I can't say I'm looking forward to my son's teenage years. He’s 4 right now, so our biggest issues involve eating meals and going to bed. It's not always easy, to be sure, but I know I have bullying, homework, driving, curfews, and the politics of interpersonal relationships to look forward to in the future. I'll also have to worry about technology. I can't even imagine what I will inevitably find on my teens’ phone, and I can't say I'm in a rush to find out.
As a mom I'm not above using technology to my advantage, and I believe a phone — including a smart phone — could be extremely beneficial in the future and as my son gains more responsibility. But I worry about online bullying, pornography, and other potential hazards that could accompany access to a phone or the internet. Hey, I'm a mom. Worrying about the possible "worse case scenario" is just part of what I do.
I want to have open, honest conversations with my son in the future, and especially when he's a teenager. But I'm realistic, and I know that can't and won't always happen. There might be times when I have to invade my son's privacy and snoop, and there might be times when I accidentally come across something I wish I didn't. In the end, I have no idea what's in store for me until my son and I cross that bridge. Until then, I asked other moms to share what they found on their teenagers' phones, and the results ranged from surprising to actually endearing.
“Porn. Like serious, hardcore stuff. We had to have a seriously awkward conversation. I do a periodical sweep of all electronic devices in the house. For their devices, I require that they give me all passwords and if they change their passwords that they let me know about it.”
“My daughter was 12. I searched and found she was chatting on a site that allowed anonymous chatting for role plays (mostly innocuous). In one conversation, while she was doing a good job keeping the story on track, the person she was messaging with was trying to make it more intimate. I realized I needed to tell her how to remove herself from a situation that made her uncomfortable, because she said, ‘I didn’t want to be rude.’ My favorite though is checking out her texts with her girlfriend (It’s long distance. They're in California). They text constantly, so I [wonder what they could be saying]. Turns out, they spend their time talking about how awesome the other person is. They trade art and compliment each other. They send pics of bad hair days and tell the other how cute they look. They check in on each other after tests or hard days. It was so wholesome, I actually cried.”
“I was snooping on my 17-year-old son’s phone, found out that he had a girlfriend and that she’d given him oral sex. Can you believe he would text that to a friend? It led to some conversations about respect for women and safe sex. I never told him I saw his text though; I don’t want to find out this sort of thing behind his back. He’s practically an adult and I trust him, despite the fact that my snooping would indicate otherwise.”
“Once I saw this exchange in my daughter's texts. She is 14, but this happened when she was about 12. The conversation had apparently happened during the previous school day:
Friend: Where are you? Are you sick?
My kid: No, but my mom is really gullible.
Later we had a little talk about how I needed her to be honest with me. That if she felt she needed a day off school and could afford to miss it I would call her in, but she shouldn't lie to me and say she was sick. She looked amazed and asked how I found out. I reminded her that as her parent I need to check her phone from time to time.”
“My son left his phone behind one night and curiosity got the better of me. I found out he’d been looking up pornography. I’m not anti-sex but he’s only 13 and it was pretty shocking. We had a long conversation about what is and isn’t appropriate, about being safe and not rushing into things, and how much of what can be seen in pornography isn’t all that realistic.”
“I found out my daughter’s boyfriend broke up with her by text when I picked up her phone one day. She’d been in a bad mood for a few days and I didn’t know what was going on. After reading that, I pressed her a bit on what was happening (she hadn’t wanted to tell me), and she finally did. We had a good talk about the whole thing and about relationships and breakups. She recovered pretty quickly, fortunately, but I did remind her I’m always around to talk.”