Parents who want access to text messages sent to and from their child's phone currently need a court order to compel a cellphone company to provide it, even if the parent pays the bill. A state law being proposed in Arizona could be the first in the nation to change that.
Republican state Sen. Rich Crandall has proposed a law to require cellphone companies to offer Arizona parents access to their minor children's texts.
"If I have a 13-year-old being harassed via text, I can't call and get those texts," Crandall said. "This bill will allow me to at least pay to see the text messages for my children." Under the bill, phone companies could charge a fee for that service.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13, and awaits a vote in the full Senate. There is no companion bill in the House.
No other state appears to have such a requirement for cellphone companies. Pam Greenberg, of the National Conference of State Legislators, said South Carolina has proposed similar legislation.
It remains unclear whether the state has the authority to require companies to give access to texts.
Some questioned the need for such a bill, including Republican state Sen. Judy Burges, who voted against it in committee. "Why don't you take a flashlight and go in the closet and read the texts?" she asked.
Lisa Douglas, author of the parenting blog Crazy Adventures in Parenting, said that in her online bill she can only see the phone numbers her daughter sends and receives messages from.
"What if someone is threatening her, or harassing her, and she's too afraid to say anything?" she said.
Paula Goldberg, executive director of PACER Center, a non-profit organization which provides resources for bullying victims, said trust and communication are the best tools against bullying.
"The issue is that parents should have good communication with their children," Goldberg said.
The wireless industry has spoken out against the bill, saying it is impractical.