In my many years experience as a private investigator, I have seen and experienced many situations that are stressful and even dangerous. So, this blog is dedicated to a little bit of fun, information and a place to get to know me as a person, mother, businesswoman and investigator. While my profession requires me to remain unbiased, this blog is a place where I can share my opinions on current events and issues, whether they relate to my industry or not. I invite you to share in this journey with me.
Last week I spent over 10 hours in the car driving to North Carolina with my family. I
learned a lot. Even as a mom who spends her professional time watching others with a suspicious eye, I realized how little I really know about how my teenage son spends his time on line. Just when I thought I had it – a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a twitter handle, I’m out of date. New apps continuously appear, each one offering new platforms complete with a fresh set of risks for young, unassuming kids with Internet access.
Now I’m aware that what is new to my 13 year old may be old news to those of you with 16 year olds. But that’s the point; we have to keep up with what is new and popular to them. Because whatever their age, it is just too damn easy to get to our kids in ways that, while seemingly harmless, are actually a pedophile’s playground.
It was Chatroulette that sparked my interest on our trip. There are many versions of this type of video chat, and I’m only focusing on Chatroulette because that is what my son was using. Simply stated, Chatroulette is video chatting with random people, and like Roulette, you don’t who you’re going to get. The site really markets to kids and tries to reel them in offering anonymity:
You can remain anonymous and yet have a splendid time
You don’t have to disclose your identity or any other personal information to the person you are chatting with.
Sounds safe enough to the unassuming teen. But get real, how is it anonymous when that person sees who you are? Your picture can be shared, snap chatted, or posted for everyone to see even if you end the call.
Ah…but that’s not even the really scary part. Chatroulette is also safe for the weirdo trying to remain anonymous. It boasts there are no registration formalities, everyone has free access, and they don’t use methods of verification such as SMS codes.
Some adult or even another teen with a “special interest” in teenagers, boy or girl, can get on the site, spin the wheel until they find someone who whets their appetite, and chat with them. He/she can even get them to sing, dance, and yes people, take off their clothes. All while they are watching. And, remember while it claims to be anonymous, it is possible for a snapshot of the video to be captured and saved for later. Perhaps while your teen’s personal voyeur settles in for some more private entertainment. Unknowingly, your child can become a personal lap dance for some sleaze roaming the Internet.
I know it sounds sick, but I see this kind of behavior every day. I will admit that being overly suspicious is an unavoidable job hazard for a private detective. Every day I work to uncover the sinister side of situations, many of them under the category of you can’t make this stuff up!
But don’t shoot the messenger on this one. This is serious stuff and we, as parents need to be aware and vigilant of what our kids are doing on line. We have come to understand that the Internet is a part of their social life, but accepting this fact doesn’t give us a free pass from getting to know their world. Instead, it makes it critical to visit the sites they are using regularly. Treat their computer, tablet, or phone, as a friend you are determined to get to know. I know they may not like it and tell you it’s not necessary. They don’t know best. You do. You’re their parents. Make it simple for them. Getting to know this friend and what they do together is a condition of the friendship.
End of story.
You’ll be happier and they’ll be safer.
As I’m sure most of you already know, transgender Olympic athlete and reality star Bruce Jenner revealed himself this week on the cover of Vanity Fair as his true self Caitlyn Jenner. While I am no expert and am in no position to comment on transgender struggles, I will say that I wish her well and hope she finds peace in her new public role as a woman.
However, all this public scrutiny and discussion over gender and the role it plays in who you are, how you define yourself, and how you live your life got me thinking.
Does Cait really know what she’s gotten herself into?
As a woman in a traditionally male dominated field (think Sherlock Holmes) I am continually reminded that I have a different set of rules in the same game. Yes this is sexual discrimination, and yes it is illegal, but I know from both client and personal experience it is very hard to prove, and even harder to stop.
The law prohibits sexual discrimination. It is explicit and even mentions transgender.
“Discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender is discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII. This is also known as gender identity discrimination. In addition, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals may bring sex discrimination claims. These may include, for example, allegations of sexual harassment or other kinds of sex discrimination, such as adverse actions taken because of the person’s non-conformance with sex-stereotypes.” (USEEOC)
I am going to bet that the men who wrote this law were very proud of themselves for addressing this issue head on. But let’s face it, if the law were enough I wouldn’t be so busy!
Maybe its because it’s so hard to prove. While case after case of women being passed over for promotions, unfair firing, pay discrepancies, and unfair job assignments comes across my desk, it is very difficult to find consistent proof to support these claims. One woman promoted in the same company becomes defense, or a single poor review gives support to a demotion or firing.
And each time I uncover a true case of discrimination I am astounded that this still goes on! Recently it became very personal for me. I was investigating suspected age discrimination at a club. I applied in person as a 40-year old woman with lots of experience in the industry. My much younger colleague applied with absolutely no experience. They didn’t even give me a second interview and hired her on the spot! Turning 40 was hard enough, and now this?
So how do we make real change in discrimination practices?
Laws are not enough.
Fighting it case by case is not enough.
Even today, in many ways we are still women in a man’s world.
It’s an underlying current that we are all too used to. Every time I walk into a new client meeting I redefine their image of a private investigator. I work to be taken seriously; sometimes I have to work twice as hard as my male counterparts. I consider every detail, from how I dress, to how I speak, to how I present results. Nothing goes unnoticed, and because of that, no detail is left to chance.
I will admit, there are times my gender works to my advantage. Many people are less concerned about a woman following them, so I can really kill it on surveillance! I also find a woman is considered less threatening and more approachable to come to with delicate cases.
Do I feel guilty about using feminine stereotypes to my advantage? Hell no!
As I’ve said, there is plenty to contend with being a woman in the workforce, and added challenges in a male dominated field. While I wish I didn’t have to play this game and everyone was treated equally, we are not there yet. Between now and then I have a job to do, and I plan to do it to the best of my abilities.
So again, how do we make real change?
Laws only set the framework. A true change in behavior has to come from a shift in our beliefs. Like any real change it takes time and comes in tiny steps with significant change only recognized in hindsight. I think the acceptance of Cait Jenner is a step we should celebrate.
This Sunday marks another day of celebrating the universally agreed upon hardest job in the world. I don’t really think one day is enough considering the beating many of us take the other 364 days a year, but I’ll take it. If you’re like me, you’ll receive a card reading something like this, “To the Best Mom in the World.” Let’s be honest, we can’t all be the Best Mom in the World. But it seems, at least according to Hallmark, that it is something we should all strive for. I confess it is something I think about. Ok – a lot. Am I doing a good job, or am I really messing up? Will my son be a successful, independent adult, or will my parenting skills cause him to spend many adult hours on a couch in a therapist’s office?
As a Private Investigator, I certainly see my share of parenting styles. Some I admire and can learn from, but some, not so much:
After receiving information I uncovered about her cheating husband, one mother felt it necessary to tell her 5 year old “daddy has a girlfriend” without considering the long term effects that information would have on him. By the way they are back together, but the boy will carry that memory his whole life.
In another situation I uncovered a mom committing financial infidelity by hiding purchases on a separate credit card she had sent to her office. However, her teenage daughters knew what was going on and were repeatedly told, “don’t tell daddy”. These poor kids were put in the middle of a dishonest relationship with a primary role model asking them to lie to another parent. How will they function in their own relationships?
So, before I get too cynical – something I can do after seeing so many damaging situations, I decided to this year celebrate the good in so many moms. I have a lot of clients and a lot of friends who are super moms, and I put together a list that I think defines this group.
My Top Ten List of What Makes a Super Mom
- They are HONEST. These moms never shy away from a question, but they know the limits of what a child can, and should have to handle.
- They are COMMUNICATORS. In all of their busy lives, they ALWAYS find the time to talk to and know what’s going on in their kid’s lives.
- They are INVOLVED. Moms, whether they work or not, should be involved. If you can’t make one game, then make the next. Can’t make any games? Then help with a project. Just do something.
- They are CONSISTENT. Super moms make a rule and stand by it. Yes, sometimes it’s tough. That’s why these moms are great.
- They are PROTECTIVE. Protective enough to know when to advocate for their child, and when to shield them from information they cannot handle.
- They are TECHNOLOGICALLY SAVVY – These moms keep up with the trends and know what their kids are doing on-line. They are not afraid to spy when needed.
- They are LISTENERS. Moms who listen, learn. They know what is going on and can be there to help before a crisis. They listen between the lines.
- They are STRONG. They can handle many kids, many problems. They take what is dealt and move forward. The best ones even keep a smile on their face!
- They are BALANCE ARTISTS. These moms know how to give and give and give. But they know how to take time for themselves. In doing so, they are better moms, and teach their kids an important lesson about balance.
- THEY ARE ALWAYS A MOM. In everything they do and wherever they are they never forget they are a mom. Every choice they make includes a thought, even subconsciously, of how it will affect their kids. And, these truly great moms continue even when their kids are married with families of their own!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Super Moms!
That’s how *Brian’s father described his 19 year old son who was stabbed and killed by his girlfriend on April 6 in the apartment they shared where Brian was attending school. A typical case of domestic abuse under not so typical circumstances.
Brian and his girlfriend were young. Too young. He was a well built and seemingly able to defend himself against a female. Both were educated and in touch with their their families. As far as I know, neither came from abusive backgrounds.
But, Brian did exhibit some concern over his relationship. She was possessive, and they argued. Was this unusual? Only people close to Brian, and those who knew him best could have known if this relationship seemed out of the ordinary or dangerous. And even then, at 19 most would have stayed out of it letting Brian work it out.
So, could Brian have been saved? Can anyone in these situations?
Well, it seems to me that with 3 million men and 4 million women experiencing physical assault by their partners (according to Safe Horizon) we owe it to others like Brian to try.
I believe that by watching for signs in our kids and teens we can address certain victim characteristics early on – maybe saving them from entering risky relationships, or empowering them to leave dangerous ones, when they are adults.
I’m talking about using early intervention as prevention.
Consider the more typical Domestic Abuse scenarios:
Large sunglasses on a cloudy day covering up a black eye.
Bruises that can’t be explained.
A spouse that doesn’t “allow” friends over and monitors all calls.
These and many other telltale signs push most friends, family, and even good Samaritans into action. They don’t hesitate, and are applauded when they intervene and encourage the suspected victim to exit the relationship. It follows that it would be even better and safer to avoid entering those relationships at all.
How can we do it?
First we need to identify potential victims. It’s easy to look at victims of childhood abuse and understand why they could end up adult victims. It is the more subtle qualities we need to pay attention to. Qualities such as
- A belief that you can “fix someone”.
- A belief you don’t deserve any better.
- Believing that any relationship is better than none.
- Making excuses for a friend’s behavior.
- Internalizing frustration and acting out by self-abuse such as cutting.
Before you say these don’t describe anyone you know, see if the any of the following sound familiar:
A 10-year-old boy continually befriends the “mean girls.” Even though they are mean to him, he remains their pre-adolescent boy toy. When asked why he is friends with one or more of these girls, he explains that he knows that can be mean, but he feels special when they pay attention to him, and he thinks they will change. He thinks he can help them. He gets a lot of praise for being so nice.
A 15-year-old girl who always has a boyfriend. She seems to need one to help her feel good about herself. The thought of being without a boyfriend is far worse than the thought of having a bad one. She seems so happy when she is in a relationship you just stay out of it.
A 17-year-old girl with very low self-esteem accepts the comments and bullying that are thrown at her every day. She believes she doesn’t deserve better and believes this her role in any relationship. She becomes uncommunicative. You tell yourself it’ll be better when she gets out of high school or meets a nice guy.
I bet at least one rings a bell.
If it does, don’t hold your breath and hope it will pass. Don’t write it off as immaturity or naiveté. And, whatever you do, don’t believe that stepping in is anything else than an act of love.
I’m say pay attention and act. Keep your eyes and ears open and step in early and often. Get advice from professionals and teach your kids what healthy relationships are before they stop listening. And, if you think they aren’t listening, keep talking anyway. Something is getting in. Don’t give up, and don’t ever stop. You could be preventing them from more than just heartache or growing pains. You could be saving their life.
*Name changed to protect the privacy of the family
I finally finished my taxes last night and like many of you I breathed my annual sigh of relief. Reviewing the details of our financial picture can be grueling and even painful. It’s easy to go through the year with blinders on when we over spend or make poor decisions. But in April of each year we have no choice but to lay it all out for Uncle Sam! Our tax return is an exercise in full disclosure to the government, but more importantly, to each other.
As I plodded through our receipts I was glad there were no surprises. I know this is becoming unusual for couples, married or not, who combine their finances. According to a January 2014 survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), a Denver based non-profit, one in 3 people who comingle finances also said they’d experienced financial deceit in their relationship.
That’s 33% and it’s not even in the bedroom!
Financial infidelity, as it is called, occurs when one partner is keeping financial secrets from the other. The secrets can come in many forms and they don’t have to be huge like the off shore bank accounts we hear about in movies. In fact, many instances of financial cheating occur in small doses where they are justified with excuses of “it’s not a big deal so why should I bother telling him/her.”
Are you guilty? Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you opened a personal savings account at a different bank? One where you put cash you “save” out of the weekly grocery budget?
- Have you opened a credit card at your favorite retailer in your own name that has purchases only you know about?
- Do you ever take “just a little bit” out of the weekly budget to spend on yourself and then blame any deficit on rising grocery costs?
- Have you asked your employer to pay you partly in cash and keep that money separate?
- Do you have one or more credit card bills sent to your office?
- Do you get nervous when the credit card bill comes because you’re just not sure if you’ve been honest about everything that’s on there?
If you find yourself nodding yes with a guilty smile you are a cheater.
A financial cheater
I know many people believe this is innocent. Almost like a game. I know, because I sit around and hear my own friends talk about ways they “fool” their spouses and end up with a new pair of shoes. But, as I tell even my closest friends, financial infidelity is simply trading the location – the bankbook for the bedroom. There’s no other way to look at it. You are cheating.
It is true that this type of infidelity usually raises different emotions than adultery when confronted, and can often be overcome through open and honest discussions. However, it is still a symptom of an underlying problem in a relationship. Why else would one partner feel the need to hide something from the other?
Through investigating many cases of suspected financial infidelity, I’ve come to believe that some of this can be attributed to the 20 and 30-somethings who are getting married later in life. It seems once adults are set in their spending or saving habits it is hard to change, and even more difficult to have to answer to someone. I find the older a couple is when they join finances, and the more they are earning at the time, directly influences their need to maintain control and privacy. Secrets inevitably follow and the seeds for suspicion and distrust are planted.
Recently, I’ve noticed an increase in apps and monitoring software that couples can use to do their own financial surveillance. The more we, as a society use technology to track our finances, the easier it has become for others to do the same. Apps that many parents use to track the whereabouts of their children can also be used to see if you’ve entered Bloomingdales – so beware! Or better yet, be honest.
It is both destructive and exhausting to keep secrets in a relationship. So, as April 15th comes and goes this year I encourage you to use this as an opportunity to take a long hard look at both your finances and your relationship. Instead of spending your energy keeping secrets, work at increasing communication and honesty. I promise you’ll be glad you did once next tax season rolls around!
If you’re like me, holidays mean much more than filling Easter baskets with goodies, or cleaning out the pantry for Passover. They mean family time, and I mean LOTS of family time. Family members gathered together, traveling long distances, sharing meals, stories, and who knows what else. These groups of people are related, but are not necessarily similar. In fact, they may be so different that their time together is difficult, challenging, and something I call heavy lifting.
Heavy lifting is when you know your in-laws, sisters, brothers, or even parents, will act some way that is trying. It may be the same way they have always acted. Perhaps you have parents that bicker, or perhaps you have a sister-in-law that tends to get “too honest” after a few drinks. You know it’s coming. You prepare. And, you dig in your heels and smile with clenched teeth throughout the whole holiday. Almost like an old television re-run where you keep hoping the ending will change, but it never does.
There are countless movies about this. One of my favorites is when Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon spend time at 4 family Christmases enduring everything ranging from physical pain to emotional torture. Of course, we as the audience laugh and shake our heads no doubt seeing a bit of our own holidays somewhere in there.
Believe me I’m no exception. I work very long days, but will still have a house full this weekend. And like many others, my family has a host of personalities each one dealing with their own personal crises as we try to enjoy our holiday together. Sometimes its quiet, but sometimes the emotional explosions make it feel more like the 4th of July!
So why do we do it over and over again. I know I’m not alone in this. I talk to lots of people all day long, many with laundry lists of complaints and suspicions about the same relatives they move mountains to break bread with several times a year. Well I think the answer is plain and simple.
They are family.
And that still means something.
Even though how we define a family has evolved and grown over the years, the one constant is that we feel very connected to the people we call family. They are, quite simply, the people who deep down you believe should be there for you at all costs. That is why they can also disappoint and hurt you the most. I have many cases involving family members, and they are by far the most emotionally charged. As I remind clients over and over again, investigating family members can be painful both in what is discovered and the ensuing confrontation. But what I am continually reminded of is that it is these cases where the client is most deeply hurt, believing wholeheartedly that family should protect and never disappoint.
But they do
And those same people will be celebrating with you – maybe this weekend!
So how can we lighten the load a bit – besides an extra tip of the wine bottle? Here are some ideas:
- Dig deep and be honest with yourself going into the holidays. We cannot pick our relatives, and they cannot pick us. Find some empathy for anything they are going through, and try to leave conflicts at the door.
- Instead of breaking your back carrying the burden of everyone around the table, try to use the time to build new memories without past baggage.
- Talk to your spouse beforehand about your concerns so you are not in it alone.
- Realize you are not alone and try to find the humor in the dysfunction
Of course, if all else fails, and you find yourself feeling crushed by the burden of family at your holiday table, grit your teeth, dig your heals in, paste a smile on your face, and be happy that holidays only come a few times a year!
Last night I nearly fell off my couch. As I was flipping through the channels I saw the infamous Abby Lee from Dance Moms previewing a new show. Can you guess what Abby Lee was promoting? None other than ANOTHER reality show about young girls being plucked from their idyllic childhood into the world of professional voyeurism to “star” in their own reality show. The only twist is this one will be set in the UK and called…are you ready? Dance MUMS.
What is about people today and their seemingly unending interest in other people’s lives? Well, it’s really their interest in other people’s problems. Take Tori Spelling for instance. Her show really took off when infidelity took center stage, and seemed to peak right there in the therapist’s office. Or, everybody’s favorite pre-cursor to today’s reality show format, the Jerry Springer show. Audience members and viewers alike barely listen to the rest of the show, and instead sit with bated breath waiting to see who will take the first swing.
With shows like Keeping Up with Kardashians, The Real Housewives of Everywhere I can Think of, Honey Boo Boo, and Duck Dynasty, there are opportunities for peeping toms of all types to get their fix of watching real people make fools of themselves. And we all know the sillier, the angrier, or the more emotional they get, the harder it is to get off the couch.
What does this say about us as a society? What kind of message does it give our kids?
As a private detective I have known for a long time that we, as a society, like to peep. As soon as someone finds out what I do for a living their eyes brighten and they ask me “what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen,” or “tell us what’s surprised you most.” Of course, because of confidentiality I can’t share, but I tell them it’s just like watching a reality show.
Capitalizing on this interest in peeping, reality TV has become a darling of the networks. With very little originality, executives create a show that is a textbook success. “Actors” come cheap and gain the notoriety they crave, viewers can’t seem to get enough, and advertisements keep flowing in. Everybody wins.
I’m not a doctor, but it can’t be healthy to watch other people’s mishaps over and over. We’ve long known that being a couch potato is unhealthy, but at least shows that taught us something or made us laugh, made us believe our time in front of the tube wasn’t harmful. Instead, today our children are learning to laugh at other people’s problems, think it’s ok to ridicule one another, and even to get rewarded for being the biggest jerk in the bunch!
And, with the abundance of shows to choose from at all times of day or night, many serial watchers get up only to refill their snack bowl. I know college students who regularly favor binge watching over studying or even socializing. These future leaders are at risk to graduate college overweight, under socialized, and just plain lazy.
I agree its fun to indulge every now and then. A good laugh at the absurdity of the Kardashians never hurt anyone. But, like desserts, too many servings and you’ll get results you don’t want. So, like every diet, the answer is portion control. Limit your intake. Enjoy it for the entertainment it should be, never forgetting for a moment that it is television. When it’s over, turn it off and get back to your life. That’s reality.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m not Irish, but this holiday is impossible to miss. Shamrock green wreaths and inflatable leprechauns throughout my neighborhood makes the St. Patrick’s Day fever downright contagious, even to a those of us who have never tasted Irish soda bread or sipped a green beer. All day today the Irish, and the Irish at heart, will celebrate with family, friends, and a lot of good drinks.
Oh the drinks. There are a lot of them. In fact, did you realize that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest nights of the year because of the amount of fatalities due to drunk driving? (http://augustafreepress.com/st-patricks-day-is-one-of-deadliest-days-of-the-year-because-of-drunk-driving/)
But, I’m not going to lecture on the dangers of drunk driving. It’s been talked about many times and we’ve all been warned. However, those same fun-loving partiers who make the poor choice to get behind the wheel of a car after toasting to St. Patrick, are the same people who may wake up the next morning and have done things the night before that they wish they could take back.
But they can’t.
Too much drinking goes hand in hand with bad choices. There’s no fancy word to describe them – these choices are just bad. They are the kind of choices that:
Make for funny videos that can go viral before you even nurse your hangover the next morning.
Can hurt you professionally. No one wants to see their teacher half naked dancing on top of a table at a local tavern!
Can hurt you or someone you care about very badly – sometimes beyond repair.
The key point is that too much drinking impairs judgment. But, it is not an excuse for anything you do, it is only a reason. And it won’t matter to those who see your video, or to someone you cheated on, that you were just really drunk. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of these excuses knows what I’m talking about.
“I’m sorry honey, I meant to call you I just passed out.”
“We were celebrating and having a good time. I was just dancing and got really hot”
“I don’t know whose panties they are.”
Yes, it was much easier to keep drunken mishaps a secret, or to keep the fallout to a minimum, before video cameras became as common to carry around as our car keys. Now, you are just being naive to think anything you do at any time can be kept quiet. And, once it’s out there it is virtually impossible to get it back.
So, the best way to stop St. Patrick’s day from turning into your own personal apocalypse? Stop drinking just before you lose all sense of judgment. When is that you ask? That is something only you will know. It’s personal. For me it is somewhere between when the guy I avoided all night suddenly looks cute, and I start thinking about what song to choose if they bring out the Karaoke machine! But that’s just me.
Take care of yourself today. Have fun but be safe and be smart. You’ll be much happier tomorrow.
What is going on?
In Washington we have a former first lady AND Secretary of State claiming she just thought it was easier to keep all her emails under one address, which just happens to be her personal email with the secure server safely under her own roof.
And, in Oklahoma we have yet another college fraternity doing something uber stupid and playing the omg we didn’t think something we did in the confines of our fraternity would hurt anyone card.
Ignorance is only bliss for those who have the right to claim it, and both politicians and college students should know better.
Let’s take the political view first. Hillary Clinton has virtually grown up in the White House. In fact, part of her job as the Secretary of State was to protect and maintain national security. Whether or not there was a written policy about using government issued email accounts at the time is irrelevant. She should have known better than using a personal email for matters of national security. To say “it was just easier” makes me, and I’m sure many others like me, question her judgment. I know I certainly don’t want a President who takes the easy road out without considering all the consequences.
Her claim to reporters that “I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by,” is true, but open to interpretation. Yes, government rules allow for personal emails, but mandate that any official emails be preserved. Only Hillary knows if the work emails she handed over are all there are. She didn’t break any laws, but she did open herself up to questions and suspicions. Why would she do this? She must have something to gain, like control over which emails become public and which remain private. So yes, Mrs. Clinton complied with the rules, but clearly bent them to fit some unknown need. Hmmm….this reminds me of another Clinton who bent a definition when he had something to hide: “No, I did not have sex with that woman!”
Someone like Hillary Clinton, with years of experience in the public eye, protecting our nation’s security, and with her own political aspirations, should know that her refusal to be completely transparent would open her up to public scrutiny and criticism. In my experience, I don’t come across this kind of “mistake” unless there is something to hide. I guess only time will tell.
Fortunately, time has run out for the SAE fraternity members in Oklahoma. The University expelled two students and the whole chapter has been disbanded and kicked off campus after a video surfaced showing a racist chant. The boys are deeply sorry, and have apologized. Too little too late if you ask me. One, they should have known better from the beginning. And two, the arrogance from thinking they could chant racially loaded songs for a fraternity video and believe it wouldn’t go any further than their Greek walls is astounding! Good for the University! Their reaction was swift, painful, and public, and should be an example to others at the college level or below that group activities are made up of individuals and will be punished at both the individual and group levels – so make smart choices based on your own beliefs. When you don’t, be prepared to pay. No one is immune.
Claiming ignorance once you are caught and the consequences of your actions unfold around you is almost laughable. As far as I know both Hillary and the boys of SAE have lived in a world with the Internet and social media for most, if not all, of their lives. There is no doubt the boys have been told many times to be careful what they post on their Facebook or Instagram accounts, and Hillary has acted as both the teacher and the student on how best to maintain secure communications. Personally, I’m glad that we, both as a nation and in the educational system, are not turning a blind eye but are holding these individuals accountable for their actions. Let’s be realistic, privacy is simply passé, and to think or act otherwise is the only real ignorance.
…I’m often asked my professional opinion about spying on our kids, and I always answer the same way, “ if you ask a Private Investigator, someone who earns her living through investigating other people, whether she thinks parents should spy on their kids, what do you think the answer will be?”
Spy, spy, spy, my fellow parents…
As you see I’ve written about this before, and while my opinion hasn’t changed, I am willing to revisit and explore both sides. As my own child moves into his teen years, I understand his need for independence includes some rights to privacy. But how much, and at what expense?
I’ve listened to the arguments against spying, especially on teens. Many of them from the teens themselves! But a surprising amount of parents also believe spying on their teenagers is a violation of their privacy. Privacy, that they argue, we had when we were young.
I agree. Spying on our kids IS a clear violation of their privacy. But, who ever said privacy was a right of the under 18 crowd? We know that the adolescent brain is only about 80% developed and that includes decision-making skills. In fact, the teen brain is specially designed to take chances, make mistakes, and test limits. So, it follows that if we give this group privacy, we are also knowingly allowing the very people who make bad choices free reign to make these choices – whatever the consequences.
I’m just not willing to do that. And, you know why? Because the primary job of being a parent is to protect our children as we guide them through childhood into adulthood. Guide, as I understand it, means to be involved, not just hold your breath and hope. It goes without saying that it will be us, as parents, who are called in to pick up the pieces after a crisis, so why shouldn’t it follow that it is the same parents who should be sure irreversible damage is avoided when possible?
Take the teen that knows her parents never check her social media accounts. Now take the one who knows her parents check regularly. Who is more likely to post nude photos of herself? They both know it’s wrong, but the one who is afraid of getting caught is far less likely. And even if she goes ahead and posts, she has a better chance of being stopped before too much damage is done.
So how do we strike this balance between spying and allowing some sort of private life? I admit it is harder the older they get. We do want them to assert their independence, try things, and even fail, all while we can still save them from long-term consequences.
A study by the National Crime Prevention Council says it so simply:
…the main reason that kids don’t use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, basically stay out of trouble, is because of their parents — because of their positive influence and because they know it would disappoint them.
Now, that makes sense. Let them know they are being watched, but build a relationship where they are not afraid of you. And don’t be afraid of them! Let them know who you are and what you stand for. You don’t have to jump on every bad choice, but be aware. Spying allows you to know what’s going on but gives you the luxury of choosing when to step in.
Some Teen Spying Do’s and Don’ts
Do check texts and emails, be their friend on Facebook, follow them on Twitter.
Don’t expect they will tell you what is going on or wrong in their life.
Do watch for changes in behavior including mood changes, sleep changes, eating habits, and even big shifts in socializing habits.
Don’t listen in on their phone calls. That was something even we didn’t allow!
Do ask them who they are speaking to and try to engage them in discussions about what they talk about with their friends.
Don’t put off confronting them about a concern you have.
Do know their friends.
Don’t push when they say nothing is wrong, but keep a watchful eye.
Do talk to them about drugs, sex, and alcohol as young as middle school.
Don’t be afraid to check further if you suspect something.
Do remember what it was like to be their age.
Don’t judge to harshly.
Do forgive them when they mess up!
So, that’s it. We’ve solved the age-old problem of parenting through the teen years, right?
Not so fast. We’ve left out a critical fact of this generation.
Most of our kids are way more tech savvy then all of us put together! If they really want to keep a secret they can. The job of today’s parents is that much more difficult because you have to build a foundation where it remains more appealing to let you in than keep you out – even during the my parent embarrasses me to no end years.
So when the going gets tough, stick with them. They are worth it.
And remember, a good relationship does not take the place of spying, it simply makes it act more as an insurance policy for your teen’s safe entry into adulthood.