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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Writing Questions: Invasion of Privacy, When is it Considered Bad Form?

On Thursday, I posted about the Meanest Mom in the World. Yesterday, I posted about how I'm trying to catch up with technology. One of the things I was curious about, was the appeal of IMing. Check out the comments about it.

Today, this leads me to a totally different question. I've wondered about this one for awhile and am now going to put it out there to see what you all think. Put your teenager hat on, your parent hat on, your arguing for the sake of arguing hat on, your how could you hat on, or whatever you want to. I'd really be curious to hear it all, for the sake of research.

Here's the scene:
Mom finds out from reading her sixth grader's IM messages from her cell phone, that her daughter-A, has a boyfriend. A's boyfriend-M, wants A to go over to his house after school during one of the early dismissals. M writes to A, "Nobody else will be home."

Here's the problem:
Mom snooped. Plain and simple. But, her daughter, A, might be going to boyfriend's empty house, doing who know's what.

More on Problem:
When I was growing up, teenagers had diaries, journals, letters or notes that any Mom around the world could be able able to read if they dared to violate their child's trust to find out what was going on.

Today's teen doesn't need a simple lock on their diary anymore. Nowadays, teens have at their fingertips an assortment of technologically savvy tricks to get around Mom and Dad. There are passwords. There are spycams. Secret identities on the web. And more that I haven't mentioned and probably don't know about.

I can only imagine, teens will find more interesting ways to hide secrets from their parents as the technology advances.

Here are the questions:
1. Is this bit of invasion of privacy considered bad form?
2. Why?
3. If not, when is the invasion of privacy considered going over the line?
4. How should Mom deal with A, so the trust isn't completely broken off?
5. What will A do to hide things from Mom in the future?

Put your teenager hat on, your parent hat on, your arguing for the sake of arguing hat on, your how could you hat on, or whatever you want to. I'd really be curious to hear it all, for the sake of research. (Edited to add: I have a scene in a manuscript I've had difficulty trying to figure out the outcome. So I'd so appreciate your help on this one.) No judgements will be made here. All I ask is to keep this conversation respectful. Thank you!

17 comments:

Sara said...

Ah, but what did A text back to M? Yes or no? That's where you'll really learn whether you need to step in. Plus, it's really hard to judge from a text message what a teenager is actually going to do. She may say one thing, just to look cool with the idea, and then not follow through with meeting him because she's uncomfortable.

Honestly, I would just ask her what she's doing on the early dismissal day. If she lies, then you have a problem. But maybe she'll tell you that M invited her over. Then you can ask: who will be home?

If she doesn't tell you, then you can bring up the general subject of where she's allowed to be when, and offer to be her backup if she has any concerns. Truly, my kids often used Mean Mom as their excuse for not doing things.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably in the minority here, but I think it's okay for Mom to intervene. I like what Sara suggests.

AMY S. said...

I so feel your fear and discomfort, here, hip mama. Aiiiii, Yiiiii, Yiiii.

If it were me: I'd get in the car with my girl, and drive somewhere (to make the conversation easier on both of us, driving makes eye contact impossible). And then I'd be super honest. I snooped. Which I'm not proud of. And I'm sorry about violating your privacy. I'd tell her exactly what I read. And say I'm pretty worried and kinda scared. So--tell me about this guy. Have you kissed? How'd that feel? Etc.

Good luck.

Little Willow said...

Sara and I are on the exact same wavelength:

First of all, her response to the text message is unknown, so don't jump to conclusions, don't make assumptions.

Then, simply asking her what she plans on doing that day is a gentle opener (nothing harsh, no judgments, no assumptions, no accusing her of something that hasn't happened yet, that may not happen at all) and it is a true and honest question.

HipWriterMama said...

Sara,
Thanks for that view. My kids are still young, so I haven't experienced any of this yet. I've only heard some interesting stories from friends. Which gave me this idea for a scene in a manuscript.

I haven't decided how A will answer back, and have two different versions to figure out which will be more realistic.

Thank you!
----

Anonymous,
Thank you.
----

Amy,
That's a cool approach. Find a way to make an uncomfortable situation, comfortable. The no eye contact thing, might make things more palatable. Thanks for this suggestion!
----

LW,
This is good. Thank you!

Sara said...

Oh, we're torturing a FICTIONAL mom! I should've been much harder on her, then. :)

Although I do stand by my basic point. The mom could easily assume that her daughter's going to follow through with the meeting when she's not, and then the daughter gets angry about the snooping, and won't trust her mom because she thinks her mom doesn't trust her. Maybe she even uses fake IM's to mislead her. (how evil!)

But be as mean as you have to! Ratchet up that conflict! :)

Anonymous said...

Oohh! This sounds like a very pivotal scene. Yes, it is total invasion of privacy. Mom should never have looked at the IM to begin with.

If I were A, I'd probably do what Sara suggested, with the fake IM's. I don't have a cell phone, but isn't there a way to put a password on retrieving those messages? She could also have her friends covering for her, so she could sneak out.

Little Willow said...

You are welcome. You have email!

HipWriterMama said...

Sara,
Fake IM's! Awesome idea! Conflict is very key here, though that is exactly why I have to ask for the input. I don't know all the technology, nor all the teenage tricks, so this is very helpful.

Thank you!
----

Anonymous,
I'll have to ask if there is a way to put a password on the IM's.

I really appreciate your ideas!
---

LW,
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to know what the right thing to do as a parent. I know for me, I want my children to know I trust them. On the other hand, children grow up so much faster these days and are exposed to more dangerous things when they don't have the maturity to handle it.

And now you've brought up some other things I haven't even thought about, it just about freaks me out.

How am I going to be able to know my kids are safe unless I "snoop" on them? I don't think it makes me a bad mother, just one who takes precautionary measures.

The problem is it will up the ante for my children to try to sneak around me even more, so I'm not sure if there is a win-win situation here.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I reviewed a great book called Logged On and Tuned Out. It would be great research for you, as well as great info for parents of tweens and teens.

The author Vicki Courtney maintains that until children have proven that they can use technology responsibly that it's actually just a part of parenting to be sure that they are. She also talks about how we can actually learn a lot about them by reading their (and their friends) myspace or facebook pages and monitoring IMs (there is software that does this). Anyway, she goes into a lot of detail about the hows and whys, and I agree with her. Her kids know that she monitors, and she only steps in when she thinks it's of utmost importance.

I would think that this situation warranted stepping in--especially if it's breaking a pre-established rule. In that case, the mom has grounds.

My daughter is only nine, but I know all of this is coming--too soon!

HipWriterMama said...

Anonymous,
I hear you. Parents do have quite the dilemma, don't we?
----

Jennifer,
Thank you so much for recommending the book! I just checked read through your recommendation, and it sound like the perfect research for me. Thank you!

My eldest is nine, too, so it'll be nice to be prepared ahead of time. Though I'm sure we'll be dealing with something else entirely by the time our kids are teens.

Thanks again!

Sarah Amick said...

I have to say that when I was much older than a sixth grader my mother snooped and found out things about me and I was mortified. I was so angry, and I didn't trust her afterward, but I eventually needed her, she was my mother.
I don't think that having a conversation with me would have stopped the situation, but snooping did. I had to make changes because otherwise more severe consequences were going to happen for me.
It was a turning point for me.

Zee said...

Well,
I definitely think Mom stepped over a boundary line. Said teen should have the right to talk to friends without fear of snooping. This is like reading daughter's diary. It's a no no UNLESS there is an understanding at the beginning that Mom will be checking in occasionally, which I know some parents do. Like you can see what your teen is viewing on the internet by viewing history.

You have to try and put trust in your kids and give them the benefit of the doubt. I am going to post this on our library teen blog. I would like to hear what teens have to say about this.

Katy said...

This is a thorny issue. I like Zee's suggestion that parents create an understanding early on in their children's teen years that they will be checking in on their children's activities. This way, kids will know that mom and dad are keeping tabs on them.

However, even if this understanding has been made, it is a parent's JOB to keep track of where their children are and what they are doing and with whom they are doing it. It is NOT a parent's job to try to be their teen's best friend, or to turn the other way when a teen might be engaging in risky behavior.

That being said, I think it's up to the parent to be honest about the snooping if the issue is something serious. I personally had an experience where my dad snooped in my journal, found something out and confronted me about it -- he was totally honest with me. It created some problems for me at the time, but I know he did it only because he cared about me.

The thing is that a teen needs to earn his or her parents' trust. Teens are notorious for having poor judgment and critical thinking skills -- it's even been shown in studies that teens' brains aren't fully developed in these areas. They're going to do stupid things and engage in risky behaviors as they're trying to establish their independence from their parents. Either a parent will have been open and honest about keeping tabs, or she is going to snoop. I think in the end, protecting the teen from the potentially bad situation is more important than how the situation was discovered. It's up to the parent after the discovery to be honest with the teen about the breach of trust and make a decision on how to communicate from there.

HipWriterMama said...

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful answers. It is much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a senior in high school and I have an invasive mother. I have caught her on my brothers computer(now a freshman in college) and I know she has been on my computer too, she leaves traces that she has been there.

(You all are not as slick as you like to think)

anyway the bottom line is that it is completly offensive that my mother doesn't trust me. I'm not a bad kid and I make really good grades (straight A's last semester) It hurts me, and it hurts my relationship with my mom because now I dont trust her. If you value your relationship, you have to learn to trust your children, and know that if you raised them right, they will make the right decisions.