Knowing My Password

Lynn JataniaMy three kids all know the password to my phone.

It’s because I rely on them to play secretary for me when I’m driving. If the phone rings or there is a bing of a text, 99% of the time it’s a member of my immediate family trying to get in touch with something relatively pressing.

(I’m not a big user of my phone in general, so it tends to be a need-you-now kind of device in general.)

So I started handing my phone to one of the kids as we drove off, so they’d be ready to handle any incoming issues. They answer my phone when they see it’s my husband calling, and chat with him. They answer texts from my other kids asking if they can go over to a friend’s house.

My middle daughter even uses it to connect with the car stereo and load up Spotify playlists, which is some kind of technological voodoo I am incapable of doing myself.

Aside: A strict rule for us for using someone else’s phone to text is that you MUST declare that you are not that person. I am strongly opposed to pretending to be someone you are not when you are online. Even if my child is just taking dictation from me to respond to someone else, they must first announce their own name, so the person at the other end of the line knows there’s a third party on this conversation.

In any case, the kids have all answered my phone enough times now that they all know the code to unlock it. I wasn’t that worried as I don’t use my phone for much, and other than the occasional chat with my husband about Christmas presents, I didn’t think I had much to hide.

The other day my phone binged while it was sitting on the kitchen table. I was upstairs sorting laundry, so my youngest reached over, casually unlocked it, and then checked the message. My husband was sitting there and he was not impressed at all, and his reaction got us both thinking about setting some ground rules.

He pointed out to my youngest that my phone was private and personal.

He wanted her to know that even though she can unlock it at will, she isn’t to check messages on it or answer it unless I have expressly told her to do so – every single time.

He explained that other apps on my phone – such as email or Instagram – are off-limits and only for my personal use.

I hadn’t realized that my phone had come to be thought of as community property in the house. Although I don’t have any deep dark secrets, it’s just good policy to teach the kids that personal messages are exactly that – personal. That if someone chooses to share one message, that doesn’t just give you blanket access to all messages. And that they should expect the same level of respect and privacy for their own messages from their friends and family, if and when they should get their own phone.

It was a great conversation and something I’ll be reminding my kids about on occasion – although I’ll still be using them as my in-car secretaries.

Do you let your kids answer your phone?