Is Michigan’s Eavesdropping Law Too Tough On Parents? One State Rep Thinks So

September 1, 2017

In general, it’s a smart move for parents to place restrictions on their kids’ phone usage. Not only can too much screen time be detrimental to young minds, but cell phones have an average of 25,000 germs on every square inch of surface. Thus, placing limitations on talking, texting, and posting could have a positive impact on a child’s brain and body. But when parents go too far with their protective measures, it could actually land them in trouble. In Michigan, attempts by parents to eavesdrop on their children’s phone conversations can result in a felony conviction that’s punishable by up to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine — but State Representative Peter Lucindo wants to change that.

Lucindo credits an ongoing case in Macomb County for piquing his interest in the legal issue. In that case, the father, who was concerned about his teenaged son, picked up another phone to listen in on his landline conversation. The mother of the other teenager found out about the incident, which eventually resulted in the father being charged with eavesdropping. Interestingly, in Michigan, it’s illegal for a third party to listen in or record a conversation, but it’s legal for one of the original parties to record a conversation they’re having without the other party’s consent.

The law applies only to landlines, rather than cell phones; currently, there’s no legislation that prohibits parents from monitoring their child’s cell phone or social media activities. So for tech-savvy families, the penalties for eavesdropping may be a bit outdated as it is. But Lucindo points out that parents should have free reign to protect their kids, regardless of the method they’re using to communicate.

Lucindo explained in a statement, “I think we have to be strong and be owning up to the fact that we have a responsibility to our children. Not the children ruling the roost. If my child is going to get on the telephone that I’ve paid for, I have every legal right to monitor that phone until that child is 18 years of age — when my legal duty stops. We should stop charging parents for taking parental responsibility and due diligence.”

Earlier this month, Lucindo introduced HB 4891, a bill that would allow parental eavesdropping as an exception to the existing law. The bill will be reviewed by the Legislature before potentially moving on through the system.

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