Monday, September 13, 2010

Checking the Teen's Phone

Does your child's privacy extend to their phone usage, even if you are paying for the phone? GETTING GRIEF IN GRANTS PASS, ORE. wrote into Dear Abby:

Like most 16-year-old girls, I have a cell phone. My father pays for it and I'm grateful that he does, even though I live with my mom and he's a two-hour drive away. He has been paying for it for a year and a half.

Every month when I visit him he demands to see my phone. Then he looks through my messages and photos. There's nothing "bad" on my phone, but I feel my personal space is being invaded.
It's not your personal space. He's paying for it, and anything sent by or to someone else is potentially public. It's a broken home and he's not able to be there as much as he should, so this is one way he can check up on what's going on.

What can I do to get my dad to respect my privacy?
Turn 18 and pay for your own phone.

I feel he wants to control my life.
The phone you use is not your life.

I want my own space.
I can understand the sentiment. I was fiercely protective of my privacy and "ownership" of my room probably before I was a teen. There were many reasons for this. I had younger siblings who would meddle with my stuff, "borrow" things from me, etc. I'm a tad (or more) obsessive about things, including a collecting hobby I had, and notes I've written for as long as I can remember. I didn't want any of my pieces or notes accidentally thrown out, or misplaced, etc. But beyond that, I wanted my privacy while I changed (which happened a lot, since I was a swimmer) and I definitely wanted my privacy while I masturbated, especially when I was using print material to aid in that.

But the reality was, my parents owned the home, and the space was only mine on a temporary basis. They could have scoured everything in my room, and they would have been right to do so if I gave them any reason to.

When someone says, "I want my space" in this kind of context, it means they want their space to have sex. The letter writer wants to have sex without her dad finding out about it. Someone who tells a love interest "I want my space" is silently adding ..."to have sex other people" to that statement.

Dear Abby responded:

I'm sure your father means well, but his attempt at "supervision" when you visit him seems heavy-handed.
He's her father. Maybe he has good reason to be "heavy-handed".

The first thing you should do is discuss your feelings with your mother.
Oh yeah, let's pit the parents against each other even more.

Sorry. His phone, his rules.

Back in the stone ages when I was a teen living at home, mobile phones were an expensive rarity and our computers were in a common room. Today, a lot of teens have cameras, smart phones, and other networked computing devices and DVD players. Parents need to be aware of what their teen is viewing and doing with these.

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