t tell you what’s going on, make sure she can talk to someone else.