QUESTION

I love your website and greatly respect your perspective.  You seem very down-to-earth and authentic.

I have a fourteen year old daughter who has a cell phone.  I recently took the phone away to discipline her for misuse of the device (she sent a nasty text to me when she meant to send it to a friend.  The text was a very unflattering description of me).  When I asked my daughter for the password to her cell, she refused to give it to me, saying that her friends’ texts were private and that I had no business reading them.

I am well aware that the cell phone is a privilege, one that I am free to take away from my daughter.  I currently have the phone and have said that I will return it when she gives the password to me.  I have no desire to read the “received” texts from her friends, but I feel that at times, I need to go through her “sent” texts to make certain that she does not send nasty texts again (at least any time soon).

What is your perspective on this?  I know that I cannot control everything that my daughter thinks or says.  However, I refuse to pay for the privilege, as in the case with her cell phone.  Help!

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

I too, have sent texts mistakenly to others saying not so flattering things about them (my husband–oops), so I can relate to your daughter. Hopefully, she learned her lesson on that one, (I know I did) and thankfully I pay the cell phone bill so my husband couldn’t confiscate mine.

Here’s the bottom line. Yes, she has a right to want to protect her friends privacy and she can by deleting her texts from them and to them.  I would suggest you give her back the phone to do that and have her erase them in front of you.  I would then establish the ground rules of use.  You are paying the bill, therefore the phone is technically yours and as you said, you are giving her the privilege of using it.

Since she has the privilege of using your phone, just like living in your house, she will need to follow the rules of use.  If those rules include not texting mean things about you, so be it.  And until she has proven that she can follow the rules, she needs to give you the password and know that you will have the ability to check her phone at any time.  She will probably want to let her friends know this as well.  However, if she’s savvy, she could also just delete any incoming or outgoing texts she doesn’t want to be seen, so you are right, you don’t have control over everything she does. But you can make her think twice about what she’s saying and who she’s saying it to. Until she has proven that she can follow the rules, she can consider her phone use, borrowed time.

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