How can I read the texts that my children are sending and receiving?

This email comes to us from Diann Childress (who has a question about monitoring her children’s texts.)

Hey IDSecrets,
I have been enjoying your articles about the moral implications of whether or not it’s spying to read someone else’s texts. I think it’s interesting moral ground when you’re talking about reading texts sent by your spouse/boyfriend. Surely though, those implications don’t extend to me as a parent, right? I would argue that it’s good for me as a parent to know what texts my children are sending. My question is not whether it’s morally right to do so. I think it’s not only my right, but my responsibility. However, if I do want to “spy”, how can I read the texts my children are sending and receiving?

When it comes to your children, we wouldn’t begin to tell you what to do.

Our personal opinions vary widely.

You could trust them and to text appropriately.  You give your children a lot of confidence when they know you trust them to make good decisions.

On the opposite side of that… there’s a great line in the movie Animal House.

The censored version of the line goes something like “You *messed* up. You trusted me.”

We think trust is a good thing.

But years of working with Identity Theft Secrets have unfortunately made us a bit cynical about people’s intentions vs. their actions.

One thing we do all agree on around here: if you are going to be reading your children’s texts,  tell them that you will be reading what they are sending and receiving.

Honesty trumps sneaking around.

You might say “Well, that seems dumb. Won’t they just delete the texts they don’t want me to read?”

Probably.

Which is why we have a couple of good solutions for you.

One option involves you installing software on your children’s cell phones which will allow you access to read their texts without your even having the physical phone.

The other option for reading your children’s texts (sending, receiving, and deleted messages) is to remove the SIM card, and use a SIM card reader on your computer with software for restoring deleted texts. That way you can see all text messages that have come through the phone for the day.

But how do you pry the cell phone out of your children’s hands long enough to install the software?

How do you get them to release the digital attachment (which seems to be affixing itself to their hands more and more every day), so that you can remove the SIM Card?

One idea is to establish a rule when the cell phones are given to your children, that the cell phones have to stay in a common place every night.

You can tell them that this is for their own good, so that the cell phone does not get lost or become an excuse not to get a good night’s sleep.

This rule is much easier to establish before the phones are given, as a condition of your child having a cell phone, than it is to establish after the fact.

However, if you are the one paying the monthly service fee, this rule can still be implemented as a condition of your continuing to pay the monthly bill.

Of course, if you don’t want to establish the rule, then you only need the cell phone for about an hour or less to get the software installed.

If you want to read your children’s texts remotely using a software installed on the phone, check out Mobile Spy or SpyPhone Gold (depending on your phone model).

From Mobile Spy’s Website:

Mobile Spy is a hybrid software/service which allows you to monitor your smartphone in real time. This unique system records the activities of anyone who uses your compatible iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile or Symbian OS smartphone. You install a small application directly onto the phone you own & want to monitor. It starts at every boot of your phone, but remains stealth and does not show up in the running process list.  After the software is set up on the monitored phone, it will record an array of phone activities and then silently upload the data to your private Mobile Spy account using the Internet. When you want to view results, simply login to the Online Control Panel from any computer and enter your username and password to proceed.

From SpyPhone Gold’s Website:

SPYPhone is software that you install on a mobile phone. After installation, SPYPhone secretly records events that happen on the phone and delivers this information to a web account, where you can view these reports 24×7 from any Internet enabled computer or mobile phone. SPYPhone GOLD Internet also allows you to listen to the surroundings of the target mobile , listen to the phone conversation and to know the location of the device.
Purchase: http://www.identitytheftsecrets.com/spyphone-gold-purchase

If you’re going to read the texts from the SIM card by physically removing the SIM, then establish the “phones go here at night” rule.

Once you have established the rule, you now have the opportunity to remove the SIM Card and read your child’s messages (sending, receiving, and deleted), on your computer.

There are a few options for this way of reading your children’s texts, but based on our experience, we recommend the Cell Phone Spy. From their web site:

With the Cell Phone Spy™ SIM Card Reader you can view deleted text messages from a cell phone. The Cell Phone Spy™ allows you, a concerned parent, or loving spouse, to monitor your child or spouse’s mobile interactions with others[…]. The easy-to-use SIM Card Reader offers you peace of mind that no matter whom your loved ones are texting, you know she will be safe and responsible. How It Works: Using the Recovery Pro software included in this package […] Simply remove the card […] slide it into the SIM card reader, and insert the reader into your computer’s USB drive. From there you can copy your phonebook onto your PC, enabling you to manage and edit all of your phone’s contacts. This data can then be transferred to a different SIM card in the unfortunate event of a broken or dead phone. The software also empowers you to view the last 10 numbers dialed, and, of course, view all deleted SMS text messages.

Key Points:
If you do want to read your children’s text messages, we recommend first telling them that you will be doing so.

Then, establish ground rules about what they should be doing with their phones (and if they should be leaving them somewhere at night).

Decide if you will be reading your children’s text messages remotely with software installed on the phone, or if you will use an option like the cell phone spy.

We referred to the following…

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