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I spy on my son (14) for his own protection

A DUBLIN mum has revealed why she feels no shame about reading her son's text messagesand monitoring his Facebook profile.

Mum-of-three Mary* checks her son's mobile phone while he is in the bathroom, supervises his comments on Facebook and has no wireless connection in the house.

While many might think her behaviour is extreme, the thirtysomething mum-of-three feels no shame about spying on her 14-year-old son.

In fact, she believes it is the only way to ensure that his welfare -- and that of his friends -- is safeguarded.

She explained: "One of the reasons I'm so strict is because I was a teen mum myself.

"Parents were more oblivious about their kids' sexuality in my time, we would never have talked about sex with them, even though we often needed their guidance and advice.

"Going through pregnancy in my teens was very difficult, and so I've always wanted to make sure that my son would never get a girl in that position, and that he felt he could always come to me for advice."

Mary said when her son started going to school, she became worried about the risk of bullying.

This concern grew when he reached puberty, as she knew from experience that boys and girls that age can be particularly forceful.

"Kids put pressure on one another to do certain things, and they can be very critical -- especially online.

"So I started reading his text messages when he got a phone -- he was around 12 years old at the time. Now, I also check his Facebook profile.

"Some people may think that I'm being too nosy or controlling but the truth is, I'm not going to pretend that he's an innocent little child, teenagers get up to all sorts of things and there's no point closing our eyes to it.

"If reading his texts and checking his Facebook profile online can help me make sure that he's not in any trouble and he hasn't caused trouble for anyone else, then I feel it's justified."

Mary has made sure that her son only has limited access to the internet on his mobile by keeping tabs on his credit. He does not have his own computer, which forces him to use the family laptop if he wants to surf the net.

There is also no wireless connection around the house so that her son cannot spend hours on the internet in his room without his parents' approval.

"You have to keep up with kids to really understand their lives,

"I make sure that I'm on top of things -- both in terms of technology and language.

"For example, teenagers always use terms that they think their parents don't understand, and if that's the case, I always find out exactly what those words mean.

"That way I'm sure that what he's writing to girls is not offensive.

"There are a lot of dirty words for the body out there now, and maybe kids don't mean it when they start using them, but eventually it does affect the way they act towards other people, they're more disrespectful.

"I've seen it on Facebook where some of my son's friends would make really inappropriate comments about girls who are only 12- or 13-years-old.

"They encourage them to upload sexy photos of themselves, and the girls who are probably insecure or who want to look like popstars, go ahead and do it," she said.

Mary has also found ways to use TV programmes to her advantage.

"Obviously I can't force my son to watch certain shows, it has to be something that appeals to him and his friends, but I've found there are series out there that can encourage him to be more respectful," she added.

*Not her real name