DEAR ABBY: Like most 16-year-old girls, I have a cell phone. My father pays for it and I'm grateful that he does, even though I live with my mom and he's a two-hour drive away. He has been paying for it for a year and a half.Ashley: What I find odd is that he actually tells her, "if you don't want me to see it, delete it."
Every month when I visit him he demands to see my phone. Then he looks through my messages and photos. There's nothing "bad" on my phone, but I feel my personal space is being invaded.
I brought it up to him a few times, but he just said, "Deal with it!" He said if I don't want him to see something, I should delete it.
What can I do to get my dad to respect my privacy? I feel he wants to control my life. I want my own space.
Lulu: Yes! What does he even think he is accomplishing? If it's a security check, he knows she can easily get around it, and has even told her the way. Is this just his clumsy way of finding out about her life? I think if I were her, though, I just wouldn't keep anything on my phone. Delete messages as soon as I get them, delete my call history every week before I visited. Just in principle.
Ashley: Precisely. Make it look as guilty as possible.
Lulu: Not even that, but just to thwart whatever he's trying to do, because it's irritating. Hand him clean phones until he gives up out of boredom.
Ashley: I mean, the other option is to plant messages that indicate her interest in lesbian satanism or something. I'm not sure that would help?
Lulu: I think a blank slate is both more innocent and more haunting. I also think this is a case where she could talk to him about it. She says she has brought it up, but I wonder if she has asked him why he does it. If he just wants to know more about her, she could offer to volunteer information about her life. They could have conversations instead of interrogations. She could try answering his problem with logic. But first she needs to find out his motives, because I'm stumped.
Ashley: She could also get her own phone, of course. The Virgin Mobile data plan is cheap. (I am not being paid to say this!)
Lulu: Yeah, I mean, that would solve it.
That's what Abby says, too:
I'm sure your father means well, but his attempt at "supervision" when you visit him seems heavy-handed.Lulu: I think Abby's suggestion of taking to the mother is bad. This is between her and the dad.
The first thing you should do is discuss your feelings with your mother. Perhaps she can help him understand that you're mature enough to be trusted.
But if that doesn't work, you will have to figure out a way to come up with the money to pay for your own cell phone.
Ashley: Yeah. I don't see how the mom could help. It would do nothing, except once again to show that a teenager can't deal with her own insignificant problems.
Lulu: Yeah, I think the idea she should be trying to convey is that she is ready for an adult relationship with her dad: trust, interest, conversations, not bizarre check-ins. Calling her mom in to help undermines that.
Ashley: I guess his philosophy could be that she should learn to cover her tracks? So that... future employers don't find her drunk on Facebook or something...? That's the only semi-reasonable explanation I can come up with. But it's still weird!
Lulu: In that case, her deleting her phone records will make him proud. Maybe he is training her to be a master spy. Secretly, and without her knowledge.
Ashley: Let's go with that. It makes him seem less of an incompetent moron and more of a ninja.
Lulu: She should find out if she moves silently, like wind whispering through bamboo. She could poll her friends.
Ashley: While she's at it, she could poll her friends about their cell phone plans.