Monday, March 10, 2014

somebody's watching me...

When I was little, my dad was very fond of the phrase, "they don't make 'em like they used to." He used it as a blanket generalization for essentially anything about my childhood that differed from his.

He had heavy blankets for the winter months. I had a space heater. 
They don't make 'em like they used to.

As a teen, he'd pick up the phone to see who was calling. I had caller ID.
They don't make 'em like they used to.

His recreational time was used by going outside to play. I had Nintendo.
They don't make 'em like they used to.

You get the point. I used to laugh at my dad for being so out of touch, for not understanding that times were changing and things couldn't always be the way they once were. I so badly wanted him to grow and change along with the rest of the world. 

Until I became a stepmother. And now I totally get it. 

I understand that the world of technology is getting faster and more advanced every day, and to an extent, it doesn't bother me. After all, I, myself enjoy being able to have my email accessible to me at all hours of the day. I think it's awesome that I can use FaceTime to see one of my best friend's in Dallas. But when it comes to my stepkids...I'm not 100% on board with all the accessibility.

When I was a teenager (which was actually not that long ago), I liked boys. Duh. But in order to tell a boy I liked him, I only had about two options to convey that message.

1) Get a friend to tell him in a very sing-songey voice, "I know someone that liiiiikes you."

2) Tell him on the phone.

3) Tell him in person.

All three of those options required either a voice-to-voice or face-to-face connection by parties involved. True, I guess I could have written him a note, but who had time for that nonsense when "Saved By the Bell" reruns were on? No, back in the late 90's, if you liked a guy, you had to figure out a way to grow a pair of lady balls and tell him. 

Such is no longer the case.

My 13 year old SD has had five boyfriends this year alone. Here are some interesting statistics surrounding these relationships:

  • Each boyfriend has lasted less than 4 days.
  • One of her boyfriends she never spoke to voice to voice or face to face because they went to different schools. 
  • One of the boyfriends she had never even met face to face...ever.
  • All five breakups were at the hands of a text message.

Does this sound fun? Am I old and ridiculous? I mean, how can one expect to learn how to have a relationship with someone when they can't even sit in front of them and have a real conversation? Also...what can she really know about these boys that she's dating if she has never even seen them in person or spoken to them voice to voice? How is she even learning how to have a proper relationship with another sex?

And that's where the problem lies. SD has a cell phone. In our home, we have a rule that her cell phone password must always be known by Hubs. He/we can look at her phone whenever we want. We can look at a text message she sends whenever we want. This isn't because we plan to invade her privacy. It is for her safety. Young kids do not always understand the implications of the things they send at the moment they send them. We want to protect her against pedophiles who pretend they're Katy Perry or Zac Efron. We want to protect her against bullying. We also want to be sure SHE is not bullying. 

Up until recently, everything was fine. We would intermittently check SD's phone to make sure she wasn't calling her friends fat whores or sending topless pictures to SUPERHOTXXX. We also keep her phone in our room at night to be sure she's not up until 3:00 every night texting. All was fine. She submitted her phone to us on our random checks without issue. Sure, she used some curse words occasionally, and even lost a few friends by making some bad decisions, but nothing to worry about. We knew kids have to make mistakes to learn.

Then, a few weeks ago, something changed. SD began to erase all her sent and received texts. She erased all of her photos and videos on a weekly basis. She became extremely protective of her phone and wanted us to stay far away from it.

We've asked SD to please not erase her text messages and photos. Specifically the photos. She argues back that there's nothing to be concerned about. Except that there is. Just last week, a friend of SD's SnapChatted a picture of herself in a bra to her boyfriend. She assumed the pic would be deleted as the app promises. And it was. But not before her boyfriend took a screen shot of the photo and sent it to all of his friends, mortifying the poor girl.

Teenagers don't always have the foresight to understand what kind of trouble and life damaging consequences surround phones and technology. It is for that reason that Hubs and I are considering installing a software on SD's phone that alerts us to every photo, text, SnapChat, etc that she sends or receives. This way, even if she tries to delete something, there's a chance we will still see it. We don't want to monitor everything, because she is a good kid and has a good head on her shoulders. However, how many times have we heard about a child who was being bullied so badly via text that they committed suicide? 

This isn't a decision we are taking lightly. If we do install the software, SD will know. I'm not about to James Bond her phone without telling her. We want her to understand that we're not trying to catch her doing something wrong. We trust her to make good decisions. But she may not be able to see past the nose on her face in some cases - and we have to be there to protect her.

Believe it or not, Hubs and I are pretty open to letting the kids make their own mistakes. After all, we did at that age. But the stakes and consequences in this day and age are different than they once were. That picture of me topless on game day in college? Three people have that photo and I know every one of them. If my SD did something like that now, 3,000 people could have it within seconds, and it could haunt her the rest of her life.

We have constant discussions about these things with the kids. Communication is always open, and it always will be. But like someone once said, "just because you have a umbrella doesn't mean it isn't going to rain." 

What do you think? Would you ever use a software to track your child's phone in an effort to make sure all was kosher?


  1. I would be completely on board with software on my SD (16,14) phones, we do have passwords and do checks but that doesn't show a complete picture IMO. Good luck, not an easy thing to decide as a parent.

    1. Thanks, Gabbie. Nothing has been officially decided yet. I'm all about privacy, but we live in different times than when I was growing up. There are so many creeps out there. I would never use whatever I found on my SD's phone to hold over her head. I mean, she's going to fight with friends, break up with boys, say she hates her parents...all that is fine. It's when she ends up talking to some guy four states away that says he's 15 that worries me. I'd hate to see an unhappy ending. Glad you understand!

  2. I am really glad that you posted this. I have similar concerns surrounding my own SD. Ironically, I just watched the Lifetime movie SEXTING IN SUBURBIA, which shows the events surrounding a teen who did kill herself when a racy photo she sent to boyfriend got mass circulation. It sounds like you and your husband have been open and forthcoming with SD, so I can understand your considerations. While there are many problems solved by technological advancements, many NEW problems have been created. Stepmoms unite--keep me posted.

    1. Thank you, Alex! I haven't seen that Lifetime movie...probably because it would put me in an early grave. Yikes! I'll be sure to post what we decide. Glad we aren't the only people thinking about it. Scary times we live in...