2/09/2005

Empowering Parents to Snoop

Via Overlawyered...

The mother of a 14-year-old girl was concerned about a phone call that the girl got from her 17-year-old boyfriend, so she listened in on another line. The boyfriend talked about a robbery he had been involved with, and the mother called the police.

In December, the Washington Supreme Court threw out the boy's conviction because the mother's eavesdropping violated her daughter's privacy.

This judicial nonsense is being addressed by the Washington legislature:

Parents would be allowed to eavesdrop on their children's phone conversations or intercept their mail under a bill that went before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.

The law is being proposed in the wake of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that a mother violated Washington's privacy law by eavesdropping on her daughter's phone conversations.

Under House Bill 1178, a parent would not break the law by snooping on a child's phone calls and information a parent gleaned from the intercepted communications also could be used in court. Some critics have expressed concern about the bill.
Who could possibly oppose such a notion? Why, Democrats, of course.

House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) said that "We have a right of privacy that ought not be taken from a child unless you meet an extremely high burden, that the parents' violation of that right meets some greater good. How are we going to measure that?"

Committee Vice-Chair Brendan Williams (D-Olypmpia) questioned the need for parents to record their children's conversations, asking "Is that part of good parenting, part of a healthy family? Is it not a sign perhaps that the parent-child relationship is irretrievably broken some way?"

Then again, many Democrats oppose requiring minors to notify their parents before obtaining an abortion. If nothing else, we can admire them for being consistent in their position that parents have no business raising their own children.

What strikes me as "irretrievably broken" is the notion that parents have no business prying into their children's lives. Parental snooping is a tradition as time-honored as that of teenage boys shoving Playboy under their mattresses. Kids don't always tell their parents what they're up to, and it's a parent's responsibility to know. Parents should raise their children to be honest, trustworthy, and to keep their nose out of trouble. Blindly assuming that you've been successful in this regard is naivete' that borders on negligence.

Ronald Reagan said "Trust - but verify." He was talking about nuclear arms reductions, but it's sage advice for parents as well.