Author Topic: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.  (Read 6125 times)

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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2023, 11:04:20 AM »

Offline JSD

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I would like to clarify quick that I am able to contact him at any time, but my concern lies with my inability to access his phone. In the event that I feel the need to ensure his safety or prevent him from posting anything inappropriate, I am unable to do so.

Iím glad I got that wrong - glad you have contact with him whenever you want.

And I agree with Royís comment.

Thanks man. I agree with Roy too, the question is how far do I push it?
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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2023, 11:10:23 AM »

Offline Celtics2021

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I would like to clarify quick that I am able to contact him at any time, but my concern lies with my inability to access his phone. In the event that I feel the need to ensure his safety or prevent him from posting anything inappropriate, I am unable to do so.

Access it when heís with you, or remotely?

In general, what Iíve seen is that the custodial parent makes the rules about the phone when the child is with them, and the non-custodial parent makes the rules when the child is with them.

I'm not interested in remote access, however, when we're together, I do expect to have access to his phone.

I think thatís fair, so long as youíre not installing tracking apps or anything.  Your house, your rules.  Her house, her rules.

I am not certain what tracking apps are, and perhaps that is the reason my ex-wife is hesitant to allow me access to his phone. Is it possible that she installed spyware?


 Of course its possible.  Missing some details here, will your son not allow you access to his phone when hes with you?


My ex and I recently had a heated argument over this phone situation. When he was with me, my son and his pal had made a gaming video which he uploaded to YouTube. I asked him for his username so I could view it. Note that this incident occurred as I was dropping off my son to my ex-wife. We were meeting at the midpoint to exchange custody. So while in the car, I explained to my son that he needed to show me what he had just posted on YouTube, he refused. I texted my ex-wife, who was only 20 feet away in her car, to inform her that I was addressing a disciplinary issue with our son. She charged towards me in an aggressive manner, shouting at me to let our son out of the car. Knowing that she has a history of lying, I began recording her behaviour the moment she got out of the car.

Moving forward, I told her that our son would no longer be allowed to carry any electronic devices with him when he is with me, unless I have full access. When I picked him up next, he had his phone on him as usual, and I had to confiscate it and turn it off. This incident led to an emergency order filed by my ex, which was quickly dismissed. My ex seems to think that any time I act as a responsible parent to discipline our son, I am being abusive, which is patently absurd. I don't believe in physical discipline, and I always try to communicate with him rationally.


After her case was dismissed, she reached out, looking for peace. But was adamant that I need to leave the phone thing alone.

Iím not saying youíre in the wrong, JSD, but I also donít think youíre clearly in the right on this one.  At best youíre going to have a Pyrrhic victory.  Confiscating the phone is going to turn your son against you, regardless of anything his mom says in addition.  As I said above, it depends what relationship you want with your son, but Iíd let him keep the phone and keep it on, but try setting some times when itís just there for emergencies and time when itís there for him to have fun with.  And Iíd also apologize to him for the interaction you described. 

For perspective, the average age a child gets a phone in the US is 10-and-a-half, so thatís in line with his peers.  (Cell phone use amongst minors is literally something I research as part of my job, so trust me on this one).  The number one reason parents get their children phones is due to safety concerns when theyíre away from home ó every time thereís one of these high profile mass shootings involving children, the number of phones bought for kids spikes.  That totally tracks with your exís reaction to your confiscating the phone and turning it off when heís with you.

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2023, 11:15:28 AM »

Offline JSD

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Ignoring the argument with your ex for a minute, what sort of relationship do you want with your son?  A personal story:

My parents split when I was ten, and my mother had primary custody.  My father wasnít a horrible person in an objective sense, but he was very much a ďmy house, my rulesĒ kind of person when we I was with him.  Whether that was because he had a different set of values from my mom, was naturally an authoritative person, or was himself struggling from the divorce doesnít really matter.  What matters is that I was 10, 11, 12, 13 and was really struggling to adjust to my parents split, and had to operate under a different set of rules when I was in his house.  It was like walking on eggshells at his house, because Iíd always screw up while I was there, and then the visit would be ruined.  Biologically speaking, kids at that age already have trouble with following rules, so having an extra set was frankly too much.

Anyway, it changed over time from me being excited to see my father to me dreading to see my father.  And once I became an adult and didnít have to see him, I saw him less and less, and then talked to him less and less, and then I stopped.  Iím in my 40s now, Iíve neither talked to him or seen him in over a decade, and I donít really have any regrets.  The stuff above wasnít the only reason, but it was a major part of the puzzle.

Anyway, I think youíre technically in your rights to make your son show you whatís on his phone when heís with you, but I wouldnít do it, at least not by forcing him.  If youíre worried about some of the games heís playing, ask him what his favorites are, download them onto your own phone, and see if you can play them together.  That will give you something to bond over, and you can also judge from your own experience how potentially harmful or not the games are relative to how fun they are.  If youíre worried heís on the phone too much while heís with you, try to do more things to keep him interested, but also set aside some time for him to use the phone.  Maybe say something like ďItís hard not seeing you every day, so itíd would be nice if youíre on the phone a bit less this weekend.  Iíll try to make sure to stay off mine as well.Ē  But make a couple 30-minute blocks on the weekend when thatís what heís doing if he wants.  If youíre worried about social media, I understand, and he shouldnít be on it at that age, but youíre not going to save him from it by forcing him to show you whatís there.  Itís best just to try to make sure you have a good relationship so he feels comfortable telling you about anything there that you really should know about, so you can help him navigate it before he gets to the age where heís just not going to tell you because heís a full on teenager.  Maybe you can sign up for his preferred social media and follow/friend him so you can, again, see what heís seeing, but I wouldnít force that one if he objects.  But heís 11 ó if you show genuine interest, heíll probably let you in.  If you let him get the feeling that you donít trust him and are spying on him, he wonít, and you should stop at the boundary heís set rather than try to break through it.

The way youíve described things sound so much like what my father would do in 2023.  So again, it depends what relationship you want with him.

In essence, my reservation towards this phone matter stems from two underlying reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the notion of granting my ex access to something that I do not possess. Secondly, it pertains to ensuring his safety on the internet.

Regarding my parenting style, I must clarify that I am not a disciplinarian like your father. While I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, I assure you that I am quite different from him in this regard. In fact, I can hardly recall the last time I had to discipline my child before the recent phone incident. Iím very much laid-back for the most part.

My son is a well-behaved kid who follows my instructions as well as his mother's. However, in situations where there may be conflicting instructions, he tends to listen to his mother over me.

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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #18 on: April 08, 2023, 11:33:03 AM »

Offline Neurotic Guy

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I would like to clarify quick that I am able to contact him at any time, but my concern lies with my inability to access his phone. In the event that I feel the need to ensure his safety or prevent him from posting anything inappropriate, I am unable to do so.

Iím glad I got that wrong - glad you have contact with him whenever you want.

And I agree with Royís comment.

Thanks man. I agree with Roy too, the question is how far do I push it?

Iíve adjusted a couple of my responses based on more info from you - seeing the issue more clearly.  Sorry about the assumption that you were being more of an authoritarian parent than you obviously are.

While sometimes you have to have different rules, kids adjusting to major differences in parenting styles and values, is tough for kids.

As hard as it is, I still think you are best off trying as much as possible to send positive messages about your ex to your son, and trying to lighten (if itís possible) the anger between the two of you.  I realize you canít control that on her end.   It sucks and itís difficult.  If taking away some autonomy from your son has to happen, a good approach might be to calmly explain why to him while maybe providing some compromise and options that might work for both of you. If nothing else, on some level he'll know that you are considering his perspective and that your bottom line with him is always about safety -  and youíd rather risk him being mad than risk him being unsafe.  Then continue to plan positive times with him (something my own dad left out of his patenting). 

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2023, 11:48:41 AM »

Offline Celtics2021

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Ignoring the argument with your ex for a minute, what sort of relationship do you want with your son?  A personal story:

My parents split when I was ten, and my mother had primary custody.  My father wasnít a horrible person in an objective sense, but he was very much a ďmy house, my rulesĒ kind of person when we I was with him.  Whether that was because he had a different set of values from my mom, was naturally an authoritative person, or was himself struggling from the divorce doesnít really matter.  What matters is that I was 10, 11, 12, 13 and was really struggling to adjust to my parents split, and had to operate under a different set of rules when I was in his house.  It was like walking on eggshells at his house, because Iíd always screw up while I was there, and then the visit would be ruined.  Biologically speaking, kids at that age already have trouble with following rules, so having an extra set was frankly too much.

Anyway, it changed over time from me being excited to see my father to me dreading to see my father.  And once I became an adult and didnít have to see him, I saw him less and less, and then talked to him less and less, and then I stopped.  Iím in my 40s now, Iíve neither talked to him or seen him in over a decade, and I donít really have any regrets.  The stuff above wasnít the only reason, but it was a major part of the puzzle.

Anyway, I think youíre technically in your rights to make your son show you whatís on his phone when heís with you, but I wouldnít do it, at least not by forcing him.  If youíre worried about some of the games heís playing, ask him what his favorites are, download them onto your own phone, and see if you can play them together.  That will give you something to bond over, and you can also judge from your own experience how potentially harmful or not the games are relative to how fun they are.  If youíre worried heís on the phone too much while heís with you, try to do more things to keep him interested, but also set aside some time for him to use the phone.  Maybe say something like ďItís hard not seeing you every day, so itíd would be nice if youíre on the phone a bit less this weekend.  Iíll try to make sure to stay off mine as well.Ē  But make a couple 30-minute blocks on the weekend when thatís what heís doing if he wants.  If youíre worried about social media, I understand, and he shouldnít be on it at that age, but youíre not going to save him from it by forcing him to show you whatís there.  Itís best just to try to make sure you have a good relationship so he feels comfortable telling you about anything there that you really should know about, so you can help him navigate it before he gets to the age where heís just not going to tell you because heís a full on teenager.  Maybe you can sign up for his preferred social media and follow/friend him so you can, again, see what heís seeing, but I wouldnít force that one if he objects.  But heís 11 ó if you show genuine interest, heíll probably let you in.  If you let him get the feeling that you donít trust him and are spying on him, he wonít, and you should stop at the boundary heís set rather than try to break through it.

The way youíve described things sound so much like what my father would do in 2023.  So again, it depends what relationship you want with him.

In essence, my reservation towards this phone matter stems from two underlying reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the notion of granting my ex access to something that I do not possess. Secondly, it pertains to ensuring his safety on the internet.

Regarding my parenting style, I must clarify that I am not a disciplinarian like your father. While I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, I assure you that I am quite different from him in this regard. In fact, I can hardly recall the last time I had to discipline my child before the recent phone incident. Iím very much laid-back for the most part.

My son is a well-behaved kid who follows my instructions as well as his mother's. However, in situations where there may be conflicting instructions, he tends to listen to his mother over me.

Itís the bolded language that, to me, makes you sound pretty controlling and authoritarian.  Iím not trying to insult you, but I really think youíd be better served to stand down from this issue.  Itís a no-win for you, so for your sonís sake youíre better off finding a compromise that lets him use his phone sometimes and show you what he wants to show you.

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2023, 12:03:47 PM »

Offline Roy H.

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Do s she have his usernam s / passwords?

Whatís her argument to you?

I would frame it that you want to co-parent and keep your son safe.  You wonít delete anything from social media, etc, without you two coming to an agreement.  However, itís important that you both know what your 11 year old is up to.  Heís a good kid, but there are a lot of dangers out there.  Maybe even show vulnerability and explaining that youíre scared of whatís out there.

I donít think it has to be an all or nothing power struggle.


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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2023, 12:41:27 PM »

Offline bdm860

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So your son's 11.  Could just be normal change kids go through as tweens, where they start to really value their privacy, and go into their shell.  Not that your son is hiding anything or doing anything wrong, he just wants his privacy and is just turning into the age from sharing everything to not wanting to share anything with his parents.

You know you and your ex's situation better than anyone.  But is it possible this just stems from different parenting philosophy/style?  Maybe she thinks kids should have a lot of privacy, while you think kids shouldn't have that level of privacy to ensure their safety?

For what it's worth, there's many experts out there who will tell you "snooping" on your kids does more harm than good. 
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/well/family/is-snooping-on-teenagers-ever-ok.html

Quote
Adults who suspect their adolescent is up to something may feel compelled to cross privacy boundaries, but research on Dutch families found that the teenagers of prying parents werenít misbehaving any more than those whose parents didnít snoop. Notably, the same study instead linked parentsí snooping to their worries about the strength of their relationship with their teenager. According to Skyler Hawk, the studyís lead author and an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, ďthe act of snooping seems to say more about what the parents are feeling than what their kids are doing.Ē

For parents who find themselves fretting about their connection to their teenagers, a new study in the Journal of Adolescence suggests that snooping is unlikely to make things better. A survey of 455 adolescents found that teenagers who believed their parents had secretly listened in on their conversations or searched through their possessions without permission shared less information with their folks than teenagers who felt their parents respected appropriate boundaries. This result lines up with another study finding that parental snooping may trigger or perpetuate a cycle in which adolescents become more and more furtive at home.

ďWhen parents engage in behaviors that teenagers see as privacy invasions,Ē Dr. Hawk said, ďit backfires because parents end up knowing less.Ē

(Tons of parenting blogs out there have written about it too if you google it.)

Based on a couple of things you already mentioned like:

At the age of 11, my son's outlook is heavily influenced by my ex-wife's constant derogatory remarks about me. In his eyes, his mother still holds the ultimate authority. She has instilled in him the belief that the only reason I seek access to his phone is to obtain information about her.

In essence, my reservation towards this phone matter stems from two underlying reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the notion of granting my ex access to something that I do not possess.
Personally I find it interesting that this is your first concern, instead of safety. 

These seem to align with what the expert in what I quoted said:

Quote
Notably, the same study instead linked parentsí snooping to their worries about the strength of their relationship with their teenager. According to Skyler Hawk, the studyís lead author and an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, ďthe act of snooping seems to say more about what the parents are feeling than what their kids are doing.Ē

If one of your ex's complaints about you to your son is that you're too controlling (whether made up or justified), you wanting access is just going to reinforce that opinion.

I feel for you though, I have a toddler, and I have no clue how I'm going to handle the privacy stuff when they're older.  Part of me worries about online predators and such and how it's my job to protect them, but another part worries about what I've read about how respecting boundaries helps foster trust.  It's a fine line I'm sure.

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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2023, 02:35:59 PM »

Offline green_bballers13

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I'm a child of divorce. I witnessed my parents fight for years. Whatever you think is important (your kid's safety and all of the other scary stuff) might not be as important as your son seeing his parents continue to argue. While horrible things could happen to your kid on the internet (no doubt- no need to downplay this risk), I think you may be  overlooking the risks of continued conflict with your son's mother.

I assume you're looking for advice as you posted here. If it were me, I'd relent and be as nice to my ex as possible. Your son will see this and could benefit from seeing a healthy relationship, even if you're not married anymore. I think most kids of divorce suffer and deal with mental health challenges for decades.

I think it's awesome that you're concerned about your kids physical safety. I would make sure that he never sees you argue with his mom again, at least in front of him. I'd also speak kindly of her around him. She might be your ex, but she's his mom and no one wants to hear anything negative about their mom. Same goes for her- she shouldn't be bad mouthing you. This is the stuff that messes kids up later in life.

Also, I feel for you. This seems like a tricky spot to be in. I hope you and your son have a great relationship going forward, and I hope you can be civil with your ex. It took my parents decades to achieve the latter, but they're finally there.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2023, 02:49:11 PM by green_bballers13 »

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2023, 02:46:05 PM »

Offline GetLucky

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(Disclaimer:  I'm in my 20's and obviously do not have the life experience you and many others in this thread do. I'm merely adding context for what your son may be feeling as someone who grew up with technology privacy top of mind as a parenting debate.)

Speaking as one of the first children to have grown up in the smartphone era, I think you're asking for a bit much. Granted, 11 is quite young, and at that age my parents did have my username and passwords to things like social media accounts.

But they did not look at my text/IM messages, and even they quickly felt like logging into my social media accounts was an icky-feeling invasion of privacy. Our compromise was they would make an account themselves and follow me so they could see everything I posted that was public/easily accessible. Eventually, they realized I was trustworthy and don't check in at all now.

I believe the YouTube situation falls under this, and I think it's reasonable that you'd like to at least follow along to what your son is posting publicly. However, as others have mentioned, some disagree. I think this is a 50/50 ball worth clearing up. However, know that even intelligent minds disagree on this. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are adamant that a right to pseudonymity is this era's "right to privacy" and that if someone wants to have a non-associated public-facing persona, they have that right.

Besides that, though, I'm going to be honest and say that I feel very strongly like you have no right to see your son's messages and peruse through his cell phone without reasonable cause for suspicion. (For example, if you hear him chatting on the phone about illicit activity or messages, I think it's entirely reasonable to demand he unlock and give you his phone. That may be something worth making explicit since it's not looking like you're going to get everything you'd like.) However, please keep in mind that he and his phone are not games to be won. Your rhetoric, even written, goes quickly from "I want to see what he publicly posts to make sure he is not doing anything stupid and harmful" to "my ex wife may be sending him information to be used against me, so I need explicit permission to be able to take his phone and look at things at any time." Those two things are not even in the same ballpark, and the first point segueing into the second makes you seem like a less rational actor.

The best analogy I can come up with is this: What if your father wanted carte-blanche ability to come into your room at any time, without warning or notice, and look through every drawer, closet, nook and cranny "just in case" your mom or siblings or friends had given you something dangerous? 

Sure, it's probably an unspoken understanding (it certainly was with my parents, who had no problem revoking access to phones or tech, grounding me, looking through my things, or otherwise being more stubborn than I when they felt like I was withholding information or being difficult in a situation they were justifiably concerned), but I hope you see how it can seem unreasonable and frankly a off-putting and intimidating when it is emphasized with an "I can do this at any time, remember that" on a consistent basis.

There were certainly times when my parents were justified in their concern and cautiousness, but there were also times where'd I'd get home from school to see all my things rummaged through with no provided justification (or a thin one, like "so and so's mom was talking about kids drinking at the party you were not at. I wanted to make sure you had no alcohol in your room."). That only made me communicate with my parents less and feel very angry. Frankly, it wasn't good for any part of our relationship. (For reference, I did not drink in high school. I spoke with my parents fairly opening, and I made that very clear to them. To know they did not trust my word to the point of blatantly going through my possessions was incredibly hurtful and made me less willing to share things, since I thought they wouldn't take my word for things anyway.)

Honestly, my first impression from reading everything you say is that you are more paranoid about your ex-wife and your son will be collateral damage in all of this. I've obviously never been through a divorce, so I can't speak to how well-founded or not your assumptions are, but I'd really consider the message you are sending to your son with the tone, rhetoric, and tenacity of this argument. He has feelings and autonomy too; don't make him feel like a piece in a game you'd like to "win" more than your son whom you love.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2023, 02:53:59 PM by GetLucky »

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2023, 04:12:56 PM »

Offline Kernewek

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Your rhetoric, even written, goes quickly from "I want to see what he publicly posts to make sure he is not doing anything stupid and harmful" to "my ex wife may be sending him information to be used against me, so I need explicit permission to be able to take his phone and look at things at any time." Those two things are not even in the same ballpark, and the first point segueing into the second makes you seem like a less rational actor.

The best analogy I can come up with is this: What if your father wanted carte-blanche ability to come into your room at any time, without warning or notice, and look through every drawer, closet, nook and cranny "just in case" your mom or siblings or friends had given you something dangerous? 

I'd really consider the message you are sending to your son with the tone, rhetoric, and tenacity of this argument. He has feelings and autonomy too; don't make him feel like a piece in a game you'd like to "win" more than your son whom you love.

Edited down this very good post to get to the crux of how I feel about the situation as written.



This thread has just made me realise that I can't really wrap my head around the idea of trying to navigate having children who can access the internet any time they want, anywhere they want. (I don't have children, nor am I planning to in the near future at least.)


My opinion, such as it is: I didn't have a cellphone at that age, let alone a smart phone (which didn't exist), but I do remember the first real wave of social media and the landmines that that brought about for teenagers, young adults, and parents.

Definitely think it's reasonable to want to keep an eye on your kids from that perspective.

I am not sure whether or not I would say that this impulse extends to wanting at-will access to your kid's phone. But, again, uncharted territory for most of us (either as children or as parents).
Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so muchóthe wheel, New York, wars and so onówhilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time.

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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2023, 05:25:09 PM »

Offline Neurotic Guy

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(Disclaimer:  I'm in my 20's and obviously do not have the life experience you and many others in this thread do. I'm merely adding context for what your son may be feeling as someone who grew up with technology privacy top of mind as a parenting debate.)

Speaking as one of the first children to have grown up in the smartphone era, I think you're asking for a bit much. Granted, 11 is quite young, and at that age my parents did have my username and passwords to things like social media accounts.

But they did not look at my text/IM messages, and even they quickly felt like logging into my social media accounts was an icky-feeling invasion of privacy. Our compromise was they would make an account themselves and follow me so they could see everything I posted that was public/easily accessible. Eventually, they realized I was trustworthy and don't check in at all now.

I believe the YouTube situation falls under this, and I think it's reasonable that you'd like to at least follow along to what your son is posting publicly. However, as others have mentioned, some disagree. I think this is a 50/50 ball worth clearing up. However, know that even intelligent minds disagree on this. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are adamant that a right to pseudonymity is this era's "right to privacy" and that if someone wants to have a non-associated public-facing persona, they have that right.

Besides that, though, I'm going to be honest and say that I feel very strongly like you have no right to see your son's messages and peruse through his cell phone without reasonable cause for suspicion. (For example, if you hear him chatting on the phone about illicit activity or messages, I think it's entirely reasonable to demand he unlock and give you his phone. That may be something worth making explicit since it's not looking like you're going to get everything you'd like.) However, please keep in mind that he and his phone are not games to be won. Your rhetoric, even written, goes quickly from "I want to see what he publicly posts to make sure he is not doing anything stupid and harmful" to "my ex wife may be sending him information to be used against me, so I need explicit permission to be able to take his phone and look at things at any time." Those two things are not even in the same ballpark, and the first point segueing into the second makes you seem like a less rational actor.

The best analogy I can come up with is this: What if your father wanted carte-blanche ability to come into your room at any time, without warning or notice, and look through every drawer, closet, nook and cranny "just in case" your mom or siblings or friends had given you something dangerous? 

Sure, it's probably an unspoken understanding (it certainly was with my parents, who had no problem revoking access to phones or tech, grounding me, looking through my things, or otherwise being more stubborn than I when they felt like I was withholding information or being difficult in a situation they were justifiably concerned), but I hope you see how it can seem unreasonable and frankly a off-putting and intimidating when it is emphasized with an "I can do this at any time, remember that" on a consistent basis.

There were certainly times when my parents were justified in their concern and cautiousness, but there were also times where'd I'd get home from school to see all my things rummaged through with no provided justification (or a thin one, like "so and so's mom was talking about kids drinking at the party you were not at. I wanted to make sure you had no alcohol in your room."). That only made me communicate with my parents less and feel very angry. Frankly, it wasn't good for any part of our relationship. (For reference, I did not drink in high school. I spoke with my parents fairly opening, and I made that very clear to them. To know they did not trust my word to the point of blatantly going through my possessions was incredibly hurtful and made me less willing to share things, since I thought they wouldn't take my word for things anyway.)

Honestly, my first impression from reading everything you say is that you are more paranoid about your ex-wife and your son will be collateral damage in all of this. I've obviously never been through a divorce, so I can't speak to how well-founded or not your assumptions are, but I'd really consider the message you are sending to your son with the tone, rhetoric, and tenacity of this argument. He has feelings and autonomy too; don't make him feel like a piece in a game you'd like to "win" more than your son whom you love.

Great post and I agree with a lot of your sentiments.  The lingering question I have based on your writing is - how analogous is the searching of my room as a child in 1970 to the searching of a childís internet footprint today?   I donít deny i may have felt the same degree of privacy infringement as an 11 year old today (certainly as an older youth) but I canít say that itís quite the same level of practical concern from a parent perspective.

I do agree that one needs to focus on what really matters and be very cognizant about the impact of disrespecting privacy.

As one who lost an 18 year old niece in part due to the impact of social media, it sure is a complex, difficult challenge to find the right balance of concern and right level of intervention.

Totally agree about sending positive messages/ avoiding negativity about the childís mother.  And the less one feels in a competition for the childís respect or love, the less that will be subconsciously conveyed ó and the better in the long run.

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2023, 05:26:00 PM »

Offline gouki88

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How old is the kid and what is his perspective?

At the age of 11, my son's outlook is heavily influenced by my ex-wife's constant derogatory remarks about me. In his eyes, his mother still holds the ultimate authority. She has instilled in him the belief that the only reason I seek access to his phone is to obtain information about her.
Try and talk to him about it, but don't push it. The way you're framing it as something you seemingly need to be in control of is something your son will pick up on. He might be able to have a more mature conversation about it, he might not - but the angle your taking feeds into the way your wife makes you out to your son, warranted or otherwise.

Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2023, 05:58:05 PM »

Offline JSD

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Ignoring the argument with your ex for a minute, what sort of relationship do you want with your son?  A personal story:

My parents split when I was ten, and my mother had primary custody.  My father wasnít a horrible person in an objective sense, but he was very much a ďmy house, my rulesĒ kind of person when we I was with him.  Whether that was because he had a different set of values from my mom, was naturally an authoritative person, or was himself struggling from the divorce doesnít really matter.  What matters is that I was 10, 11, 12, 13 and was really struggling to adjust to my parents split, and had to operate under a different set of rules when I was in his house.  It was like walking on eggshells at his house, because Iíd always screw up while I was there, and then the visit would be ruined.  Biologically speaking, kids at that age already have trouble with following rules, so having an extra set was frankly too much.

Anyway, it changed over time from me being excited to see my father to me dreading to see my father.  And once I became an adult and didnít have to see him, I saw him less and less, and then talked to him less and less, and then I stopped.  Iím in my 40s now, Iíve neither talked to him or seen him in over a decade, and I donít really have any regrets.  The stuff above wasnít the only reason, but it was a major part of the puzzle.

Anyway, I think youíre technically in your rights to make your son show you whatís on his phone when heís with you, but I wouldnít do it, at least not by forcing him.  If youíre worried about some of the games heís playing, ask him what his favorites are, download them onto your own phone, and see if you can play them together.  That will give you something to bond over, and you can also judge from your own experience how potentially harmful or not the games are relative to how fun they are.  If youíre worried heís on the phone too much while heís with you, try to do more things to keep him interested, but also set aside some time for him to use the phone.  Maybe say something like ďItís hard not seeing you every day, so itíd would be nice if youíre on the phone a bit less this weekend.  Iíll try to make sure to stay off mine as well.Ē  But make a couple 30-minute blocks on the weekend when thatís what heís doing if he wants.  If youíre worried about social media, I understand, and he shouldnít be on it at that age, but youíre not going to save him from it by forcing him to show you whatís there.  Itís best just to try to make sure you have a good relationship so he feels comfortable telling you about anything there that you really should know about, so you can help him navigate it before he gets to the age where heís just not going to tell you because heís a full on teenager.  Maybe you can sign up for his preferred social media and follow/friend him so you can, again, see what heís seeing, but I wouldnít force that one if he objects.  But heís 11 ó if you show genuine interest, heíll probably let you in.  If you let him get the feeling that you donít trust him and are spying on him, he wonít, and you should stop at the boundary heís set rather than try to break through it.

The way youíve described things sound so much like what my father would do in 2023.  So again, it depends what relationship you want with him.

In essence, my reservation towards this phone matter stems from two underlying reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the notion of granting my ex access to something that I do not possess. Secondly, it pertains to ensuring his safety on the internet.

Regarding my parenting style, I must clarify that I am not a disciplinarian like your father. While I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me, I assure you that I am quite different from him in this regard. In fact, I can hardly recall the last time I had to discipline my child before the recent phone incident. Iím very much laid-back for the most part.

My son is a well-behaved kid who follows my instructions as well as his mother's. However, in situations where there may be conflicting instructions, he tends to listen to his mother over me.

Itís the bolded language that, to me, makes you sound pretty controlling and authoritarian.  Iím not trying to insult you, but I really think youíd be better served to stand down from this issue.  Itís a no-win for you, so for your sonís sake youíre better off finding a compromise that lets him use his phone sometimes and show you what he wants to show you.

I value your feedback, and I have been grappling with the decision of whether to take a stand on this matter, as it may come with its own set of challenges. My desire is to be able to monitor my kidís phone and socials, as I believe it is important for me to maintain a level of parental oversight. For safety, but also, not having access to his phone makes me feel undermined in my role as a parent.

My ex is of an authoritarian nature and tends to be overbearing towards our child, I am somewhat reassured that she will keep a close eye on his postings while he is in her care. Ultimately, while it is not a major concern, it remains a point of contention for me.
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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2023, 06:15:59 PM »

Offline JSD

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Do s she have his usernam s / passwords?

Whatís her argument to you?

I would frame it that you want to co-parent and keep your son safe.  You wonít delete anything from social media, etc, without you two coming to an agreement.  However, itís important that you both know what your 11 year old is up to.  Heís a good kid, but there are a lot of dangers out there.  Maybe even show vulnerability and explaining that youíre scared of whatís out there.

I donít think it has to be an all or nothing power struggle.

Last text from my Ex:

Quote
He has to keep his phone on him and turned on, JSD. Thereís no more bothering him about his phone. It is for calls and location purposes only. You have access to everything he does online which is YouTube that you created for him. He has no online activity. He does Roblox. Thatís it. That phone is under my name and I cannot disconnect my information from it so that will not happen. There is no safety concern. I pay the bill, I own the phone. Thatís it. Nobody else has access to that phone. Just me and just (my son). So I can bring him to your house but he said he wants his phone on him. If not he wants to be picked up at 6:30

JSD there is no more discussion on it. Moving forward thatís it. Leave it alone.


I set up a Gmail account for my son, which as it turned out, became his YouTube channel. Unfortunately, during the argument, I was unaware that the YouTube account was linked to the Gmail account I had created.

I have tried to address the potential risks with her, however, she remains steadfast in this idea that I have ulterior motives and aim to pry into her personal affairs, which is unequivocally not the case.

Note: The statement "I pay for it" doesn't accurately reflect the situation. In reality, I provide $1800 a month in child support to her as she is currently not working.
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Re: At a standstill with my ex-wife regarding our son's mobile phone.
« Reply #29 on: April 08, 2023, 06:25:17 PM »

Offline JSD

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So your son's 11.  Could just be normal change kids go through as tweens, where they start to really value their privacy, and go into their shell.  Not that your son is hiding anything or doing anything wrong, he just wants his privacy and is just turning into the age from sharing everything to not wanting to share anything with his parents.

You know you and your ex's situation better than anyone.  But is it possible this just stems from different parenting philosophy/style?  Maybe she thinks kids should have a lot of privacy, while you think kids shouldn't have that level of privacy to ensure their safety?

For what it's worth, there's many experts out there who will tell you "snooping" on your kids does more harm than good. 
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/well/family/is-snooping-on-teenagers-ever-ok.html

Quote
Adults who suspect their adolescent is up to something may feel compelled to cross privacy boundaries, but research on Dutch families found that the teenagers of prying parents werenít misbehaving any more than those whose parents didnít snoop. Notably, the same study instead linked parentsí snooping to their worries about the strength of their relationship with their teenager. According to Skyler Hawk, the studyís lead author and an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, ďthe act of snooping seems to say more about what the parents are feeling than what their kids are doing.Ē

For parents who find themselves fretting about their connection to their teenagers, a new study in the Journal of Adolescence suggests that snooping is unlikely to make things better. A survey of 455 adolescents found that teenagers who believed their parents had secretly listened in on their conversations or searched through their possessions without permission shared less information with their folks than teenagers who felt their parents respected appropriate boundaries. This result lines up with another study finding that parental snooping may trigger or perpetuate a cycle in which adolescents become more and more furtive at home.

ďWhen parents engage in behaviors that teenagers see as privacy invasions,Ē Dr. Hawk said, ďit backfires because parents end up knowing less.Ē

(Tons of parenting blogs out there have written about it too if you google it.)

Based on a couple of things you already mentioned like:

At the age of 11, my son's outlook is heavily influenced by my ex-wife's constant derogatory remarks about me. In his eyes, his mother still holds the ultimate authority. She has instilled in him the belief that the only reason I seek access to his phone is to obtain information about her.

In essence, my reservation towards this phone matter stems from two underlying reasons. Firstly, it pertains to the notion of granting my ex access to something that I do not possess.
Personally I find it interesting that this is your first concern, instead of safety. 

These seem to align with what the expert in what I quoted said:

Quote
Notably, the same study instead linked parentsí snooping to their worries about the strength of their relationship with their teenager. According to Skyler Hawk, the studyís lead author and an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, ďthe act of snooping seems to say more about what the parents are feeling than what their kids are doing.Ē

If one of your ex's complaints about you to your son is that you're too controlling (whether made up or justified), you wanting access is just going to reinforce that opinion.

I feel for you though, I have a toddler, and I have no clue how I'm going to handle the privacy stuff when they're older.  Part of me worries about online predators and such and how it's my job to protect them, but another part worries about what I've read about how respecting boundaries helps foster trust.  It's a fine line I'm sure.

This is quite fascinating. Thank you for sharing. It's certainly something worth bearing in mind as we move forward. However, my son is currently only 11 years old, so I don't believe a great deal of this is immediately applicable to him. At present, he is extremely vulnerable, not to say that he won't remain so in a few years' time, but currently his vulnerability is particularly heightened due to his young age. As he enters his teenage years, I may be more open to the idea of loosening restrictions on his internet and mobile phone usage, or even encouraging my ex-wife to do so, but for the time being, he is far too vulnerable to have real privacy
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