This morning on the radio, I heard an interesting question. A 13 year old has just gotten her first cell phone and her first boyfriend. Mom went snooping through the phone and discovered the boyfriend had been texting "I love you". This raised some concerns with Mom, who is worried that the relationship may be progressing too quickly. However, she wasn't sure how to bring it up without admitting she'd been snooping on the phone.
People called in to give their opinions, most of which were a variation on "trust your daughter". A substantial minority said that mom should have made snooping a condition of having the phone, which would allow her to begin a discussion openly.
This may not be popular, but I disagree with both positions. As soon as the boys began using the computer, Dave set up a monitoring program for them. Every site they visit is logged into a report. We told them that we could see what they were doing. However, we also don't go looking unless we suspect a problem. (Frankly, we can hear what they're doing most of the time since Alex likes to play Elmo's Potty Time at full volume.)
Maybe I am overly paranoid about the dangers of the cyberverse, but to me it has replaced the park-guy-with-puppy as the primary tool for luring children. Even leaving aside the professional predators, there is cyberbullying and the stupidity of large numbers in groups. Luckily my kids aren't into the social aspect yet, but I know it will come and I will have to encourage it.
For the snooping Mom, my recommendation would be to use the information she has gleaned to start a conversation in some other way. For example, if she's worried the boyfriend might be using "I love you" to pressure the daughter into a physical relationship, then there are a number of books and teen films dealing with that issue. Pull one up and start talking about the characters and what happens. Talk about her own experiences with eager young boys when she was a girl. Emphasize that this can and does happen, no matter how good your feelings are.
I'm not a fan of snooping, but texting, Facebook and the internet in general are not private. It isn't the equivalent of reading a diary or listening in to someone's conversation. It's a public forum.
So that's my two cents on the issue.