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Author Topic: Child Privacy Rights: And Your Advice
KnightEnder
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This morning I come get on the computer and there is an AIM conversation still on the computer between my son and this girl he has been talking about but "not seeing" (he has never lied to us (unlike my youngest son), honor student, smart as hell. He wants to be a politician to make the world a better place and he has the grades to go anywhere) but some of the conversation led me to believe that he has done more than just 'see' her.

We just talked yesterday about how I check his email, Tivo, backpack (Stacy actually does the latter) So, he knows we monitor him. He's 17. And he left this in plain view. I didn't have to go look for it. And he didn't complain and wasn't upset about us monitoring him. He laughed. He knows we love him and we are his parents. Then he leaves this in plain sight. Granted it was 6:30 in the morning and he was tired, so maybe he forgot?

Two questions: Academic: Should parents have the right to invade their childrens privacy?

Should I confront him about this IM and this girl? If nothing else to make sure he is using condoms. (Probably also academic since I know I'm going to.) But what do you my trusted smart friends think?


KE

[ March 01, 2007, 11:10 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Lobo
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I absolutely think that parents have a right to know what their kids are doing. I would confront my child about it if I was you. I think it is great that he knows that you love him. I think that personal relationship is what enables you to confront him about things that concern you.

lobo

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caladbolg1125
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He's 17. Talk to him about it, sure, ask for confirmation that he is being safe. That's what my parents did when I told them I had become sexually active. I think its a little wierd that you monitor him like that since he is almost an adult (he can be tried as one as I'm sure you well know). Whatever works for you I guess. He seems to be like me in the sense that he 'told' you by leaving the IM open for you to see. I was more direct with my parents but I gather that he doesn't mind the intrusion too much.

As for parents invading their kids privacy, well it depends. He is a late teen and from what you say, trustworthy. In that case I would say no, let him make his choices and come to you about them if he is so inclined. Also, you can't expect to know every secret. For younger kids I'd say privacy doesn't really exist. They have secrets too that you may never know, but do what you think is best and I'm sure they'll live.

I have confidence in you, KE.

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KnightEnder
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Thanks Guys.

Cal, one more year and when he goes away to college that part will be over. He is a lot younger at his age than I was. He still doesn't drive (he's not happy about that and he has his learners permit and will drive in a month or so. He's a one woman guy, not a philanderer like I was. Never parties, or drinks. Worst they do is go to the boweling alley. And I know people might think I'm naive, but Stacy and I were bad teenagers so we know the tricks we check when he gets home. It's great that we still hug because alcohol or marijiauna leave a distinctive smell. And he has never once seemed altered or had more than average teenage mood swings.)

However, this has been by plan. I didn't want them to grow up as fast as I did. And if horrifies Stacy and my mother that I was having sex and drinking at twelve. My boys have had a childhood and are turning into good men. I dread them leaving us.

PS, I greatly look forward to grandkids, but not until after college and maybe a few years of getting his life going. I have stressed this to him since he was in the womb. I don't want him to have to do the right thing. And though I support abortion rights it was not an option for Stacy and I and I can't believe my sons would do it either.

KE

[ March 01, 2007, 12:17 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Loki
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Seems to me, if your son is smart, which he appears to be. He's probably using condoms, which I think can often give a false sense of security, I'd suggest him suggesting birth control pills for his 'girlfriend.' My smart condom using 17 year old friend is a father now.

What I would worry about is that once he leaves his monitored existance behind at an institute of higher education, the sudden freedom might prompt him doing a lot of the things he never learned to do in moderation when he was younger.

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msquared
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Of course you have the right. He is a minor child in your home.

Hell, you have the right to any one using your computer, child or grown up, as far as I am concerned. When they pay for the computer and the internet service and the house, they can do what they want. In your house, you are responsible.

msquared

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Loki
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You have the right, like you have the right to own a firearm, I think the real point there is in the use of what the right gives you. Do you use a firearm if you don't need to? Do you spy if you don't need to?

If your son, thinks you don't trust him, he may be more likely to commit the acts you would be prone to accuse him of when he, in reality, isn't.

[ March 01, 2007, 03:20 PM: Message edited by: Loki ]

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MattP
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quote:
If your son, thinks you don't trust him, he may be more likely to commit the acts you would be prone to accuse him of when he, in reality, isn't.
It's all in how your frame things. I know a couple men who's religious convictions tell them that pornography is wrong and have asked their wives to monitor their internet activity, going so far as to have their wives select the password used to administer the filters and logs.

I don't think it's a trust issue at all. KE trusts his son, but even trustworthy people get into trouble. KE's doing what he can to help protect his son during a period where such trouble is more likely to happen.

If I peek out the window while my children are walking to school to make sure they look both ways before crossing the street, it's not because I don't trust them, but because I know people sometimes make mistakes. As long as I have the ability to provide a supplemental source of judgment and reason for my children, I'm going to provide it.

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TommySama
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Keep in mind that KE left the words "child" and "rights" in the same sentence without adding "don't have any".

That being said I think 17 is old enough that you should be cutting back on spying on him.

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msquared
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Like hell.

If the kid is doing something illegal, you, as the homeowner, might be held liable.

You don't have to spy, but the kids should know that you reserve the right, at any time, to do whatever you want to track or find out what they are doing. Even after they are 18, if they are in your house, you have the right. If it is known up front, then they have no excuse.

msquared

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Loki
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I can see guiding him, I can see talking to him, I can see monitoring if suspicious behavior really warrants it. But to pronounce his guilt before his crime by the excuse that people make mistakes, and then police him and keep him under observation just waiting for his screw up is a little too, dare I say, 'big brotherish.'

Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn't mean that we should be continually expecting mistakes unless past behavior merits it.

It's easier to rebel against a wall than a wave, and at the same time harder. A wave will pull you in the right path, a wall will bruise your fists. A road is better than train tracks when it comes to parenting I think. You can easily drive off the road and do fine, if you derail, it's going to be damaging.

I think KE's kid will turn out fine, he's far along the right path, if people will undoubtedly make mistakes, you've got to let them make them(to a degree) and be there for them afterwards.

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msquared
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I am not saying that KE has to do it. I am saying that my kids know that I can do it any time I want, for any reason I want. I don't usually do it, and would likely need a reason. Mainly becuase it is a lot of work. But I would not loose one moment of sleep over the fact that I did. He is still a child, a young man. He needs to know that things he does in my house has effects on others. What if KE younger kid had been the one to see the IM? What if the older kid had left a graphic porn site in the history and a younger sibling, friend, realitive accidentally brought the site up.

msquared

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Loki
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I think if he left up a graphic porn site, his shame would probably be sufficient punishment. Not that I think the human form or the act of coitus is something to be ashamed of, but most people seem to.
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MattP
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quote:
Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn't mean that we should be continually expecting mistakes unless past behavior merits it.
Once the house is under water it's too late to buy flood insurance. I don't think it's necessary to monitor every activity your child is engaged in, but that doesn't mean that any monitoring is equivalent to accusing them of a child they haven't committed.

Monitoring must be combined with communication. In other words, the relationship must be open in both directions. My kids know that we may at any time investigate any activity that they have been involved in AND they know that we love them and want the best for them. The latter mitigates potential trust issues of the former.

My kids happily provide us with the passwords for their IM and email accounts, knowing that we aren't closely monitoring all of their communications, but that as their parents we have a valid interest in having the ability to do so.

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Storm Saxon
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Parents have the power, so they have the right, but there are consequences for you exercising that right.

I think a better question might be to, rather than approaching it in terms of rights, ask what effect it's going to have?

I think checking into someone's email, whatever, inherently says that you don't trust them. To say that a person as a minor is inherently untrustworthy is, imho, problematic in an ideal sense, but practically, to the minor, I imagine it's got to at least hurt, particularly if they have given no reason to be surveilled.

As to your situation specifically, I think at 17, he's pretty much a done deal in terms of character. I don't think you were spying on him if he left up an IM in a common area. I think that, as someone who loves him and is legally liable for him, you would want to talk to him about his situation.

Plenty of people grow up quickly, and if he and this girl are having sex, it's not the end of the world. However, you know him better than I do. You know his girlfriend better than I do. You have a good heart and I'm sure you'll do what is best for your son. Hopefully you can make sure that he understands that, too.

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hobsen
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KnightEnder, you are going to talk to your son anyway. The AIM message in plain view probably means he intended to tell you something, but none of us know what.

And what about the girl in this? Would her family freak out if they learned about this relationship? Has she made your son promise not to tell? Is she refusing to use any form of birth control?

And it could be the concern is not about sex at all. Young men commonly want their parents to meet their "significant other." At 17 I should be worried if there had never been a girl around the fringes of his life somewhere. I hope you like her. And if you do not, fake it...

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Richard Dey
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KE:

If you don't respect his privacy, he won't learn to respect others' privacy.

Consider likewise, if you will, the homophobic parent prying into their gay son's business. FHS, just consider the Democrat child being spied upon by his Republican parents!

There's an old rule on this matter. If you don't trust your kids, they won't trust you.

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KnightEnder
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Turns out he just met her yesterday, in real life. He wasn't embarrassed or mad, and assured me that he hadn't even met her much less had sex with her. (There is another issue; she is an ex-girlfriend of a good friend of his; so he has been asking me for advice about whether he should ask her out since she started pursuing him a couple of weeks ago. I told him to talk to his friend. He did. The friend said; thanks for asking, I don't mind. They have been talking over the computer for weeks and she has seen him several times at school but he had never seen her in real life. Yesterday when he did, he was very pleased. [Smile] He's been out with some very pretty girls but he says she is the first one that is really interesting to talk too. They talk for hours before they even met.)

So, you can see that I am still involved in his life through his request, maybe more than most parents. And we had the condom discussion again, just for good measure.

What her "I'm sore and it's your fault John", remarks were about he claims was a dance class. Why she claimed that was "his fault" I'm still not sure. But, I trust him.

Rich, he is so unlike me (waited forever to get interested in girls in spite of being better looking than I was, and then became a one woman kind of guy), that at one time I, and especially Stacy, thought he might be gay. Had that talk with him too. How I/we would love him no matter what.

But, if gay I still would have montitored him for his safety. John is so good and honest he doesn't need a lot of monitoring. I think it is partly how devious Stacy and I were that contributes to our feeling that we should. Our parents were clueless or didn't care. And we did some dangerous things. We care.

Incidently, Rich, Little John doesn't trust Stacy all that much. She has a propensity for saying what will cause her the least pain and or trouble and lying 'for their, the kids, sake'. A lot like my younger son. I insist that people believe what I say; so I always say what I mean, and he trusts me. We had that discussion too, which Stacy didn't enjoy, but he was right.

Thanks for all y'alls help and advice.

KE

[ March 02, 2007, 12:06 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Danzig
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Spying on your children may not be wrong, but it is often counterproductive. Keep in mind also that an AIM conversation or similar log may not tell the full story. When I was seventeen, I had saved a log of a conversation with a girl my parents did not like. She was a cutter, and we had talked about it and I mentioned maybe trying it. What the log did not say was that I tried it once, decided it sucked, and never had the slightest desire to do it again. Still don't understand the attraction.

But my mom read the log - my private correspondence - a few days afterward, with no good reason. (I may be a bad young adult but I was a good kid.) She told my father, and of course as this had happened only a few days ago they did not really believe me when I told them that I had no intention of repeating it. I lost a lot of trust in my parents that day, and it marked the start of a very rocky period in my relationship with my family that has only started to mend in the last year and a half or so.

In some sense my parents had the right, as msquared said, to monitor anything going on in their home or using their property. But a child is not his parents' property, and on another level I cannot feel that parents have any right to treat their children as they would treat their physical computer or phone line. It is morally neutral to keep an eye on what is coming through your communication channels as a general principle. It is wrong to spy on particular people, or to start generally monitoring in order to do so.

That being said, if I ever (hell forbid) have children, I would probably commit this immoral action to preserve their safety. But I would not deny its essential immorality.

[ March 04, 2007, 08:25 PM: Message edited by: Danzig ]

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scifibum
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Whoa, Danzig. Long time since I've seen you post. [Smile]
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hobsen
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Good post, also. As KnightEnder found out, what a parent learns by chance may be misleading. He was smart enough to ask about the meaning, so no harm was done, but your parents were not. And in both cases, one reason a parent could read the message was that it was in fact harmless, so the recipient never bothered to hide it. Any parent who thinks an older teenager cannot hide something he really wants to keep from his parents underestimates his child's ingenuity, unless that child is really mentally impaired. By the time your children reach sixteen, it is safer to assume they are as clever as you are.
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Danzig
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Glad to see that someone misses me. [Smile]

hobsen, I have to second your last post. The only reason my parents found my conversation was that I had (erroneously) assumed they would show me the same respect they expected me to show to the correspondence of others, and not bothered to hide it. They never found the stuff I took steps to hide.

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