Friday, October 21, 2011

Crossing the Line of Privacy and Communication With Teens

 “Is snooping through your partner’s social networking accounts, phones, etc, a form of abuse?”

 I think there are two parts to this question. One is the question of trust. Why would you or your partner need to snoop through social networking sites and phones? Is it because you feel they are cheating, hiding something, or doing something they shouldn’t? Snooping, first and foremost implies that they party being “snooped” doesn’t know that it is happening, and would be upset if they knew it was. In a non-abusive relationship snooping isn’t something that should be happening if trust exists. Sure, you can look at your partner’s Facebook or Twitter account and see what they are doing but shouldn’t you already know if the relationship is strong and you trust one another? If you are in a non-abusive relationship and you feel you are being snooped or are doing the snooping, closer examination of the relationship is warranted because there seems to be a lack of trust and communication in the relationship. Those issues should be dealt with immediately by talking to your partner and discussing why one of you feels the need to snoop.

When does the snooping become abuse and it can most definitely be a form of abuse? It is abuse when the person doing the snooping is doing so in order to maintain control of the person being snooped. If your partner is looking through your Facebook, Twitter, other social networking accounts and/or phones in order to see what you are doing or who you are talking to exert control over what you are doing, it is abuse. For example, Jim is snooping through Nina’s phone while she is in the shower. He wants to see who she talked to, texted, what she said and how long the conversation was. He also wants to see what names and numbers are stored in her phone. Jim doesn’t like it when Nina sees her friends from school or talks to her lab partner, Eric. He constantly tells her that he thinks she’s cheating on him. Nina knows she only talks to Eric about Biology but Jim doesn’t believe her. Jim also tells her that her friends are trying to break them apart and he doesn’t like it. He tells Nina that he thinks she is spending too much time talking to her friends and he is using her phone logs against her as proof of his accusations. Jim gets angry and threatens to leave her, hurt her, or hurt her friends if she doesn’t stop talking with Eric. Jim is clearly using technology to control Nina’s behaviors and isolate her from her friends. This is abuse.

In this day and age, with smart phones with internet access, cameras, and GPS, connected social networking and logs, phones have become our electronic signature. They are fun and useful but can also be dangerous and deadly if used as a tool for abuse. I don’t think that snooping is ever okay because it is masking a deeper issue with trust and privacy and possible abuse. If you feel you have to hide what you are doing on your smart phone or social networking sites because your partner may be snooping or get angry, please reach out to the National Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474. Their people will be able to discuss with you, at length, your situation and answer questions you may have. If your partner is snooping through your private things to control your actions and interactions or isolate you then it is abuse.

“When is jealousy not healthy? Is it ever?”

There is a difference between jealousy and envy. If you Google jealousy, the vast majority of definitions say something to the effect of: negative feelings or resentment of a rival, feelings of insecurity, fear, or desire to possess something that a rival has. If you Google envy, the majority of definitions say something to the effect of: to want something that someone else has.

I feel that jealousy is a negative feeling with negative consequences and envy a more positive feeling. If I were jealous of a friend’s new car, over time I would begin to resent what they had because it is something that I want and seemingly can’t have. If I was envious my friend’s new car, while I would still long for what they had, I believe envy to be a motivator for me to achieve the same sorts of successes for myself.

So when is jealousy healthy? I say never. When is envy healthy? When it inspires or motivates someone to work toward a new goal and achieve something they long for. Jealousy only fuels negative feelings that cause more negative consequences especially in a dating relationship.

If Jim is jealousy of all the time that Nina spends with Eric (even if it just for school work) very little positive could come out of that. Jim could talk to Nina about it but in an abusive dating relationship, all Jim would want is to have Nina stop talking to Eric regardless of the outcome. Namely, Nina would start getting bad grades in Biology if she didn’t work with her lab partner. This is where jealousy can become irrational. To make Jim feel better Nina needs to fail Biology, unlikely and definitely something that is unfair to ask of Nina. But in a dating violence relationship it just might be something Nina would do to make sure Jim is happy and to keep him from getting angry with her.

Sure, it is flattering when a new boyfriend or girlfriends gets a little jealous or envious of the time their new love devotes to someone else. It means they really love you, right? With jealousy, that can go too far. If your partner’s feelings of jealousy make you uncomfortable, if you find yourself making excuses to your partner or other people about your partner’s jealousy, this could be a sign of dating violence.

“What about couples who share their Facebook account passwords? Is the line of privacy crossing the line?”

In any healthy relationship privacy and trust are paramount. Even if you love someone to death, they should still respect your right to privacy and trust you. Certainly you are free to share passwords and login information as you see fit, but I would caution just about anyone against it, especially in a teen dating relationship.

You may feel that you have nothing to hide from your partner but that is beside the point. With Facebook, if you accept a friend request from your partner, they have can see what you are posting, saying, and doing. They don’t need your password for that. You shouldn’t have to give anyone access to your online or cyber identity to prove your trust. Sharing passwords to Facebook accounts, email accounts, or other social media isn’t safe. You and you alone are responsible for your cyber identity. Your cyber identity is as valuable as your personal identity. Giving anyone access to your cyber identity gives them the power to affect you and your reputation. In the wrong hands or the right hands gone wrong, that is a scary prospect. You would never share your PIN to your bank accounts and you should never share your passwords to social networking accounts.

Giving someone access to your cyber identity is dangerous, at best. You may trust your partner but what if they lose the slip of paper you gave them the info on? What if someone else finds it or one of their friends finds it and they don’t like you? They could easily post, send, and pretend to be you. Prank or not, they can damage your identity. What if you break up with the love of your life because they cheated on you or you found out that they just weren’t the person for you? What if it was an ugly break up? Gossip and name-calling are bad but in this age of technology and instant communication damage to your identity can be done in seconds and possibly never undone. If your partner insists on having your passwords it could be a sign of potential dating abuse. You should be able to share your online life with someone without sharing internal access to it. Keep your cyber identity as safe as your PIN and real life identity because undoing the damage to either is something no one should have to go through.

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