I spy?

Just a quick peek in her diary. Rifle through the closet. Hmmm. Let's see what's under the mattress.

Even describing the process makes me feel vile, unworthy of the trust my teen daughter has shown in me.

But as much as it grates against your character, every parent of a teenager must consider: Is it OK to spy on your child?

Yes, say most experts. But they dispute how extreme the situation must be. The risk, says John Friel, co-author of "The 7 Worst Things Parents Do," is that all trust will be destroyed and your teen won't ever again turn to you when a problem arises.

Wade Horn, a parent and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative is more pro-snoop. His motto: "Trust but verify."

Don't spy out of mere selfish curiosity, he says. "But if your teen gives you some reason to be suspicious that he or she is engaging in behavior that is harmful to himself or others - snoop."

Warn them first: "I'm suspicious that you're doing X [illegal drugs, drinking, having sex] because of Y. And because I love you and my primary job is to keep you safe, I will be watching you more carefully. That includes going into your room," Horn says.

Let them use the Internet but set the ground rules: No porn sites, no overly violent games, no unsupervised chat rooms. In his just published "The New Teen Book," Horn advises all parents to get software, like Net Nanny, that provides a report of what sites have been visited. "Tell them you will use it," he says.

They won't like it. But the temptations are there. And before being their buddy, he says, you've got to be their parent.

*We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at home@csps.com

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