Friday, January 7, 2011

Parenting Privacy Priveleges

T turned thirteen last March, therefore he is on the cusp of turning fourteen.  The past year I have given him more freedom which didn't encompass more responsibility.  He doesn't receive an allowance and his chores are minimal.  He is responsible for picking up after himself and keeping his room fairly clean. Sometimes he has to take the garbage down the driveway or bring back up the empty can.  Rough Life.

In recapping, becoming a teenager I allowed him the ability to get a Facebook account with the understanding that I had access and must know his password.  We created it together. In 2008 when I was going to Europe, I allowed him to have his own email account so we could communicate.  We created it together.  On December 22, 2010, I added texting to my son and parents cell phone plans.  My son, surprisingly was excited despite me offering texting to him numerous times before.

My parents were in town for Christmas which meant some changes in sleeping arrangements as the guest bedroom now has a twin bunk. I wasn't going to put them on the aerobed on the floor so I gave them my room for the weekend.  T was at his dad's the first night so I slept in his room.  Christmas he was back home and fell asleep on the couch, so I again stayed in his room; however, his computer fan kept running.  T hadn't put his laptop in standby and when I got up to do so, I saw that he had another Facebook account which changed from "Mike White" to "Harry Porter" depending on if I was on the profile page or the home page.  I didn't understand.  Additionally there was an email account open that I had never seen in gmail connected to the FB page.  I was shocked.  I didn't know what to do.  The email account had been created on 12/22 and the FB page looked like it was primarily being used for Mafia Wars and he already had over 100 "friends".

I was shocked and appalled.  I didn't know what to do.  I knew that he created the accounts the one day I was at work (12/22) and he asked if a friend could come over.  He said nothing about what they really did that day.  I stewed all night and was restless.  It didn't help that an hour after the discovery at about 3a.m. T woke to come into his room to go to bed.  I said nothing.  I did nothing.  I laid awake for hours.

On 12/27, still having done nothing, T received a text after midnight.  I asked for his phone and told him he was no longer to have it at night when in bed (10 school night/11 weekend or holiday) or use it as an alarm clock.  He willingly gave me the phone.  I had looked at his phone before that and saw that he was texting after 1a.m. when he was at his dad's.  Earlier that night T had commented on how much the BF's son texted since getting his phone on 12/25.  I checked T's text record and in five days he had texted 580 times.  The BF's son, 1280 in two days!!  The text that night at midnight was from RUR's daughter and I texted him about it the next day.  Come to find out, the next day he told his daughter and her friend (the one T was texting after 1a.m.) about the incident and the friend told T that I was looking at his texts.  T didn't confront me and I didn't confront him but he was mad.  I learned that sharing with a friend of T's parent's is NOT a good idea and is NOT confidential.

T also has a girlfriend that he purchased a necklace for Christmas.  I asked if he was going to see her during the break.  He kept saying "I dunno".  I asked if he wanted to invite her over.  "NO".  I learned from his texting that he planned to meet up with her while I was at work. Long story short, he didn't meet with her and emailed her the day of  that he was "sick" - of course I directly knew nothing about it.

So I had been struggling with the ongoing deception and how much privacy does a teen have?  How much do they deserve?  I had decided to give T back his phone and told him I would not wake him for school or make his lunch.  If he fell asleep at school or his grades suffered, his phone would be gone.  AND he would have chores and responsibilities around the house.  I haven't looked at his phone since I gave it back, until tonight that is.

T doesn't know it, but I've also made a point to not use just his cell phone when he gets home from school when he calls me from his cell.  It helps that with the unlimited texting plan we have 1000 more anytime minutes on the phone and I no longer have to worry about going over! So to be sure he is home, I call the home phone. 

Many of my friends of teens feel that as parents teens should have limited privacy.  Email, FB and phones are free reign to search as we pay the bills to allow them to use them.  Clearly back when I was a teen, we didn't have internet or cell phones.  Times have changed. 

It wasn't until tonight that I finally mentioned anything to T. We had just finished watching The Craigslist Killer that we had DVR'd earlier this week and the after show.  It seemed like a perfect segway into secrecy and hidden email accounts.  I asked T how many email accounts he has. "One."  Even if I wasn't aware of the other one, he has two - his personal yahoo and a school email account. 

Long story short, I asked T to be honest and as he himmed and hawed it was clear he wasn't.  He acknowledged that his friend told him to create an email to play a game.  After pulling teeth he admitted that he had to play the game on FB and therefore had to create another account.  I asked if there was anything else he was hiding.  "No".  I told him that while I didn't have a problem with the account and why he created it, the fact that he didn't inform me and lied about it was the issue.  I told him he had to delete the acounts.  I watched him deactivate which then didn't permanently delete and then he deleted but still has a minimal 14 day window to reactivate his FB account. I now have the email and passwords to verify he hasn't reactivated.  The gmail account was also deleted.  However, the account he told me about was the "Mike White" account.  I had asked repeatedly if there was anything else and if I found out he was lying there would be consequences.  Then I asked about "Harry Porter" and he was like "Oh." and I learned of a third FB account and another gmail account.  Those two, deleted.  Then his personal FB account - we talked about safety as he had many "friends" from just Mafia Wars that have access to his personal information and pictures.  And he deleted Every. Single. "Friend". and he even deleted Mafia Wars on his own.

I told him how disappointed I was that he had lied.  While I appreciated the idea of creating an annonymous account for him to play, the way he went about it was deceitful and deceptive and he continued to lie upon confrontation.  I informed him that I care about him and his safety.  I also told him that if I find out that he lies to me more, no more laptop and no phone.  Period.  He apologized and said he understood.

Then we talked about the phone.  I asked if he was still texting and he said not as much since that night on 12/27 after bowling.  I asked him why.  He said, "I dunno.".  I asked him if it was because he knew I looked at his phone and he said, "You looked at my phone?"  I confirmed what he already knew (from RUR and his peer).  I then picked up his phone and called the account to see that he now has almost 1100 texts. So he still has used it quite a bit.  I also told him that I am his mother and he is a teen.  I pay the bills for his computer and his phone and as long as he is a minor I have the right to look if I deem necessary.  He shook his head in agreement.

Then he got ready for bed. He told me about a conversation with his dad about my car.  T asked about his irritated eye. He talked about retaking a test that he was disappointed he had received a B+ on because he didn't see a question and wasn't able to take after school today.  He told me he saw, 1.5 months later, that he made the Honor Roll.  He told me he loved me as he hugged and kissed me goodnight, at his initiation.

Never once did T notice or mention that I had tears welled up in my eyes.  That I have been internalizing and struggling with parental angst since Christmas Day.  That I hated having him do what I had him do but that it was for a reason.  That I wonder if this is the start of a downward spiral or if this will open one more door of secrecy and deception that he seemed to have closed. 

I don't have any answers.  I don't have a crystal ball.  I can only hope that our discussion and the actions that happened tonight lead to positive communication.  I can only hope.

No comments: