Must Dos for Parents of Tweens and Teens

1. Have the passwords to your kids social media platforms and emails. Use them to do periodic checks. Sexting, bullying and all sorts of other frightening things take place behind the curtain. Make sure your child isn’t involved.

2. Make an effort to know the parents of your child’s friends. ESPECIALLY if you are going to allow sleepovers. You need to trust that your child is safe and held to the same rules at someone else’s home as they are yours. Do they have a curfew? Do they allow the opposite sex over? Will they be home? Do they take the kids keys at night so they can’t sneak out? Do they set a house alarm? All things you would like to know.

3. Take away all access to the internet and friends at bedtime. Computers, ipads, cell phones, etc. Your child needs sleep. You need to facilitate that. Left to their own devices (pun intended) they will be online until the wee hours of the night. And? Nothing good happens in the wee hours of the night. Nothing.

4. Check their texts periodically. For the same reason as you would check their online presence you need to check their texts. A good time to do that is when you remove the phone at bedtime. Start with the photos.

5. Sit down to a family dinner at least a couple nights every week. Don’t just eat. Talk.  If you are stumped for things to talk about, check out Table Talk. Make it fun, not an interrogation. The more you talk with your kids about the silly stuff the more likely they will be to talk with you about the serious stuff.

6. Listen to your kids. In general of course, but most importantly, in the car with friends. Offer to drive them and their friends often. Keep the radio low and listen. You will gain a wealth of information.

7. Listen to their music. There are some interesting messages being given to your children via today’s music. You won’t stop them from listening to the music they want to listen to. But if you know the lyrics to the songs you can use those to create Songnversations.

8. Lead by example. Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive. Shut your social media down and smell the roses. And on and on and on.

9. Teach them the value of giving. Involve them in a charity. Do charity work with them. Nothing feels as good as giving. Make sure you teach them that.

10. Call. If your child is in someone else’s hands. CALL. If they ask to go to a party? Call the parents. If they ask to sleepover at a friend’s house. Call. My son is a junior in high school and I still call. It could very well save their life.

About the writer

Stefanie Mullen is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul and owner and founder of, a site devoted to the parenting of tweens and teens. She is married to an incredible man and is the mother of three wonderful boys, two teens and a kindergartner.


Annie 2 weeks ago

Some of these things like trolling through the their phones and social media, isn’t a good idea. You want your kids to trust you so trust them enough to behave in a kind, safe manner. Trolling through their phones, just means they’ll get more inventive about getting around it.

Steph 3 years ago

I would also check with the families about any other people that may be visiting. My duaghter had a friend who was a single mom and I had met her and her children but I was unaware that there was a boyfriend that would sometimes stay the night. Needless to say I now meet boyfriends and any older children, and if my gut says no I politely remember that we had a prior engagement, or have my hubby call and tell me that my daughter has been asked to babysit. It is better to be safe than to kick yourself for not trusting your instincts!

Momofateen 3 years ago

I agree to periodic checking of all accounts. I don’t think it is a trust issue I think it is a responsibility as a parent.

Kris 3 years ago

When I was growing up, my stepfather took the whole invasion of privacy thing too far. He put a wire tap on the phone lines so he could listen to all conversations, set up our alarm system so he could listen to what was going on in any room of the house remotely, and had hidden cameras all over. Yeah, it was a bit much. He also stole my diary, read it, and when he discovered my boyfriend and I had had sex for the first time, via my diary, he took it to my boyfriends house and shared it with his parents. (He was in security as a job, and was very good at it)

All this said, I still plan on being aware of what my kids are doing when they are online, and with their friends. I just know the difference between having to know EVERYTHING vs needing to make sure they are safe. The world now isn’t what it was when I was a kid.

Kristen Mae 3 years ago

When I was only 15 I was sneaking out with a 29-year-old (who I thought was 19 because I was STUPID and didn’t know any better). And I had a friend whose mother had NO rules, so of course I always wanted to sleep at her house. We used to get trashed in the back of some random dude’s car while he just drove around town. I was a “good girl,” on the honor roll, straight A’s, first chair in the orchestra… no one would have ever suspected it from me. You know how my mom finally discovered my deceit? She called. Great post.

    Paula 3 years ago


Kristen Brakeman 3 years ago

Great reminders Stefanie. Being facebook friends has provided a world of insight. Mostly it’s just reassuring that teens talk about goofy stuff like I did once! And yes, the driving adds a whole new dimension of worry. Though I think back on when I was a teen – I would be out for the whole evening and my parents had no idea where I really was. (no cell phones!)

just JENNIFER 3 years ago

My daughter will be 13 in July, has a phone and is itching to get on Facebook. I know how to log into her email and she knows she will have to friend me and other family members on Facebook if she wants to be on after her birthday. I think these are purely responsible things for me to do as her mother. And honestly, her getting on Facebook will be putting ME in check as well. I will have to think about whether I want my daughter to see something I’m thinking about posting.

KR 3 years ago

I let my daughter have total freedom because she is a straight-A student and never in trouble. Then one time she lied and went somewhere she wasn’t allowed to go and concocted a huge lie to cover up. I grounded her from her cell phone. When checking the messages to see how far this lie went, I found messages about CUTTING. I have since found a ripped up note from another friend that talked of CUTTING and SUICIDE. You better believe I am going to be all up in her business now.

KTG 3 years ago

I agree with everything, after the privacy infringing ones and I am going to tell you why. I am 23. So I feel i am closest in age and mindset to these teeny boppers. Being a good parent does not mean being a dictator. Yes, know what is going on in your kids lives, teach lessons like not sexting and predators, to come to you when their are problems. And hopefully, for the majority of the time that will work. But the truth is, kids need to learn some of these life lessons themselves and you cannot always protect them from it, you can try. But regardless your kids will do these things, they will make mistakes. It is life. And by taking away there right to privacy.. you violate their trust and give them more of a reason to rebel and do worse things, then “sexting” and yes, there are worse things.

    Paula 3 years ago

    Come back to this post when you are a mother or a grandmother and see if you feel the same. When I was 23 I still felt the way that you did. And NOW I don’t. That simple

      KTG 3 years ago

      I know I will. Because I was also a nanny for 3 years and I watched as a teenager and as a nanny. How these parenting tactics ruined kids relationships with their parents and their kids would go to extreme lengths to hide things from their parents and often do worse things just to prove their parent wrong. Which would have been avoided had their parents not been crazy controlling.

      You can judge me because of my age, just because I am younger than you, does not negate my experience with children/teens. (which my resume is longer then most women who become Moms) and because of being younger. I can tell you the usual results of that type of parenting.

        Maggie 3 years ago

        I am 40, KTG, and agree with you. Just because you keep tight reins on your kids, doesn’t mean they aren’t out doing crazy crap. They are just reallllly good at pulling the wool over your eyes. I know, because that was me as a teen. I choose to keep an open dialogue with my son, and not police him. I truly get farther this way with him. He is apt to come to me to discuss the crazy shit his friends are getting into, and we talk about the consequences. Granted, he is a good kid. Honor roll, Varsity sports etc. Reality? All kids do stupid shit. It’s kind of the rite of passage.

          KTG 3 years ago

          exactly = )

        Paula 3 years ago

        Not trying to put you down. Just saying that time will tell :)

          Paula 3 years ago

          Kids doing stupid shit (your words) is not a right of passage. In this day and age kids doing stupid shit can end up dead It is imperative that we as parents protect our kids from doing stupid shit (your words) I have an open dialogue with my grand kids (whom I am raising) but will still check up on them. They know it and they don’t care. That is because they are good kids. But like I said before it isn’t my kids that I am worried about. This is a crazy and different world that we are living in.

    Lynette 3 years ago

    And yet, I have girlfriends who now tell me they were jealous of how much my parents did get into my business. Theirs never did and though it meant their parents didn’t care as much as I did. Different kids, different situations, I guess. Boys and girls both have dangers from predators and reaping consequences of others’ actions.

    I will advise and monitor and WHEN they screw up (because we all do) I only hope to show the love when I lay the hammer down. Because if my inaction allows my kids to do something completely stupid they have lifelong consequences, then I have failed as a parent.

      KTG 3 years ago

      yes! My MIL was the parent, who rather be a friend than parent. And all it ended up doing, was her kids lost respect for her and did whatever the hell they wanted, but at the same time my younger BIL would tell me, he does it, cause he wants his mom to CARE. I know it can go both ways and every case is different.

Roshni 3 years ago

I too am not really on board with checking their emails etc unless I feel there is some cause for concern!
Thank you for the post though; there are some valid points that I like, such as getting to know the parents of my kids’ friends (or even his friends per se!)

Andrea 3 years ago

My son is still young, and we’ve another on the way. Teenage years are a ways off, and they still scare the crap out of me. It is so different now than when I was a teen, I just have no idea how I’m going to guide and help them through those years! Personally, I plan on being proactive rather than reactive. Predators are exactly that – PREDATORS. They don’t play by the rules, and they are RUTHLESS. How can we educate our children, when we can’t even sink to the level of depravity these monsters possess in order to anticipate what our kids need to know to stay safe?? With the internet, they can be whomever or whatever they want, and will do ANYTHING to get to our kids. I’d rather have my tweens and teens pissed at me for setting firm, open, ground rules about what constitutes their privacy, than to have them become a statistic. They’ll get over being pissed, but I’d never be able to forgive myself if something happened to either of them I could have prevented. I don’t think there are any easy, right or wrong answers here, we all just have to do our best and pray it was enough. JMHO.

Jen 3 years ago

My friend recently discovered that her daughter had an app on her phone that allowed for secret texting. So no texts were showing up thru traditional methods. After they took away texting they found that.

Something to keep in mind.. Even if your kids are texting nicely. It’s what you don’t see that could be harmful.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    Yep. There are now apps that do that. Tricky these kids :)

Mom Off Meth 3 years ago

Great list. I am guilty of too much internet time. I could improve. I have teens and I am always in their social media world. It is horrifying how many parents DO NOT know what their kids are Tweeting.

JustMeangelb 3 years ago

Having your diary read is a violation of trust, but giving a parent your password is an open dialogue between an adult and someone who is learning to be an adult. Totally different things. Just because you still harbor sadness and hurt from a violation of privacy doesn’t mean you get a pass from being an active, semi-intrusive parent. Sorry. Go to counseling to get over your ‘My Little Pony’ diary being read, or whatever, and maybe go to a parenting class too. You can do things in a good way, but being ignorant is 100% unacceptable no matter how you try to justify parenting malaise…
Just my two cents, but it’s parents who refuse to keep their kids in check that endanger my children.

Mama and the City 3 years ago

Oh those scary years.

What a great post to remind us of safety – especially now that is easier than ever to access to so many ideas from all over the world. I’m already anxious for my little one.

When my brother was young, I guess he had a different idea of ‘value of giving’. He gave away money, electronics, high ticket items – just because of good will and to make others feel better.

My dad was maaaaaaaaaaaad.

Teens sure need to know the value of money more that giving it at this age- IMO. Know how much parents spend on them – food, clothes, house, bills, etc… They will be the parents of tomorrow.

I’m not looking forward to this age yet.

Britanie 3 years ago

My mom didn’t do most of this stuff (or anything like it) and I was a straight “A” student, my first kiss was when I was 17, and I never went to parties that involved drinking or drugs. My brother was the most wild of the three of us and even he called to be picked up if anything questionable went on. My mom just lucked out and got really easy teens I guess. I am not even going to know what to look out for. :(

    Susan Smith 3 years ago

    “I am not even going to know what to look out for.” I think that’s a really important statement, Britanie. I got in more trouble than I should have (I blame a lot of that on the lack of parenting I had) so I know what’s possible. The slightest left turn can turn into an avalanche. Peer pressure is intense. Anything can happen. I’ll be there when and if it does!

    Lynette 3 years ago

    Use your gut instinct, its basically what drives most us moms anyway. If you feel something is off, change in behavior or lapses in time anything is just plain weird, don’t hesitate to call it out. If you are lucky, they want to talk about it anyway and are not sure how to broach the subject.

Paula 3 years ago

I am a grandma raising tweens. I don’t think this has anything to do with ‘trust’. It is not my tweens that I don’t trust. It is the world outside our door. And the devil that wants to win them over. Don’t look on it as snooping. Look at it as protecting them from the pedophiles, the voyeurs, and the not so good teens that just want someone to get into trouble with. I don’t like sleepovers period. Mine don’t go to others houses to sleep at night and others don’t come to ours. Don’t think any kid ever died from not going on a sleep-over. And if my grandchild was deleting messages from his/her phone then they wouldn’t have a phone. Just my opinion.I think we need to rethink the trust issue. Trust is earned!

    Susan Smith 3 years ago

    Exactly! Where the issue of trust came up, I’m not sure. I’m the mother of three honors students, but they’re still teenagers, and teenagers are not always going to make great decisions. It’s one of the most important learning stages.
    And I agree with everything else you said, too. I will almost always respect a grandmother’s point of view!

      Stefanie 3 years ago

      Couldn’t have said it better than the two of you did.

Peyton Price 3 years ago

Yes yes yes.

Ashley 3 years ago

I know some people may disagree, but when I was younger my mom made it clear to me that I should have no expectation of privacy. She didn’t constantly go through my things and read my notes from school and such, but I was always aware it could happen. To me this was and is a fair compromise. She laid it all out on the table and was not being sneaky about snooping.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    I am with your mother. My kids know that is the situation. I am not hiding it from them. With the perils of technology comes a mom that works hard to keep you in line.

      Ashley 3 years ago

      She also told me never to write anything down that I wouldn’t want others reading. I know that flies in the face of journal-keeping, but it has served me well.

      I am not quite at the point of needing to do this yet since I only have a toddler, but I intend to handle things the same way.

      Sidenote: there was also none of that “you can do it when you are 18 and a legal adult” stuff. My parents made it clear that as long as they supported me (paid for college, etc.) I followed their rules. I guess my parents were pretty strict, but it never felt like that at the time. Something to emulate!

Rose 3 years ago

So maybe I must have been the world’s worse mother, but I NEVER did 1, 2 & 4. I trusted my daughter implicitly. Not that she didn’t slip up, but she has turned out just fine. She is on a full college scholarship and the deans list. If you are a loving parent and make the time to guide your child through their teenage years, they will be fine. The less you trust them, the further you will push them away.

Ashleymrandolph 3 years ago

Smstracker is an app that records all texts, phone calls pictures & has GPS

Emily 3 years ago

All really good tips and advice. I’m tweeting this out right now!

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    Thanks Emily!

Melanie 3 years ago

That was @monica, sorry

Melanie 3 years ago

They have apps that keep the deleted texts, i believe they are hidden on the phone so she won’t even know it’s on there. Unfortunately i can’t remember the name, but google should help u. Also check with your phone provider for options, i know with sprint u can actually see the texts online

Maggie 3 years ago

Agreed with Marinka. I have the passwords, but don’t do periodic checks. I will if I feel the need to. My son is soon to be 17. I feel I need to trust him, and HE needs to feel like I trust him. I would be all up in his business if I felt he as doing anything inappropriate, don’t get me wrong. I know the bulk of his friends, and their parents (soccer Moms unite!!!). The scary part of being a parent of a teenager, for real? DRIVING. Teens and driving is bring my anxiety to a whole new level. Pass the wine, please.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    The driving is truly HORRIFYING. I haven’t slept well since he got his license.

    Courtney 3 years ago

    Amen! I like your style.

      Stefanie 3 years ago

      Thanks Courtney. Clearly I like yours too :)

Susan Smith 3 years ago

Addition for #2: Do they have a gun in the house?

Monica 3 years ago

I’m all about checking in on their emails & text messages, but now one of my kiddos is deleting all messages after she writes or reads them! Suggestions???

    Jamie 3 years ago

    have you talked to her about why she’s doing it? I wouldn’t be on board with her having a phone any longer.

    MrsKharma 3 years ago

    @Monica, check with your phone service provider, for a small monthly fee you might be able to check the text record online.

    Susan Smith 3 years ago

    Got to wonder what she’s hiding. Keep checking, she’s bound to slip up eventually.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    My mother read my diary once. Never had one again and I was 9 at the time. But even at nine, I should have been able to have my own private thoughts. Even those that I may share with others but not something I want to have my mother or father listening to. I would delete my texts for privacy, even though (based on my own teens years) there would have been no cause for alarm as far as content of those texts. Privacy is Privacy.

      Stefanie 3 years ago

      Stefanie, I agree. All kids should be allowed privacy. The difference here though is that a diary is filled with our own private thoughts and not sent out to others. When you are putting info out into the world, in other kids hands, you are taking a GIANT leap of faith and trust in those kids. I have seen far too many kids do the wrong things with texted words and photos. It’s a little trickier than a diary. I COMPLETELY agree with you on our own private thoughts.

    Rae 3 years ago

    If she is deleting them she is hiding something. Dishonesty is a big no-no in our house and she loses the phone/ipod/email because of it.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    Mine did that too. Once they know you are looking, they delete everything. Not much you can do. Just keep talking to her about the perils and do sneak attacks on her phone. The most important tool we have is conversation. Talk with them often. When you find stories online about kids misusing and the consequences they have had to face, have her read them.

    Stefanie 3 years ago

    Monica, my response below was for you. Not sure how it ended up at the end of this series.

    Lynette 3 years ago

    Depending on the phone, you can download a spyware program that will record everything. Fairly cheap. I know I pulled a bunch of stunts on my parents as a teen because they were too trusting they had the ‘right’ phone number or address. They ‘thought’ they talked to a parent except it was another friend on the line, an older friend.

    At the time I resented the intrusion into what I thought was my right to privacy. But as I got older, I realize it has made me more aware of what I want splashed in society. We didn’t have the technology back then. But, I quickly learned not to do/say anything that would get back to mom and get me in trouble: aka see on the front page of the newspaper. Advice that still holds over as an adult.

    Anna 3 years ago

    Take the phone/computer away till she realized that’s not acceptable. She can’t delete messages if she doesn’t have the means to send them.

    angela 3 years ago

    take her phone away

Heather O. 3 years ago

I love this list! My girls are only budding tweens (though they think they know EVERYTHING and I know nothing), but I have already implemented a lot of this. I do scroll through texts/calls/emails. I don’t read them in great detail, but then my girls aren’t old enough to be getting into much trouble yet. I plan to keep a closer eye on this as they get older… I know what *I* was doing when my mama wasn’t looking, and I don’t want my girls doing that!

tracy@sellabitmum 3 years ago

I so love this list!

Marinka 3 years ago

Great list! But I’m not 100% on board with checking their emails and other communications. I think absent reason for concern, they are entitled to privacy. Even as teens. and now I will drop to my knees and pray I don’t regret writing this.

    Jessica 3 years ago

    I completely agree.. until my 14 year old gives me a reason to invade his privacy in that manner (checking his e-mail, texts, etc) I don’t plan on doing so.. one of the things that my Mother did to me as a teenager, that I still slightly resent her for, was reading my personal journal and THEN sharing what she read with other family members. Privacy is a big deal for me. :)

      Anna 3 years ago

      There is a BIG difference between reading a journal and checking social networking sites. I have a 14 year old daughter and she’s generally a good kid but she’s already had some bullying issues (people bullying her, not the other way around). I’ve been very clear since day 1 that as long as her dad and I feel it’s necessary we will do occasional and/or random checks of online social media and if for some reason a password has changed, there will be serious consequences.

      That said, she also LOVES to write and goes through about 4 journals a year. I do NOT read them. They are her private thought and words only meant for HER. I’ve told her that one day, when she’s ready, I’d love to read them but until then I will honor that privacy.

      Hippiechick 3 years ago

      @jessica 100% agree!

      angela 3 years ago

      I was glad I checked my son’s texts. the girl he liked was acting out in some very inappropriate ways, hypersexual and suicidal. I told him to break it off with her and he did, then she stalked him. They were 14 at the time. I ended up blocking her number and sending her an email telling her just who all I would play show and tell with all her texts if she didn’t leave him alone.

    Elsie 3 years ago

    Marinka, I checked my 13 year old’s private messages and discovered a girl sending him inappropriate messages. No photos, but explicit discussion matter. He met her on a gaming site. He is a really good kid, but he LIED to me and told me that he knew her at school. I did a little checking on she and her family (they lived 4 states away) and decided that she was just a bored kid being left home alone with no supervision. Despite all the talks we had with my son, once he was in that situation, he never once considered that she could actually be a predator. Kids just aren’t entitled to complete privacy until they’re 18. It’s the parents’ job to snoop, and to let them know that you will snoop regularly.

    Rae 3 years ago

    I thought the same way, no need to check she has always been a sweet, smart, honest girl. We had talked about sexting & the consequences that can occur because of it, and the fact that if a boy wants those he doesnt care about you. We also talked about aproriate language for texts/emails/social media. My then 13 y/o began getting sassy, so I took her i-pod. I went to use it, (I love chuzzle) and lo and behold her text app has several texts to several boys where she was “sexting”. That was fun calling the parents of those boys asking them to ensure the near nude photos were premanently deleted, and dealing with the fall out. I honestly never thought she would do it, she has always been so shy, and had so much self respect and was always a daddy’s girl, and NEVER would want to disappoint him.
    I also know what I did (and we did not have technology at that age) and know that she can do the same or worse, and now, I do not allow privacy, after-all, she is a child and learning about life and consequences and the permanence of her decisions. It is my job to guide and teach her, not to turn my back and let her make more mistakes under the guise of giving her privacy.

      Ashley 3 years ago

      I agree. It seemed like my parents were all over me growing up ( I was the oldest) and let my 3 younger siblings get away with murder. My sister who is 2 years younger than me, was caught talking to some 26 year old guy and sending him pictures, when she was 14. I definitely think that parents should be watching their children in that way. If more kids knew their parents were watching them like hawks, I doubt they would do the stupid things that they do.

    Courtney 3 years ago

    You know, I really have to agree with you there. I would have been a lot more likely to rebel and resent my parents had they insisted on reading every text message and seeing every picture I was sending. My parents always called the house I was going to sleepover at, questioned friend’s parents, and constantly checked up on me while out and I think all that is great. But reading every text/email is a bit much! If the kid gives you a reason to pry, then go ahead. Until then, it just seems a little tyrannical.

    Jessica 3 years ago

    As long as I’m paying for that phone, it belongs to me, and I will check it any time I please. I don’t think it is necessary to check every text and email, but I periodic scan really isn’t out of the question. Of course, I would never humiliate her by sharing her mistakes with everyone in the family, but I believe that supervision needs to be there.

      Hippiechick 3 years ago


        KRB89 3 years ago

        There will be privacy when you are out of my house and taking care of yourself. Until then, I can and will likely read your emails, texts and anything else that concerns you. I will not use what is found to embarass my child, but knowing wha he is up to is my responsibility.


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