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Your mom, girlf, boyf: Spying on your phone and email

If you don't call them that you're probably safe

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Three in five parents snoop on their teenager's email and calling habits, but teenagers themselves are almost as guilty of checking out the communications history of their partners.

The survey was conducted by online store Retrevo, which reports that almost half of those under 25 admit to examining their partner's devices when the partner is out of the room. Older couples aren't quite so intrusive, with only about 30 per cent admitting to illicit snooping, but that's probably 'cos they can't work out how to use their own phones, let alone someone else's.

This isn't the kind of high-tech snooping in which Google and Facebook engage, this is just glancing at the recently called list while fiddling with the handset, or opening up the email client on a partner's laptop – perhaps the modern equivalent of checking for lipstick on the collar. But if Retrevo is to be believed, then it is pretty commonplace and increasing annually.

In 2011, 37 per cent of parents admitted checking out their children's communications (for their own good, of course), and more than half of parents surveyed would happily plant GPS tracking kit on their child without telling them. Mothers are slightly more eager to see their sprogs' every move than fathers, 64 per cent compared to 53 per cent.

The sample was only 1,000 (self-selected) people, and the company is American, so no immediate panic. But it is worrying that 14 per cent of those parents reckon their illicit interception has discovered something about their teenage offspring "that they were concerned about".

Teenagers who do nothing to concern their parents are hardly teenagers at all, and blissful ignorance has a lot going for it, but it seems that with the tools at our disposal we can't resist knowing everything about those closest to us. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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