Dear Mouthy Housewives,
When Facebook started being a thing, my younger brother was 14. He’d already had an account for a while, but my mother put a keylogger on their computer and took his password without informing him. Obviously, he found out eventually. Even though he asked that she at least ask for his passwords like a normal person, she used the keylogger to take the passwords to all his accounts on the Internet. He’s been pretty upset about that, as I hope you understand.
He’s moving out now, for college, at the age of 18. He’s moving out-of-state to an apartment he’ll be sharing with a schoolmate. My mother had a hissy fit when he changed his passwords and ordered him to change them back so that she could keep logging in. My brother’s response was that he was an adult, and since he was working and attending school on a scholarship, she was no longer paying for his lifestyle, much less his Internet connection.
As his older brother (I’ve been out of the house for a decade now) I’ve been asked to take sides. I think there’s fault on both sides, but you can probably tell I agree with my brother more. How can I clear the air?
Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
This seems like a big no-brainer to me because, hello, your brother is 18-years-old. Eighteen! And therefore he’s legally considered an adult. He can vote, he can go to war, he can serve on jury duty and he’ll now be tried as an adult the next time he knocks over a liquor store. Plus, he can finally get into NC-17 movies by himself. Yay for boobies and violence! But the most important thing is that he can do all of those things, and more, without the help of his dear, sweet mommy. (And he’s not 14 any longer.)
The idea of her being privy to his online passwords is about as ridiculous as her waiting for him to get out of his English 101 class so she can wipe his bottom. That’s not up for debate. However, if she won’t let this drop, I suggest you try to find out what’s compelling her to be so weird about it. What is she actually scared of? Has he been in trouble before? Is she worried about his judgement? Is there some other issue going on that needs to be addressed before she can finally relax and let him get on with his life? Find out.
Then once you get to the bottom of her issues, maybe she’ll realize how crazy it is for her to spy on her adult child. Her adult child who is not being financially supported by her. And maybe your brother can also sit down with her and reassure her that he’s not doing anything more dangerous on Facebook than playing Farmville or Carnieville or whatever those games that I always get annoying notices about are called.
You’re a good brother and a good son to care so much about harmony in your family.
Best of luck,
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My family is headed out on vacation in a few weeks. We’ll be gone for 10 days. I told my friends that I would be updating my Facebook with photos from our trip and they all basically said I was an idiot if I did that because I was “just inviting robbers to show up at my house.” I understand their concern, but is this even a big deal anymore? It seems like everyone does it and I don’t ever hear about people getting robbed.
Facebook is Fine
Dear Facebook is Fine,
Remember the good old days? When you’d take a crap camera on your trip to the Grand Canyon, shoot a few rolls of film, come home, drop the film off at the Film Shack, wait a few weeks, drive back over to pick it up, pay $40, discover you left your lens cap on for 3/4 of the photos, drive back home, put the other 1/4 of the photos in an album and then walk over to your friend’s house to show her how fun your trip was?
Man, I miss those days.
Not that I don’t enjoy logging onto Facebook and seeing my son’s third grade teacher posing for a picture in her bikini with the caption, “CABO, BITCHES!!!” because I do. I totally do. And I’ve never once thought about driving over to her house and ransacking her collection of Precious Moments figurines. However, other people may not be as law-abiding as me, so your friends’ concern about someone noticing that you’re on vacation and then robbing you isn’t that far-fetched. There are a lot of freaky, dishonest people in the world and “I’m out of town!” updates on social media make for easy pickings.
Now, I don’t know the in’s and out’s of Facebook very well, but I assume there are privacy settings you can use so only your close friends see your pictures. Look into that. Also, maybe update your status with a few “Wow, those Rottweilers in my backyard sure get hungry! Good thing I have the Russian Mafia checking on them every hour!” That should help keep the bad guys at bay.
Or, hey, here’s a thought: maybe just ENJOY your vacation and don’t post pictures of every single f&$ing meal you eat with “Nom! Nom!” written underneath it. I hate to tell you this, but your friends aren’t waiting with bated breath by their computers for your newest update. They’re really not. But you know what? The guys who steal TVs just might be.
So enjoy your vacation. Take a lot of pictures on your vacation. Relax on your vacation. Then tell us all about your fabulous vacation–when you get back home. I hear the Film Shack is open late.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
I’m currently taking care of my best friend’s 14-year-old daughter. My friend had to leave town for 3 months for work and she felt comfortable enough to leave her daughter with me. Her daughter likes me, and they both come over often.
The day my friend dropped her off, she gave me a piece of paper with all her daughter’s accounts and passwords, including for Facebook and Gmail. I was even more surprised when she asked me to check the girl’s Facebook and e-mail accounts and report back weekly. My friend won’t have a good Internet connection during her trip.
I asked the daughter if she had willingly handed over her account information, and she said yes. She also said that she had been more or less forced to friend her teachers and friends’ parents and give them full access, so that they could keep tabs on her.
This disturbs me quite a bit. I’ve had accounts hacked, and I’ve also been forced to help friends through crisis when they were betrayed by authority figures they thought they could trust. I don’t think this philosophy of “it takes a village to raise a child and pillage her sense of privacy” is healthy. If anything, it seems to have destroyed any respect for this girl’s privacy. Should I say something to my friend? Should I comply with her requests and do something I’m really uncomfortable doing?
I Don’t Want To Be Your Daughter’s Friend on Facebook
Dear I Don’t Want To be Your Daughter’s Friend on Facebook,
Hold on one minute, you’re willing to take care of kids for THREE MONTHS?! Oh this is just fabulous. Please immediately email me your address. I can have my children there by 5 pm. Of course, they will need dinner. Pizza is fine. None of them are old enough to be on Facebook or Gmail so you’ll have no moral crisis. I’ll pick them up in three months!
Okay, maybe this is something you only do for your very best friend ever and I am just wishing that I had bonded with you years earlier. You really are an incredible person to take care of your friend’s daughter for such a lengthy time.
I completely understand your dilemma and this is something that really should have been discussed long before she dropped her daughter at your front door. You are under no obligation to check this girl’s online accounts.
It is absolutely an invasion of privacy for this young girl who if she is smart created a different secret email address to communicate with her friends. As a 14-year-old (pre-email, pre-texing and pre-dinosaurs), I can only cringe thinking of my mother listening in to my calls to my friends. She would have heard a lot about Chuck, his hunky orange glow tan and my desperate desires to get him to notice me.
This is your best friend so you need to be completely honest in a very kind way. Let her know that her daughter is in safe hands and that you understand her desire to keep tabs on her. But you just don’t feel comfortable logging on to her accounts and monitoring her online activity. But that you will absolutely be watching over and taking care of her.
You might also want to share your own experiences and suggest that it may not be entirely appropriate for her to be forced to friend teachers and family friends.
In the end, it’s up to each parent to decide how they want to handle their children’s online activity. It’s a whole new world that parents are trying to navigate and there are no simple answers. I think your friend is coming from a good place. But she can’t control and monitor her daughter’s every move. She has to have some trust. In her daughter. And you.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My 14 year old daughter recently defriended me on Facebook. She says that she wants her privacy, which I understand, but I’m also concerned. Shouldn’t I know everything that’s going on in her online world? Do I let this go?
Friend Me Again!
Dear Friend Me Again,
When I was a kid, my mother had an incredible respect for my privacy. She never combed through my diary, rifled though my drawers or looked at notes from my classmates. (NOTE: For those of you born after the invention of the computer, “notes” are like texts but we wrote them on paper and handed them to each other between classes. No, we did not use quill pens, smart asses.)
Because of my mother’s complete trust in me, I honored her wishes and never partook in anything unsavory or illegal. Unless you define “unsavory or illegal” as using a fake ID to try to get into a local bar and copping so much attitude with the bouncer that my friend got into a rumble and we may have gotten ourselves arrested.
My point? For the most part, teenagers can’t be trusted. Because they are always one Bud Light away from doing something SO STUPID.
Your daughter needs to re-friend you immediately. If not, that’s fine. But that means, she no longer has use of her cell phone. Or her iPod. Or her laptop. Oh and you aren’t driving her anywhere. Which is perfect because she’s not allowed to go anywhere anyway. Basically her life will become a gadget free existence of sitting at home watching the PBS NewsHour with you. I think she’ll change her mind very quickly.
So welcome back to Facebook! You are now free to oversee your daughter’s online activities. And if she really wants to communicate something to her friends under the parental radar, she should write it on a piece of paper and give it to them. There is nothing wrong with going old school.
The Mouthy Housewives are celebrating turning three years old and you’re getting us the present of advice all week! You already helped Wendi and Kristine so I want to get in on the advice while it’s flowing freely!
Dear Mouthy Housewives Readers,
Here is my dilemma.
My mother is in her 60s and she has a friend who’s in his kazillions. But that’s not the dilemma.
The problem is that this friend is very active on Facebook and my mother does not use the computer at all. Let me repeat that again, slowly, so that you can digest it: My mother does not use the computer. At all. Like she has never been online. She doesn’t know what Facebook is. How is this my (and by extension your) problem?
Well, my mother and her friend have solved their technological incompatibility by asking me to print his inane ramblings off Facebook and hand deliver them to my mother.
Yes, you read that correctly. I have been asked to print crap from Facebook and bring it to my mother so that she can read it and catch up with her friend. And I was so stunned by the inanity of it all that I agreed to do it.
I’ll wait until you stop laughing.
Fine, I’ll go get a snack while you calm down.
That was some delicious soufflé.
The problem is that I seem to have lost the will to live. Whenever I see that my mother’s friend posted something, my heart sinks, a bit lower each time. The way things are going, I’m worried that my heart will get lodged in my thigh soon.
So what do I do?
Tell my mother to find a new sucker or learn the internets or suck it up and print an occasional update for the woman who gave me life and doesn’t ask all that much from me?
Marinka, Do Not Like