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.