Hax: 'Online privacy' myth about to be dispelled by mom

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: May 27, 2014 - 3:05 PM

Dear Carolyn: My phone plan allows me to see the texts of my kids, 19, 17 and 14. I monitor their chat occasionally. I don’t let them know, and don’t plan on intervening unless something gets completely out of control.

Selfishly, I like to see chats from the oldest, who is away at school, giving me some assurance he’s alive! Thoughts?

Carolyn says: Plenty of thoughts, but none as important as what your kids would think.

The eldest especially. Wow. The “selfishly” says you know you’re crossing a line with him. Stop reading his texts immediately — and those of your other children as they hit 18 — unless and until you have evidence-based concerns.

Snooping on the younger kids also crosses a line, but I don’t recommend dropping that habit completely.

While I believe strongly that kids need some private spaces, and that you need to front them a little trust to get them building it on their own, I also think Cyberia has different rules, because it’s a mistake to foster an expectation of privacy online.

For that reason, I support the parental snoop — but with one important condition. Tell your kids. Warn them you have access and aren’t afraid to use it. Provide them with the following context:

You’re not interested in checking often; you’re not going to say anything about what you see or get involved unless absolutely necessary; and you’re not in this to get anyone in trouble. You’re doing it solely to get them used to the idea that “online privacy” is an oxymoron. They shouldn’t send or post anything they don’t want to go public, and so now they get to type/snap/snark with you in mind as their possible audience. “Do I want Mom or Dad to see this?” is an excellent standard for them to tattoo on their minds, at least while the concept of “future employer” remains blissfully abstract.

Fringe benefit: Watch them get off your plan as soon as they can produce the cash.

Lose 180 pounds quickly

Dear Carolyn: So, the guy I’m seeing has requested that I lose weight. I have not gained weight since we started dating, but I would like to lose weight and could certainly afford to lose 20 pounds.

This is strictly about attractiveness from his perspective, as far as I can tell. There was no verbiage about unhealthy habits or concern for well-being. I do work out regularly, though probably not enough, and I love my evening wine. So, there’s room for improvement. I don’t know what to do while I lose weight or even if I can. This has affected my self-confidence.

Carolyn says: I almost didn’t answer you because this column has already popped its buttons on the weight issue.

But this isn’t (just) a weight issue. You’re dating someone who dents your self-confidence vs. enhancing it.

Buh-bye, right? Lose 180 pounds! What’s the point of his companionship if it brings you down?

Since I’ll get feedback about weight anyway, I’ll say this much: You can get thinner, sure. “Improve,” sure. Who can’t?

But: You got to your current shape not by being sick, apparently, or self-destructive, or depressed, or ignorant of self-care; you got there by being your workout-dabbling, wine-enjoying self. Logic dictates bypassing years of anguish and holding out for someone who adores your natural state.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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