My husband was on his way home with both our girls. I had just arrived home from work, and I began my daily routine of feeding pets and changing into my workout clothes. I sat on the sofa and put on my socks and shoes. I wonder if my bonus-daughter’s phone is in her room, randomly popped into my head.
I have never snooped at her phone before, so this thought was new and definitely random for me. But my brain could not let go. Starting to stretch for my evening run, I kept marinating on the idea. So, I said a little prayer, asking God for His wisdom, and I felt an even stronger urge to put my secret agent hat on and figure out why I was so compelled to look.
Before we judge me for invading privacy, I should note that my bonus-daughter is only ten years old, and we did not purchase the phone for her, her mother did. We made it known to her mother that we believed she was too young for a cell phone, but as it happens in most high-conflict co-parenting situations, we lost this battle. We do, however, have parameters for phone usage at our house, as we limit screen time of any sorts for our kids.
Back to my story…
After accepting that I was not going to be able to break free from the sudden obsession with checking my kiddo’s phone, I ventured into her room. I found her phone hidden inside her vanity drawer, and I easily guessed her password. What I found next horrified me and brought me to a new level of worry.
Boys. Some she knew from school, and some she had never met. Boys texting her and her responding as though they were teenagers! Texted selfies, group messages with bullying, curse words, emotions, FaceTimes, and phone calls – I didn’t even know she knew what this stuff was. After all, she is TEN years old!
Phone calls, texts, internet searches, YouTube videos, photo albums – I searched them all. It felt like I was in an alternate universe because this phone content did not reflect the bonus daughter that I knew. My chest was heaving, emotions were rising, and my mind was fluctuating between fear and fury. I called my husband and promptly prepared him for a conversation we would have to have when he arrived home.
Go running, Kimberly, you need to clear your head.
One thing I learned a long time ago with my family is that nothing is ever rightly resolved if approached with unprocessed, raw emotions. My husband and I sat down and discussed what was happening. We prayed and weighed the various reactions that we could have. We decided to approach our ten-year-old.
We went into our ten-year old’s room and calmly asked about her phone usage and content. Denial, denial, denial. She had no idea that we already knew the truth and knew the answers to the questions we were asking. We chose to speak calmly and with love. But we did have to address the truth, and the truth was that her mom allows risky behaviors that we do not in our home. We talked about the dangers of talking to kids you don’t know, of sending pictures, of lying, and of viewing content that is wholesome.
After admitting the truth, tears of embarrassment, and prayers for wisdom and protection, the conversation came to an end. We established one very strict rule for the future though – if the phone comes to our house, it is turned off and left in the kitchen. Our ten-year-old will, instead, spend her time being a kid, playing and staying away from danger.
Were we right in how we responded? I have no idea. These were not issues that we faced when I was younger. But our hearts are at peace with what we will and will not allow in our home.