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To Snoop or Not to Snoop

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The hip thing among my daughter's friends is "password journals," the high-tech version of the lock-and-key diaries of yesteryear. Hers is locked down with some sort of voice-recognition software to keep out prying eyes.

Right now, it's all good. She's too young to have any real secrets, and I swear that she's written more in that journal than she's written anywhere else, ever. But the sudden fascination with secrecy already has me thinking about how I'll handle it when she really is trying to hide stuff from us.

The first step has been to discourage the keeping of secrets from the family in the first place. This is the standard-issue advice for kids this age, and it's as much for her protection as for my curiosity as a parent: if -- God forbid -- something was to happen to her, I don't want shame or fear to ever keep her from opening up.

But getting beyond that is where it gets dicey for me. I have no trouble putting in place the usual computer protections (which you all have discussed in great depth before), such as putting the computer in a common area and using filtering software or close monitoring of web browsing history to make sure she's not wandering off in cyberspace.

But do I really want a backdoor into her e-mail? Right now, she's too young to have her own account (thanks to the magic of Gmail, she does have her own "address," but it's just a variation of mine and gets dumped into my inbox), but that will change at some point. Once she is on e-mail, independently, do you just let her go and hope for the best? And what about cellphones, text messages and IMs: Is it ever OK to take a peek at what's going on there?

Right now, it feels like the benefits of snooping are far outweighed by the damage it'll do to parent-child trust, and the reality is that she'll hit an age (12? 14? 16?) when -- no matter how invasive I decide to be -- she can hide large chunks of her life if she so chooses. My goal is to give her as few incentives as possible to go into that protective cocoon of the teenager, and the best way of doing that is to be open, engaged and non-judgmental about her life.

It's easy to be that flip when you're thinking about an elementary school child. I'm sure it's much more tricky when you're talking about a kid in the throes of adolescence. So I'm curious for the take of those of you who are in the thick of the teenage years: How easy is it to build that kind of trust and what kind of privacy-invading temptations are you faced with?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  May 14, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Teens , Tweens
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Comments


I've seen the pitfalls of not being "privacy invading" firsthand with a close family situation. Let's just say that once the privacy was invaded with software that tracked all internet activities, to include FB and other social websites, the real story was not pretty for the teenager involved. Thankfully this family member did what they did, otherwise our family would be facing a lifetime of sadness and regret.

I hate to sound like an old coot, but today's teenagers (and even tweeners) are facing pressures and drugs that we did not experience growing up. It's nice to say you "trust your child" but given the rapid technology and increased pressures, "invading privacy" will give you peace of mind or help you deal with situations you did not know were going on.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 14, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Since when do you have to be a certain age to open an email account?

Posted by: Soguns1 | May 14, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

"Since when do you have to be a certain age to open an email account?"

Since October 1998. See COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act,15 U.S.C. § 6501–6506).

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

If your kid is under 18 and is living under your roof you have every right to know what they are doing. Grow a spine and be a parent, not a disinterested bystander, for Pete's sake.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 14, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The first thing you realize is that you are not your children's friend, you are their parent, and your job is to safely raise a capable and productive member of society, NOT be included in all of their activities.

The second thing you realize is that every child is different and what works for your oldest is essentially guaranteed to fail to work on your youngest.

Realizing that, there are a few general rules:

a - on-line safety has mostly been discussed. Computers only in common rooms. I have the right and the technical ability to monitor everything you do on line. Don't make me do it.

b - You should always come to your parents if you're in trouble. We're the ones who love you unconditionally and have your best interests at heart, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. We can't always make the problems go away, but we'll work through them the best way we know how.

c - You want respect and trust, you have to EARN it. The more you give us reason to trust you, the more we'll trust you. The more you give us reason to NOT trust you, the less we'll trust you. If you try to hide the fact that you're never doing homework, we'll talk to your teacher on a regular basis and check your homework every night. If you show us that you're doing your homework to the best of your ability every night, we won't nag you about it all.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's entirely true that kids today are faced with more pressures and drugs and such. I'm in my 30s and my teenage years were by no means pressure-free. I think the difference now is with the Internet, media, etc. we are much more aware of what kids are doing. All the online tools available make it that much easier to spy, too.

That said, my kids are still young, but as a former teenager, I say while it's good to know what your kids are doing, sneaky spying just because you can is wrong. I'd make it clear that online activities are subject to rules of the house (and review) while a child is living at home. But a kid's journal? Off-limits, in my book, unless there is some truly overwhelming reason to think something is wrong (drug abuse, physical abuse, etc.). I remember my Mom reading through some of my private stuff when I was in college (for no reason other than nosiness) and I felt very violated.

Posted by: vtma | May 14, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Thank goodness, DD isn't old enough for this to be an issue yet because it scares me silly. I know I am not her friend. I am her mother but I am still worried about where to draw the line. I do know from personal experience that the more parents' snoop, the more kids will try to hide things.

Posted by: ishgebibble | May 14, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I remember my now-MIL finding her youngest son's diary when she was packing him up to move out after he transferred to a different school. My DH and I were about 23 at the time, so he was around 20. Anyway, she read his diary and was shocked (shocked!) to find out he'd lost his virginity at 15. DH and I found this hilarious, and somewhat disturbing. When she asked us why we were laughing, we told her:

1. You're seriously shocked at this? DH has been telling you for years that boy had the wool pulled over your eyes.

2. But seriously, you get what you deserve when you read something that is private. You had all the "warning signs" he was active without needing to read the play-by-play. That's just wrong.

3. We told you those condom wrappers in your Suburban weren't ours.

Heh.

Until my son is in college, he can expect to be checked up on regularly. How often that happens is up to him, and how he behaves, like ArmyBrat said.

Posted by: Mazarin | May 14, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

mazarin: serves him right. Why wasn't HE doing the packing his own self?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat - i'm your biggest fan today. well said.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 14, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's entirely true that kids today are faced with more pressures and drugs and such. I'm in my 30s and my teenage years were by no means pressure-free. I think the difference now is with the Internet, media, etc. we are much more aware of what kids are doing. All the online tools available make it that much easier to spy, too.

i agree with this 100% up until i went to college there was no privacy for anyone in my parents household who didn't pay a bill. my purse was always checked with the comment oh, i thought that was my purse, drawers were checked with the comment, i was looking for my underwear (even though mom wore grannies!). there was even the threat of removing the bedroom door because there were NO closed doors in my home. looking back it probably kept me from doing the worst possible thing. oh and dad LOVED to check pockets when doing laundry! that was how he got his money back! LOL

Posted by: nall92 | May 14, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"I remember my now-MIL finding her youngest son's diary when she was packing him up to move out after he transferred to a different school...."

On a side note not really related to today's topic - at some point you really OUGHT to purge those old journals. Several years ago my aunt (my father's sister) died. Her husband had died a few years earlier and they had no kids, so us "closest living relatives" - nieces and nephews - had to go through her house in preparation for selling it. Yep - found all of her old journals and diaries from her teenaged days in the '30s and '40s. Caused a big fight between those who wanted to burn 'em unread in respect of her privacy, and those who wanted to read 'em to learn every juicy detail about old Auntie. (The "burn" faction won but just barely.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

A friend of mine discovered an old journal her grandmother had written as a young woman -- the grandmother who eloped with a much older man! It gives her precious insight into her family's history and a special connection to this woman, who of course she only knew as an old woman. So I'd hesitate before burning family history like that.
As for my kids (tweens), I keep the computer in the living room so I can keep tabs but I respect their private journals though I'll confess when they leave something open, I've been known to surreptiously give it a glance. So far no sign that they're keeping secrets from me aside from the names of their current crushes.

Posted by: annenh | May 14, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

"If your kid is under 18 and is living under your roof you have every right to know what they are doing."

No you don't! For example, my underage teenage daughters can obtain a perscription for birth control from the doctor on my health insurance plan without my knowledge or consent. Check your state laws at what age your child's medical history is protected under privacy acts.

My personal opinion on this is that unless an extreme condition exists that requires immediate action, snooping into your kid's diary/email or searching their rooms to find out information on their private life is disfunctional parenting. I believe that teenagers, in their quest to become independent and work to solve problems on their own deserve areas of privacy off limits to their parents. Also, my kids know that they can share any personal information about themselves with me and I won't tell their mother. Likewise they can go to their mother and discuss anything they want without my knowledge. There are some things that I don't need to know, and for that matter, I don't even *want* to know.

Trust is a 2-way street. Parents have to earn it too if they want their relationship with their kids built on truth. Otherwise, expect little more than secrets and lies.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 14, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

What Army Brat said, especially the part about earning trust!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | May 14, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

annen: interesting. I just talk with my grandmother, who tells me all sorts of juicy details, and she doesn't know who I am.
As in she told me what I think to be the truth (my great aunt had an affair w a married man and *that's* where my cousin came from, not the 'marriage and divorce' story everyone had been telling us for years).

I agree with you tho - definitely want to know the details of our family history. I don't necessarily want to destroy someone's privacy, but a lot of it is interesting and ya know, hopefully it would be only adults reading.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Crimes are committed when these components are present-opportunity, motive,secrecy.
Give your child these tools and they will get in trouble. Privacy among kids is non existent. no locked doors, no private accounts,no private passwords, no trust sorry, get over it. When you remove the means to get in trouble the chance of trouble goes way down. When you become an adult you get all those goodies.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"My personal opinion on this is that unless an extreme condition exists that requires immediate action, snooping into your kid's diary/email or searching their rooms to find out information on their private life is disfunctional parenting."

Yet when the police show up and they find 3 m-16s, a unabomber handkit and a list of victims, the parents always say I had no idea he had all that. He had the means and they were given to him by spineless clueless parents.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm on my daughter's facebook, and some of her friends have added me as well. She's 15, so this is her major form of communication, other than her cell phone (which we pay the bill for and can track her calls and texts). I hear all about the who is crushing on who, who is hooking up with who, etc. from her and from her friends - but I've established a level of trust with them all. My rule is, same as when I was teaching Sunday school, that as long as I don't feel they are in physical or emotional jeopardy (no abuse, no unsafe activities, including unsafe sex, etc) I will keep their confidences unless their parents ask me a direct question. Of course, with DD there is also the caveat that I will share most of it with my partner, excluding anything ABOUT my partner that she needs to talk to me about.

It's worked out well so far - I've helped talk a couple of girls out of unsafe sex, and have been a good shoulder to cry on for several teens with parent and dating problems. Nothing that I've had to report yet, either - no one has *done* any of the unsafe things they were contemplating, or even come close.

It's a balancing act, to be sure, but one that I really like to have in my life. I'm closer to DD than anyone else that's an adult in her life, and so I'm also a good influence for things like body image issues (athletic kid, on the thin side, and worried about her weight!) and planning for life ahead (college, etc). Doesn't hurt that of her four parents (two birth, two step) that I'm the youngest, and therefore the most 'hip' of the four of us, just because I graduated from high school after DD was born. :-)

Posted by: RebeccaMinAR | May 14, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

fr pwaa:

>... Privacy among kids is non existent. no locked doors, no private accounts,no private passwords, no trust sorry, get over it...

THAT little attitude is the fastest way to destroy a kid's trust in adults. Get over it. Treat YOUR kid the way YOU want to be treated. It ain't rocket science.

Posted by: Alex511 | May 14, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I have to disagree Wacky, having grasp of your kid's activities via their truthfulness will hold up as long as things aren't really bad. Kids get in over their heads all the time - whether it be sex, drugs, bad grades, whatever - and at some point they may not come to you. If you have an inclination that something is up (activity) that could do damage to your child, and you wait for them to come to you to fess up rather than do some investigating, your child will pay the price in the long run.I agree with AB's earning respect, which I think ties in here.

Lastly about today's pressures vs yesteryear: I think children are much more susceptible today than in previous generations because of culture changes, media and technology combined. I don't see it changing for the better, so parental relationships and information on activities is paramount now. Trust but verify is my mantra.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 14, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

army brat, i really like what you said.


you know, several months ago there was a debate on this blog on keeping kids busy with after school activities so they wouldn't have the time or energy to get into trouble. i don't remember the name of the poster but somebody was very vehement against keeping kids busy because "if we brought them up right there wouldn't be an issue."

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I think some snooping is OK. Like rummaging around in your kid's room when they're out. You can find out a lot under the excuse of gathering up the laundry.

One useful thing that my son's shrink suggested to me was: if you snoop and find things out -- don't disclose them to your child.

If they think you are snooping they won't quit whatever they are doing, they'll just learn to hide it better. That makes it harder for you to keep tabs on them.

So go ahead and snoop, and modify your rules/regs accordingly, but keep the motivation for your adjustments to yourself. Activities that turn out to be bogus covers for things you don't want your kid doing can be discouraged or prohibited. Friends you don't think are suitable can be discouraged. Relationships gone amuck are a good opportunity to offer guidance as to the maintaining of friends and a social network.

Evey family will have some set of things that are positvely not acceptable and coming down hard on evidence of those is unavoidable. But below that level of misbehavior I think it's worthwhile to monitor and let your kid suffer the consquences of their actions.

Posted by: RedBird27 | May 14, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Weasel: Your kid doesn't live in my house. If I pay the mortage, food, and all other bills, my kid lives by my rules. They can leave if they don't like it. Furthermore, if your underage daughter is sneaking around having sex and getting BC pills without your knowledge, you have more problems that your current cranial/rectal inversion problem.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 14, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

pwaa's comments are somewhat over the top, for any number of reasons. But I'll look at the one I consider most relevant - you don't suddenly give trust and responsibility to a person when turns 18 or 21 or moves out of your house. He can't handle it.

It has to come gradually. You get this much privacy and trust. Grow, and show me you deserve more, and I'll give you more. Show me you don't deserve that much and I'll throttle back.

That way, when this person becomes an "adult" under whatever definition you choose, that adult is now ready to handle all the 'goodies' (to use pwaa's term) now available.

When a person has gone through life with zero privacy, zero trust, and zero respect and now suddenly said person at 18 has all of these things, there's no way to use them properly - the person can't cope. (Not to mention that in the teens the child will become very resentful and bitter about the lack of growth and will WANT to get the hades out of there as quickly as possible.)

When I was teaching at the Air Force Academy we were presented results of a study that showed that service academy graduates were socially 3-5 years behind their peer group - they didn't know how to handle relationships outside of their immediate families and the academy, because they'd never been exposed to them. So they Academy strengthened a program called "Topping Up" whereby cadets got more and more freedom as they got closer to graduation, just so they could get used to being in the "real world." It's a real concern.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I should clarify. Blind trust, trust based on teenage whinyness, no way. Trust can be earned but with the threat of inspection at anytime. But the idea that the parent can't inspect what you are doing? uh uh

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"When a person has gone through life with zero privacy, zero trust, and zero respect and now suddenly said person at 18 has all of these things, there's no way to use them properly - the person can't cope."

You misinterpret what I said. There is no unconditional trust, no off limits ultimately. I reserve the right to snoop whenever I feel like it. Don't give me cause and it probably won't happen, but it could and you better be prepared. Guess what people don't get into trouble when they don't have the means to do so.If I go out of town and you are alone at the house, I am calling my neighbor to keep an eye out and I am telling you that info too. Went to a lot of parties at other kids houses whose parents were either naive, spineless or clueless about what was going on.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't give me cause and it probably won't happen, but it could and you better be prepared.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Sounds just like the parents of the nymphos & messed up druggies in my high school.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 14, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

nymphos. ha!

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 14, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

armybrat, i think that the topping off program shows a lot of sense. i remember in college the kids who went crazy the most were the ones who lived in very restrictive homes. the ones who really went wild their freshman year were the ones who really couldn't handle being an adult because they weren't used to being treated like one.

baltimore11, your comment signifies a real problem that some people have with teenagers having sex. wacky's daughter is taking care of herself with making sure she has some kind of contraception. why is that horrible? what would you do if you found out your daughter were sexually active? watch her 24/7? throw her out? seriously, what would you do?

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"Sounds just like the parents of the nymphos & messed up druggies in my high school."


Your friends in other words?

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"baltimore11, your comment signifies a real problem that some people have with teenagers having sex. wacky's daughter is taking care of herself with making sure she has some kind of contraception. why is that horrible?"

Great while she is at it why not invite the boy over to have sex with her daughter in her home. No? why is that so horrible? blah blah Oh I see it's ok in a car etc but not at home. That's very logical... do it but somewhere else huh?

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

it's better than putting your head in the sand and ending up with a pregnant teenager. i'm with Wacky on this one.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 14, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I came to a screeching halt when I read that a parent could be "non-judgmental" towards their child's life. I'm stuck on that and can't get past it. It has clouded my opinion of the author in everything he is saying.

I've agreed with some of these comments (army) and others have appalled me (e.g., earning your kids' trust the way they need to earn ours).

it seems like there is a fundamental difference on the role of a parent. In my eyes, it isn't to be a friend. It isn't to be an enabler. and it isn't to be a safety net to clean up the mess from whatever disaster your kids get involved in.

Our job is to train these kids to do the right thing, show them what the right thing is, and to instill a values system with them so that they can go out into the world and do the right thing. We have every right to hold on to them tightly until they are 18 and then let them off the leash. And parents have the right to let them off the leash before that. It's silly for us here to argue whether that is 12 or 14 or 16. The wise parent will let them off the leash slowly, giving them more freedom and responsibilities as they prove they can handle them.

so, when my oldest gets to use the internet by herself (she's 12 now and has an email account but does not use the computer without me or my wife with her), I will be sure to install a keystroke tracking program to see where she goes. As time goes by, I will check it less and less, but for starters, I will be all over her.

For cell phones, I will put her on a family plan and check the log of all ingoing and outgoing calls. I will start with a phone that does not have a camera, and will disable both the internet and texting capabilities. Show me you can handle it responsibly and perhaps that will change.

but, "non-judgemental"? not on your life. at least not before they turn 18.

Posted by: DreamOutLoud | May 14, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey, wait a minute now. The example that I used about my daughters having the capability to get a BC prescription without my knowledge wasn't to say that that's what's going on in the Whacky household, which BTW, isn't happening...

I was just pointing out to those parents who think they have the right to know every detail about their child's personal life because they pay the mortgage and health insurance are wrong, legally speaking.

In other words, your child's privacy, beginning at an age determined by the state, is protected by law.

And no parent is above the law. The control freaks will just have to deal with it.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 14, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

so baltimore &pwaa, you still haven't really answered the question. you've made fun of it & mocked but you avoided answering it which to me shows exactly how uncomfortable people are with the idea of their daughter (but not their son) being sexually active.

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I was going to clarify that for you Wacky, and he is right, public schools can arrange for your underage daughter to seek an abortion in some states.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 14, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

ok, let's talk about what you do when you find something you don't like. if you've been like army brat, hopefully, you can nip it before it gets too big whether it's sex or drugs or criminal behavior.
how do you stop teenagers from doing the things that you don't want them to do? total lockdown? throw them out? somewhere in the middle?

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"how do you stop teenagers from doing the things that you don't want them to do? total lockdown? throw them out? somewhere in the middle?"

Depends on what it is and what you think the cause is.

Doing bad things on the computer? Take the computer away; you can only use computers for homework under direct supervision.

Two of your friends busted for smoking marijuana? Banned from associating with them.

A good friend of mine had his son arrested for smoking grass. I'm serious; he couldn't find anything else that worked so he narc'ed on his own kid. Then he transferred the kid to a very tightly-controlled private school.

When my brother was concerned that his daughter was drinking, using drugs and having sex, he moved to another school district to get her away from the crowd she was hanging around. It was the only thing he could think of that he thought would work (it did).

I can't ever imagine a scenario where "kick him out" would be the right answer, if this is a person under 18.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"so baltimore &pwaa, you still haven't really answered the question. you've made fun of it & mocked but you avoided answering it which to me shows exactly how uncomfortable people are with the idea of their daughter (but not their son) being sexually active."


Yes, i would be concerned if my daughter was sleeping around. I think that instead of the big give up (which is what i believe you accepted) i would try to let her know the consequences of that behavior. If ALL else failed, then i would have to consider putting her on birth control, but i don't feel it is a harmless right of passage. I would prefer that she have a good head on her shoulders as her first line of defense against getting pregnant.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm somewhat of a snoop - especially with certain issues surrounding my daughter's tendency to procrastinate on things like college applications, job applications, etc. She's almost 18, ready to graduate high school and she has her first boyfriend. A month or so ago, my snooping led me to realize that my daughter and her beau were starting to move along from just kissing to other things. So I waited a couple of days and then sat her down for the birth control talk as in "when you think you are mature enough for sexual activity, make an appointment with a doctor and we'll go take care of it together." She did, we went and now I realize that she's mature enough to be allowed her privacy. Besides, it kind of freaked me out.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | May 14, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

dream out loud: well, you know, you can go around *not* earning the kid's trust, but, um, that's when they will go to other people with things rather than you. And you'd rather them come to you, right? I mean, who woulda thunk, but my mom helped my sister's friend outta many hazards. Weird, but true...and i would NEVER have gone to MY mom for any of those situations. Ever. But as an adult, I heard she helped this other woman out...boy was *I* ever shocked. But seeing the friend's mom, well, the friend wouldn't ever go to her with anything.

Parents need to have some sort of odd power in being able to be the authority figure, but also somehow convey how they will be there for their kids. No, not non judgementally, cause seriously, judgement comes in there, but maybe help the kid out first, and save the lecture? Cause 99% of the time, in a really bad situation, they will have learned their lesson without you saying anything.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine in high school's mom didn't like one of the friends we hung out with. Seriously - she banned her daughter from seeing said friend. Made NO difference at all. So she didn't call said friend as much (she had her own phone line, um, she could call and have people call and mom had no say in that) and we'd make plans, ensuring that said friend wouldn't show up at doorstep of other friend's house, so mom wouldn't see her.
'banning' kids from seeing other kids, really doesn't help. There's school, and we had cars by this time, and could go wherever we wanted. It was very strange behavior on friend's mom's part, she wasn't usually that silly. The only thing that works is starting when they are very very young and talking to the kids...not just hoping for the best. By the time they are 16, or even younger, well, kids will figure out a way to do what they want (like my sister who dated the 'bad' boyfriend for quite some time after he was 'banned.').

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I don't have daughters but darn straight I don't want them sleeping around at a young age. wow.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

er, i meant, don't want my sons...etc...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

i don't feel it's a harmless right of passage. you're misunderstanding what i'm saying. you would *try* to let her know the consequences of her behavior & then you would get her birth control???? in between the time you're trying to get her to stop & you get her on birth control you better hope that she doesn't get pregnant. how do you plan on stopping her besides *trying*? what are the consequences of her behavior besides getting pregnant?

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"'banning' kids from seeing other kids, really doesn't help."

Depends. My kids don't have their own cars; they have access to our cars when we deem appropriate and we can pull that. We also have access to the cell records; since they're on-line it takes about 10 seconds to check to see if they're calling to/from or texting to/from a "banned" number. Yeah, they can see the kid at school but...

Seriously, though, "banning" involves sitting down with my kid and explaining that these are the consequences of being caught with grass; "Jess" and "Cindy" have already been caught once so they're under heightened scrutiny; I don't want you associating with those kids for these reasons.

Then we explain what that means.

Then we explain the consequences of us catching them associating with the "ban- ees". You will lose your driving privileges; you will take the cheese wagon to/from school; I will drive you to/from work; you will no longer drive yourself to the mall/movies with friends.

And it all comes down to "trust". I hope my kid's mature enough to follow my rules but if she's not then she knows the consequences.

(And oh by the way I talk a LOT to parents of her friends so we try to all stay in sync.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | May 14, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Quirk2: Teenagers do not know the difference between sex and love. (Most adults don't know, either.) To teenagers sex is peer pressure, experimentation, curiosity, rebellion -- a lot of things, but it is not love. If you don't want your daughter to be the subject of a lot of dirty talk around school and the community, you keep an eye on her and her associates. Unless she has the maturity to handle herself and a relationship, she's no more than a round-heels. If she's underage and sexually active you've got a problem on your hands, especially if she's sneaking around with it. Further, kicking them out and giving them the option to leave are two things as well. They have the option of following my rules and staying, or breaking the rules and getting kicked out. It's their choice. You have to make the punishment so odious they won't think of breaking the rules.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 14, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"If she's underage and sexually active you've got a problem on your hands"

does the peanut gallery have an estimate of how many kids under 18 are sexually active? 50% 40%

i really have no idea, but i bet my estimates are on the low side.

so if your kids are underage, odds are that THEY ARE HAVING SEX.

but what exactly is the big deal if they are?? kids have been fumbling around having awkward sex for a long time. I'm not going to tell them it's ok, but i'm going to be a realist about it and hopefully, just hopefully they'll be safe about it and honest with me.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 14, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

altmom, what do you call *a young age*. yeah, i don't want my son having sex at 13/14/15. is 17 old enough? how about 20? when are they old enough for something beyond kissing on the lips?


this whole conversation is kinda icky to me because my son isn't quite 9 yet. i still have to think about what behavior i want from him. certainly, if he gets a high school sweetheart that is different from a series of casual encounters. actually, i'm hoping that my son takes after me & is a late bloomer. i'm hoping that won't be interested in the opposite sex until his late teens.

Posted by: quark2 | May 14, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Army: this was before people were texting, before cell phones, etc. Some people had their own cars and some did not - but it was easy to call one person and then another without having friend actually call 'banned' friend. There was no way for mom to always know what we were doing and who we were with unless she followed child everywhere.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

quark: i don't know - but I'm hoping they are out of high school. how's that? My oldest is 7.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"They have the option of following my rules and staying, or breaking the rules and getting kicked out. It's their choice. You have to make the punishment so odious they won't think of breaking the rules."

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 14, 2009 4:02 PM

And what do you do when the kid breaks the rules, anyway? Are you seriously going to kick her out of the house at 16?

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | May 14, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

They have the option of following my rules and staying, or breaking the rules and getting kicked out. It's their choice. You have to make the punishment so odious they won't think of breaking the rules.


the problem with this is that it is like nuclear war, once the decision is made, you can't go back and you can't bluff. The results of doing it are so destructive and then you have the utter lack of credibility if you back down makes it too dicey IMO.

Posted by: pwaa | May 14, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Yep. I was one of those overly-restricted teens. Went to college, living in the dorms, and you name a stupid thing an 18-y-o *kid* can think of to do - I probably did it!

Took me two quarters to figure out I was going to flunk out by the end of my freshman year, so I dropped out and went back to my parents house. I was there for another two years, still overly restricted, and finally, finally left in a big storming fight the day before my fiather would have thrown me out.

So, I moved in briefly with my boyfriend and his family. Then we moved out of state and got a place together. Eventually, we both decided to join the military (Air Force) and we got married so we could get a "join spouse" assignment to the same base. The marriage lasted about three years.

Kids need to spread their wings and learn from making some mistakes, while they're still in their parents' care and have a safety net. Having to figure it all out after turning 18 means make a lot more dumb mistakes, and taking worse consequences without anyone to help prevent the mistakes, or failing that, minimize the consequences.

Posted by: SueMc | May 14, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

SueMc: I'm with you. I saw so many kids in college who seemed to be 'blowing' their chances. That was not going to happen to me.
My parents were way on the other spectrum, kinda loose, and I had nothing to 'rebel' against, as the youngest (my parents weren't really talking to each other when I was in high school, so I was the least of their problem, really - oh, they WERE living in the same house). My goal was definitely to NEVER have to live at home again...to get out of there.
Parents were paying for college, and I had two older sisters, so I was determined to get an education and a job. I didn't really understand those kids who were just drinking all the time and not going to class...I mean, I did my share of drinking, but it never interfered with academics.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 14, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

AB brought up another important point, know the parents of your kid's friends. Build that network and most of the time you have people to go to in a "situation". Of course there will always be parents that are of the "not my kid, you must be mistaken" mentality, but they learn the hard way eventually.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 14, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

altmom, you're right about the age. i would snoop or at least keep my eyes open. when my son gets to middle school if i thought my son were engaging in oral sex, which does happen at the middle school level, i would come down a lot harder on him than if he were 17/18 years old. i would also be perhaps less concerned he were involved in a relationship with 1 girl instead of a series of girls.

the problem with sex as opposed to drug use is that the sex drive is hard wired in our brains. once that box is opened it's very hard to stop it. there is a phrase that people have now to discribe somebody who was sexually active but has decided to stop; revirgin.

Posted by: quark2 | May 15, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

"I was just pointing out to those parents who think they have the right to know every detail about their child's personal life because they pay the mortgage and health insurance are wrong, legally speaking.

In other words, your child's privacy, beginning at an age determined by the state, is protected by law."

The State can eat my shorts. As a father, I have a human right, and a moral obligation, to know the status of my child's health. It doesn't matter if he's 6 or 16. Laws that restrict this parental right are wrong and should be overturned.

My and my wife's parental rights and obligations are not based primarily on the fact that we pay the mortgage or the health care bill, but on the fact that we are the child's parents. We decide what's best for our children, not the faceless State or some health insurance bureaucrat.

Posted by: horta5 | May 15, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

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