Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spying on Your Family Members

"Spying on Your Kids--How Bad is It?" This was the item of discussion recently on a prominent morning news program. My interest was piqued because I have three teenagers. I was concerned that what I was going to hear was going to be a liberal parent's discussion on the privacy issues of teens, but I was very happy that the conversation turned to the word "accountability."  Recently I read a story of man from Oakland, Michigan who is facing 5 years in prison for hacking his wife's email account to confirm his suspicion that she was cheating on him. She was cheating on him, but that fact seems to be beside the point. She apparently is not accountable for infidelity, but he is accountable for his "spying."

"Accountability" is a great word loaded with meaning. The definition of accountability is "being liable or answerable."  Mark 10:6-9 says But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. So many people come to marriage with the idea that they will still be separate in certain areas:  He has his bank account; she has hers.  She has her computer accounts; he has his.  I have even known of some Christian marriages in which she goes on her vacation; he goes on his.  When in a marriage we begin to separate what belongs to him and what belongs to her, we may end up not being accountable to anyone. The same goes for children in the family--children should always be accountable to their parents.

A marriage and a family should not develop secret areas. When we got internet in our home, my husband and I were VERY concerned that the internet was made as safe as possible for the whole family. I found a company from which I downloaded a very conservative filtering system; in fact, if anyone were to try to remove the filter, it could destroy the computer. Everyone in the family understands that.  Our teenagers are not allowed to get on the computer without our permission. My husband and I share all passwords.  What is mine is his, and what is his is mine--at any time.

My husband and I share a bank account. We have a monthly budget. If either of us decides to spend any money outside of the monthly budget, we check with each other first.  When I was teaching at a Christian college my paycheck went into OUR account.  Many women think that their husband's paycheck is both of their paychecks, and her paycheck is her paycheck. When two people get married they become one--the money should become "our" money.  

Our children have known as they were growing up that there is no space and no place in our home that is "off limits" to dad and mom.  They also know that mom is very nosy and will actually check up on them.  We have no hiding places in our home. No phone conversation is so private that dad or mom cannot listen in. There is not a note that cannot be read by dad or mom. We don't live in a house of suspicion because we have never set an atmosphere that allows anyone to develop a secret life. 

Families should not be allowed to develop a practice of compartmentalization. To compartmentalize means to isolate or split off a part of the personality or mind by a lack of communication between the parts.  Communication is of the utmost importance in every family. Mom should communicate to dad as to where she is going and when she can be expected back when she heads out the door and vice versa.  Parents should know who their kids are with, how long they will be gone, and parents should know what their kids are doing while away.  Husbands and wives should be accountable to each other as to who their friends are. If a husband is not comfortable with a friendship his wife has, the wife should respect the feelings of the husband and take appropriate action, and vice versa.  The husband and wife relationship should always be the priority relationship in a marriage. Never should the spouse feel anxiety or feel threatened over other relationships.

If teens are allowed to use social networking, parents should have access to the password; parents should check to see who the friends are, and parents should make sure that they are a one of the "friends" on the site.  All of these stipulations need to be hammered out before social networking is even allowed--that way everyone understands that "spying" is not going on, but "accountability" will definitely be expected by everyone in the home.

All members of the family need to realize that they are accountable to all the other members in the family.  No one should ever be exempt from being accountable. The idea of accountability needs to be taught to the children so that they understand how a family is to communicate to one another in every area of life. We can't pretend as Christians that we are mavericks who will do what we want when we want to do it. None of us live in a bubble. Our actions always have consequences, whether good or bad, and those consequences will always affect those we love.

How do you and your family stay accountable to each other? I would love to hear from you.