General Question

Cardinal's avatar

To snoop or not to snoop.

Asked by Cardinal (2913 points ) December 9th, 2007

I have a daughter in school out of state. I have always respected the kids privacy but I am now concerned she is getting into something that may (will) have very serious long term implications. My concern is taking presidence over her privacy. I have attempted to talk, but didn’t make much headway. There are 2 problems. My guilt over doing this and I don’t have the vaguest idea how to get into her comcast account. I only need to look at a couple of messages to make sure and don’t want her to know I didn’t trust her.

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20 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

how old is she?

soethe6's avatar

Um what do you think she’s into? That matters, IMO. But understandable if you don’t want to talk about it.

I’d say consider also, if you find the bad news you think you might, that your having snooped will not help your appearance when you confront her. You’ll be giving her ammunition, because whatever you say she can object that you’ve been distrustful and have gained this knowledge unfairly. It’d be like getting evidence for court that isn’t admissible because it wasn’t properly collected.

gooch's avatar

Snoop and fix it if you can. As a parent it is our job to protect your kids not be a friend.

Cardinal's avatar

She is 17.5 and it may be substance abuse. I don’t know how to snoop, short of stealing her laptop and finding a professional hacker…..or maybe a middle school kid, who could probably get into the system.

sjg102379's avatar

If you think that your daughter is abusing substances, by all means, get her help. You don’t need her emails to do that. All you have to do is say “I am your parent. I think you have a problem. Therefore, I am sending you to a therapist to help you with this problem.” She may scream, cry, and deny it, but maybe she’ll use her time with a professional to her benefit. If she is not willing to do anything about her problem, all the proof in the world isn’t going to help.

sndfreQ's avatar

As a parent of a legal minor, you are her legal guardian; while I’m not a legal expert, I am a parent and believe that as long as your child is still a minor, you have a legal right to access anything of hers (she has no privacy under you).

This concept may seem impersonal, but if she is committing criminal acts with her computer (i.e. making illicit drug deals, etc.) using her computer, she is in fact committing criminal offenses on her computer (your computer if you purchased it for her), and if she’s using your comcast account (if you are the named owner of the account)-that would be cause enough to investigate imho. Esp. if you know that this is happening and you are not doing anything about it, you may be on the hook for [aiding] her?...but again, not a lawyer, (feel free to correct me on that one hoss et al…)

Now as for the Comcast account, who is paying the bill on that? If it’s you who gets the statement, you can easily contact their customer care and they should be able to provide you with username/password information for all email accounts (or allow you to reset them at least).

Now if you wanted to go the more underground route there is a LOT of surveillance software out there, one that I heard of recently on radio that suspicious mates use to spy on their significant others is called sentinel

also, PC Sentinel is another competing product.

gailcalled's avatar

Putting the technical and legal issues aside (altho sndfrq raises some very valid and important issues and info), it is your obligation, out of love, to intervene, even if it is only a suspicion. Kids are clever and she may try to divert you by asking,” How did you find out, Dad?” Ignore that; the only issue is her health, safety and long-term abilitity to cope.

I had a step-son who did crack cocaine and alcohol for 10 years. His real family skirted the issue until intervention was imperative, when he was in his early 20’s. This kid, now 43, lost 10 years of socialization and education.. He says today, now that his life is back in order, that he wishes everyone had moved in on him earlier. It took two rounds of rehab.

ideabrian's avatar

Imagine how you’d have wanted to be treated if in 10 years, you were going to look back and realize that you really wanted somebody stronger to step in and help. The worst is that at that age (17.5), we think we know sooo much.

As we transition from teen to 20 to 30, we respect the result more than the method and no matter how you go about it, if your intentions are pure, keep going until you get the result that will allow both of you to come out and say, “Woosh.. that was a crazy ride!” .. rather than isolate each other for doing things that you don’t like, Be strong with good intentions. Don’t make them wrong, make them feel loved and respected.

Get curious about the drug use. Why are they doing it? Did they not perceive enough love and thus are trying to escape? Is it just fun?

At the end of the day, there’s nowhere to go. We’re all just here to have different experiences. A good life might not be one you live to be 110. What if the drug use is just a mechanism to bring you closer?

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

As a 16-year-old, I feel compelled to give my input. If my parents went rifling through my emails, I would be extremely angry, but more than that I’d be hurt. The distrust that clearly shows from parent to child can hurt so, so much, especially at this age. However, if my parents were to sit me down and have a good long talk with me about drugs and alcohol and their suspicions about what I’ve been doing (though I might be angry for a short time) I would be thankful to you in the long-run, and I would not have that hurt that comes with the realization that your parents completely distrust you.
Also, though it may not seem to you like you are completely distrusting your daughter, you MUST remember that she is a teenager, and will think of it as you completely distrusting her and this will hurt—a lot, and for a long time.

Cardinal's avatar

Thanks everyone for imput!

gailcalled's avatar

Tali makes a valid point about snooping w/o a life-threatening reason. When my step-son finally crashed, it was in the era before email. The signals were changes in behavior, (some clear lying),wt. loss and really unhealthy pallor, stealing small amts of money from wallets and purses, stealing small valuables to pawn, being protected by his two older brothers, and ultimately us being aware of a dealer who was sniffing around (armed and dangerous) looking for the $20,000 that my s/s owed him.

Then one of his friends was shot and died, he got into a drug-related barroom brawl and was slashed across the face w. a broken bottle (still has the scar in spite of plastic surgery) and everything just crashed. It was far too late for anything but inhouse rehab.

I say, “Don’t wait.” Better to have her angry and healthy and you be wrong. Talking is certainly a wonderful first step;our experience was that once my s/s was hooked, he could only lie to us all. We all seem to agree that the least loving behavior is NOT to intervene.

zina's avatar

Ok, I definitely agree about the need for intervention, and sooner not later. I could tell all the same stories about my brother (drugs, alcohol), friend (eating disorder), other friend (drugs)......etc. I am constantly an advocate of getting in people’s business because it is better for them in the long run, not to regret not having helped when one could, etc etc etc.

BUT! I really really disagree about the method of sneaking onto her computer or email. I’m not a parent, but I was a teenager whose parents trespassed those limits of privacy. It DESTROYED our relationships and more than a decade later (with almost no contact) there’s absolutely no sign of it ever resolving. At 17.5, you are nearly an adult. I understand the legal stuff about minors, but this is a question of relationships. She is an individual, with rights, an identity, a life,... (all those same things we all have)... and she deserves RESPECT. I felt, and still do, that my parents couldn’t separate that identity—- I was part of them or however you’d phrase it—and couldn’t make that transition into perceiving me as an equal and separate individual. It can be something as simple as not opening another person’s mail (then) – today, I guess the parallel would be snooping in email (although that strikes me as one notch further). At 14–15-16–17-18–19 (very much depending on the person/culture/circumstances) you are TRANSITIONING from child/youth to adult. It obviously can’t happen overnight on the 18th birthday, so you have to consider it a gradual process—and your doing so will create the possibility of a successful transition. (That might seem like a tangent, but I think that underlying thinking is very relevant for how you handle this situation.)

A serious heart-to-heart, a group discussion with family or friends, a letter (less recommended), a spontaneous just-the-two-of-you vacation somewhere fun (if it’s long enough, an addiction would surface then), telling a story of your friend who ODed, simply explaining your position (talking like an adult! woohoo!), whatever you think is best in the circumstances…. is better than something you clearly understand to be wrong. You can’t teach right and wrong by doing the ‘wrong’ thing, and you can’t teach how to have healthy interactions and relationships if you don’t do them. Helping her is absolutely the right move for a loving parent (or any loving person who knows her), but you have to do it in an adult (mature/respectful/honest) way. Imagine having a good conversation with her after breaking into her laptop – hard to imagine, right? Why add a ‘wrong’ on your side when you don’t have to? Increase the likelihood of a successful outcome in this particular situation, and the larger situation of her transition to adulthood (with all the choices and responsibilities that come with it), by doing the right thing every step of the way. It may be harder for you now (having to creatively come up with an alternative to the “easy way”), but it will pay off in your relationship with her, and in that way could have just as significant implications as the drugs themselves.

glial's avatar

So no one here did any partying as a teenager? I sure as hell did. Better at 17, than 37.

If you did your parenting right, you have nothing to worry about.

I think there is a huge difference between “smoking a little” and having a drug problem.

If you do snoop and find out, then what? If you don’t have the “gonads” to confront her face-to-face you’re not going have them to do anything about it anyway. All you are going to end up with is broken trust.

P.S. I got all of that stuff out of my system by the time I was 22 or so.

cwilbur's avatar

There’s a huge difference between “partying” and a drug problem.

Part of what the querent is looking for is evidence of which one it is.

I do concur, though, that the best solution here is not to break into her laptop—she’s a teenager, and while she is a minor and all that, she needs a place that’s hers, not to be invaded by parents. You need to sit her down and talk to her, face to face, without avoiding the issue or being afraid of confrontation. If she is abusing drugs, there will be a confrontation when you call her on it.

Breaking into her computer is the wrong thing to do; if she is having substance abuse problems, she may appreciate it in the long run that you stepped in to intervene, but she’ll probably never trust you again. If you don’t want her to know you don’t trust her, don’t do things that demonstrate that lack of trust.

On the other hand, if you sit down with her and say, “look, I’ve seen some things that worry me,” and lay out your reasons, you’ll accomplish much the same thing.

Presumably if your minor daughter is living in another state, there’s someone responsible for watching over her, who sees her day-to-day behavior? Enlist that person to help here.

breedmitch's avatar

I was going to comment, but by the time I finished reading all the other posts, I realized you all said everything I was going to say. Oh, and snoop.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

@breedmitch: I think the gist of what people are saying is NOT to snoop, so I’d be interested to hear your reasons FOR snooping.

gailcalled's avatar

@cardinal; what raised the red flag for you? Is there another parent or siblings who could help. Keep us posted and good luck.

I have friends whose daughter was traveling alone recently n a rural area of Brazil and didn’t check in when she had promised. Terrified that she was lying in a ditch or worse, her dad hacked into her email – she had been writing to her friends. She was angry but then calmed down and understood that he had no other way of finding her and that she had broken her promise.

breedmitch's avatar

@tali
read the responses again.
Look, if your baby were putting broken glass in her mouth you would stop her no matter how much she fussed about it. Same thing with a teen (and she is just a teen.) My point was that a confrontation has to happen. It’s up to cardinal whether the confrontation happens with or without proof. I guess my point is put guilt aside. If you feel you need the proof before you confront, then get it by whatever means necessary. It is well within your rights. Babies are gonna cry.
Now time for another bonghit.

Mrs_Dr_Frank_N_Furter's avatar

How could you! getting into her personal life. Shame on you! lol

tramnineteen's avatar

I’m 21 and I did a fair number of drugs in the past and even smoke cigarettes, I have since quit everything. My only addiction was cigarettes and pot was quite the habit.

That said, you need to know just for your peace of mind the seriousness of pot and a handful of other drugs as opposed to harder ones such as cocaine. If your daughter is just smoking a little pot PLEASE stay calm when you confront her about it. How you handle the issue makes a HUGE difference. Anger on your will make things worse. Be loving and patient and she will be shocked and respect your words of wisdom way more.

I would either snoop and make damned sure she never knows, or not and look up all the signs such as red eyes, funny smells, etc.

If she gets into it she WILL slip up and reveal the habit sooner or later via something like that. I did (not that they caught me but they didn’t know to look).

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