Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eavesdropping

The telephone occupied the most central location in the house.  The image of a teenage girl hurtling down the stairs, grabbing the receiver and turning her shoulder to the rest of the family was a staple of 1950's television. By the 1960's there were extensions in the bedrooms, but they were each accessible from the other.  A crafty brother with a gentle touch could lift the receiver in another room and listen in on your personal, private conversations.

Such behavior was frowned upon in polite society.

Our phone was in the kitchen; I'd sit at the top of the basement steps, the door closed securely  behind me, when I needed privacy.  If anyone lurked and listened, I never found out.  My hunch is that it never happened, because I never did it to anyone else.  Of course, they were younger and, therefore, boring, but still......

I don't know if G'ma listened in to my conversations once I had my own extension in my own room, but I doubt that she did.  Ours was a family that didn't open mail that was not our own; even when I was very little, my birthday cards were opened by me, and me alone.  Communications between individuals was sacrosanct; it was shared at the discretion of those involved.

It's not The Snowden Affair which has me focused on this topic. It's more personal and closer to home.  Sparing the details, texts were read by someone she trusted, who betrayed her by sharing them with the grown-up-in-charge-at-the-moment... who happened to be the topic of the invaded conversation.

The feces hit the fan.

The relief she felt when she figured out why that grown-up has been acting weird to me all day was mitigated by the betrayal she had to face.  She never suspected that he would breach her trust. She thought that he was her friend, that he cared about her, and that they shared the same opinion of the grown-up at the center of the drama. She was heartbroken to know that he was none of those things..

And, she was far from home.  That distance is the reason she was texting and not talking to the grown-up-for-real in her life. The Faux Adult had placed the teenager in the middle of a self-created drama and, like a terrier, she would not let go. Though it centered on our beleaguered heroine, the issues of power, control, and the flow of information revolved around the Faux Adult.... which is just where she wanted things to be.  She is limited.  She has no depth of character.  She has shown herself to be unreliable and hurtful over and over again.  Her behavior was surprising only to the teen at the heart of it all.

And that's where it lives - in the heart.  A young girl saw a chance to resurrect a broken relationship and, against her better instincts, the grown-up-in-real-life said Yes.  Once again, my cardinal rule of parenting proved itself to be the guidepost for all decisions - trust your gut.  She didn't, and the kid paid the price.

Live and learn, on all fronts, it seems.

Does reading purloined text messages not carry a social stigma?  Do the conversations that we have, thumbs flying over teeny keyboards, living on forever in the ether, have less importance than the spoken word for this technologically savvy generation?  Was the instigator of this event just looking to make a scene, not caring about society's strictures?  Should we worry about committing our inner-most thoughts to pixels?  Or is this all about a grown-up who wasn't at the center of attention for a moment, who fought to retain the spotlight, and who didn't consider the consequences.

After all, those consequences sat on someone else's shoulders. As long as people were looking at her, were involved with her, were talking about her, life was good.

Someday we ought to have the conversation about licensing parents.

4 comments:

  1. I don't agree with spying on our children and we have to trust that they are doing the right thing online. Whether that is with texting, social media etc... A good friend's daughter was told on by her aunt to her mother about what was on her Facebook page. The teenager felt so betrayed by her aunt that she still hasn't forgiven her. If it had been me, I would have talked with the teenager first. Explained to her about what is appropriate online and what isn't.

    My daughter wants to use Instagram and I told her she would also have to let me have access to view her pictures. She is fine with that. I think we have to give our kids some leeway room. I do not read my daughter's texts or mail and I know some parents will not agree with me, but I feel it's wrong. It would be like reading her diary.

    I think all of this boils down to trust.

    Have a great day AB.

    Megan xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a tough call for a "good kid", Megan. The "illusion of privacy" is what I gave my kids.

      This wasn't a custodial parent reading the texts.... this was intrusion, it seems to me.
      a/b

      Delete
  2. I am mixed in terms of how I see this. Since my kids are raised, it's not the same today with the Internet. I am thinking of a time when I first came online and was chatting at a place called Sedona Net. It was an old fashioned system back then where whenever you came on, you could read what had been said before. It was a kind of thread. So I would come on and read, had a few friends but mostly was reading and came across a man who i believe was grooming a young girl. She was a 13 year old as best I recall and he was paying attention only to her. Asking her questions. My guess he was in his 50s but that was indefinite. He told her dirty jokes though and suggested he'd like to meet her at her school as she was moving to one closer to where he lived. At that point, I turned him into the people who ran the system. I also told a friend who I knew was in the area and could be sure my message got through. The world today isn't just about kids in a diary but those who groom the naive for something they aren't remotely understanding. I felt it was what he was doing.

    My daughter told her daughter that all her emails had to be open to her to read. I think with the risks out there, it's not a bad approach. Kids don't understand all that is out there and sometimes when parents aren't aware tragedy is the result. I don't know that anybody did anything to that older guy but he should have been kicked off the system as he hadn't committed a crime but dirty jokes to a thirteen year old? Something was definitely wrong there. I don't envy parents today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I dont' envy parents today".... that says it all, Rain.
      a/b

      Delete

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