Parents just don’t understand.
According to a Pew study on parenting in the age of the internet, most parents still don't trust their teenagers to be responsible online, with about half keeping tabs on at least one of their kid's passwords.
About 1,000 US parent-teen pairs completed a Pew survey about how involved parents are in monitoring their child's online usage, and 61 percent of parents reported looking at their child's browsing history. Forty-eight percent know the password to their teenager's email account, and 35 percent know the password to at least one of their kid's social media accounts. Rather than learning their teens' passwords through any kind of sophisticated deception, it seems most password-holding parents simply made that transparency a condition of their child having a personal email or Facebook account.
Additionally, 65 percent of parents reported they had taken away phone or internet privileges as punishment, a practice Pew refers to as "digital grounding."
These measures might seem reasonable, but as connectivity becomes more and more a constant part of daily life, revoking internet access and denying online privacy could seem more of a draconian measure. With the UN declaring internet access a basic human right, digital grounding might one day seem less ethical.
Snatching away online privacy also feels less fair now than it did ten years ago—akin to reading your child's diary. According to more Pew data, teens have become more savvy about sharing personal information, so the risks of being on the web are ostensibly reduced.
But one thing just about everyone who participated in the study can agree on is the importance of talking with their child about what's appropriate to share online, what's appropriate media to consume, and how to treat others online (94, 95, and 92 percent respectively). I'd bet a month of my own internet access that these talks are more effective than snooping.