You are here

SD cell phone locked - BM says we get no access. Is she right?

SteppingUp's picture

Hey folks. I used to post here a lot a few years ago, but haven't in quite awhile. We're having some major issues regarding cell phones and I'd like your opinions!

Background: SD10 is not actually my husband's daughter -- however he has been her "dad" since she was only a few months old as her biodad wasn't really in the picture much. Since hubby and BM broke up when she was 3.5 years old, she has been in his care every other other week, and eventually mine as I've been there since she was 4. SD's biodad came more into the picture when she was about 7 years old, with more visitation (he basically made some bad mistakes early on in their father-daughter relationship but really cleaned up his act and is a great dad, even accepting us as parents in her life still). SD10's schedule looks like this: 4 days with us, 4 days with biodad, 6 days with BM.

BM has always lied about strange things, seems to have a case of narcissistic personality disorder where everything revolves around her and she never thinks of other people. She got SD10 a phone so that she could leave her alone at home and SD would have a way to contact her for help (not something we agree with). Both us and biodad did not want her to have a phone, felt she was too young to handle social media stuff but BM said if she is paying for it then it doesn't concern us. We discussed that we would have full access to her phone while in our care and everyone agreed. We voiced our concerns about maybe having a monitoring app on her phone, but BM feels that she is trustworthy and until she gives her some reason that says otherwise, she's not going to monitor it. (We realize these are differences in parenting styles, even though we feel strongly on the other side of it we decided to monitor randomly on our own.)

Current issue: A couple of months ago, hubby was doing a spot-check on SD's phone, discussing what she uses particular apps for and whatnot, and slid over into her text messages. He did this all in front of SD. He hit her messages with BM, and SD pulled her shirt over her head like she was embarrassed. Well of course that signaled something to look harder. He ran into a conversation between SD and BM about us. Without detailing the whole story here, BM led SD to believe that we didn't have our crap together (actual phrasing used) when we had to change up our schedule -- when in reality we were out of town for my grandfather's funeral. After discussion with SD about what actually happened she understood and felt really bad about saying anything like that. So of course we then brought it up what BM. BM gave a half-assed apology that she never meant to hurt us (um, yes, she was purposely undermining our relationship with SD). But now, BM is on a witch hunt for us because we invaded her privacy. She has placed a lock code on SD's phone and said that since she pays for the phone (mind you, she wouldn't be able to afford it if she didn't receive child support from biodad) so we should consider it her phone and that we are not to know the code.

We typically didn't look more than a glance at her text messages between she and her mom, as we're more concerned about what she's doing on instagram. We have run into some issues that we've discussed with SD about instagram group messages and stuff. This past week we tried to look at her phone because she was having an issue with a friend. It seemed like we were not getting the whole story so I wanted to just make sure everything looked safe and appropriate in her instagram messaging...and we could not get in.

We do not understand why BM is saying anything to SD that we can't know about. She could read every text we send her, and if she put a secret camera on us I'd be totally fine with her hearing what we talk about with SD. What does she have to hide? (oh wait, she has a ton to hide....she knows we aren't okay with her leaving the skids alone so she can go the bar, and the texts would/have reveal those incidents...) She also has inappropriate conversations with her daughter about being too drunk to do this or that, or being hungover.

What do y'all think? Is it right for us to say we need access to her phone when she is in our care? We could take her phone away and not let her use it while she is at our house, too. But is there any other way around this?

Here's what really pisses me off. BM always wants us to be the parents to her daughter when it's convenient for her....for example, when SD is sick at school, BM won't answer her phone so the school calls us. When SD needs to buy something for school, BM leaves it until it's our week so we have to buy it. BM has always played this card: "I'm a great mom because I've kept DH in SD's life! Look how great I am! I didn't take that relationship away, even though -- mind you -- I certainly can take it away at any moment when they are causing me problems!" But what she really has always been concerned about is this: "Great, I have a built-in babysitter, and I don't even have to pay them!"

But here's the big big problem - we really don't have any rights in this situation, do we? UGH. She's not DH's daughter. She's not my daughter. We have no legal custody of her. He/We have just been parenting her "out of the goodness of our hearts" for over 10 years.

Let me add: we now have a wonderful relationship with her biodad. He is on the exact same page as us and knows exactly why BM wants the passcode on it, too -- to protect herself. We also have started counseling with BM to try to come to agreements on some of these "big" arguments. She bailed on us this week but we decided to go by ourselves and the counselor did side with us that BM should be letting the other parents involved have access to monitor her phone since she isn't with her for an entire week at a time, how can she monitor? Also she said that what BM did was undermining our relationship with SD so we had a right to be upset about it, and there's no reason anything should be said like that between BM and SD, period, whether it's on her phone or, BM hasn't heard any of that yet from the counselor, we have another time set up in a couple of weeks so I hope she gets a little dose of reality with that. Also, biodad is coming to the next session too!


SteppingUp's picture

Yeah, that makes sense.

Part of me wants to have the same parenting "rights" to these things though!! Maybe I am a little bit of a control freak but being a teacher I know all the crap kids get involved in at this age with phones and internet and stuff. In a way some of the monitoring we've done has been really good because it opens up conversations about things! My own kids are going to hate me when they are old enough for phones Smile

SteppingUp's picture

That's exactly what DH did last night. And SD told him, "Mommy said that you guys don't get to have it."

DaizyDuke's picture

I would NOT put a 10 year old in the middle of that mess! I think it was wrong of your DH to ask knowing why BM put the passcode on there and I think it was wrong of BM to tell SD to say that. Again, tell her to leave the phone at home. It keeps SD out of the middle and keeps the stupid phone from causing drama between DH and BM.

DaizyDuke's picture

Welcome back! How is little man? He's got to be 4 now?

This is my 2 cents. If BM got the phone for SD so that she could be "alone" then tell her to leave the phone at her house, when she comes to yours. Problem solved. No need to worry about locked phones and passcodes, no need to worry about what she is doing or not doing... because honestly there is no point to worrying about it when you know she can go to BMs and do as she pleases. So simply request that she leave phone at home. She's not "alone" at your house, you all have a phone, so there is just no need for it. Wasn't your BM the same one who gave SD her old cell phone that had sexting nudey pics on it??

This cell phone debate is a hot one. It's funny because DH and I actually differ on this. I am of the mindset that you are.... if you have nothing to hide then who gives a hoot who is looking through your phone. DH thinks that it an invasion of privacy, a statement of mistrust if you will.

Again, I think you'll lose the battle if you try to fight BM on this... I mean the freaking FBI couldn't get Apple to give them passcodes for a terrorist! I'd just tell her to leave the dang thing at home from now on, then you don't have to worry about it.

SteppingUp's picture

You have a stellar memory!!! Smile Smile Yes, she gave her the old phone with the dick pics on it.

I agree with you. We'll just avoid all the drama if she leaves the phone at BM's, period.

And my son just turned 5, and we had the sweetest little girl in the world who just turned 1 Smile

DaizyDuke's picture

oh my gosh!! FIVE!!! and a baby girl! Congrats! Sounds like things are going great... (except for the continuing idiot BM nonsense!)

SteppingUp's picture

YES! I got a teaching job, so less time for internet shenanigans like Steptalk...but honestly it was good for me, too. A lot of people here fuel the fire. Smile I found that I felt much more relaxed and less tense about everything involving BM when I don't let her take over my brain so much. Although I love the support here, the step away was good for me, too.

How are YOU?

DaizyDuke's picture

I'm good! BS turned 6 the end of December and is just finishing up Kindergarten Sad
SD18 moved 3 states away to live with DH's Aunt a year and a half ago, so life has been wonderful!!!! She is actually going to graduate in June and is planning on going to college down there.. so we'll see! SS is a pot head punk, DH rarely sees him or talks to him which is fine by me, don't want that anywhere near BS6.

Yeah on your teaching job!! So happy that things are going well for you! And you're right... just keep your barfly, narcissistic BM out of your head, she's not even worth the time and effort!!

SteppingUp's picture

Part of me thinks that all of this is a ploy to build up to a point where BM will say, "Fine, she's not coming to your house anymore." Part of me would want that too, I'm not going to lie....for awhile I've thought maybe things would be better if we weren't "required" to take her on X days but if she could be a more casual presence in our lives. But on the other hand, we know we have a much more stable environment at our house, and SD has a great relationship with our kids, DH and DH's parents, SD would suffer the most from a break in that relationship. I don't know what kind of damage that would do to her at this point in her life. Sad

robin333's picture

First, BM is foolish and reckless if she doesn't monitor SD'S Internet and social media interactions. Unless you live in a cave, you have heard stories about what can happen.

There are ways to get the passcode. Discreetly watch her enter it. Reprogram your garage code and ask SD to pick the 4 digit code so "she'll have it". Accidently drop the phone and crack the screen. Take to a repair shop and they have to have the code. Yes, I'm giving sneaky suggestions.

I would give biodad a list of stealth apps he can install that records texts/websites/ pics. Yes, the phone is BM'S but this is also his daughter. I don't believe a 10 year old has cell privacy. My DD is 15 and I still do random checks.

ESMOD's picture

I'm a little on both sides of the fence here.

1. BM should be monitoring her DD's phone. Just because the kid is responsible, doesn't mean the kid is savvy. My YSD got a facebook acct when she was like 13 YO (can't remember exactly) and I noticed that her friend list was quickly blooming to huge numbers and included guys in their 20's with tattoos on their NECKS! I told my DH and he asked her what was going on. Apparently she and a friend were having a contest to see how many friends they could acquire... mommy wasn't watching.. but Smommy WAS. We got her deleting the vast majority and explained a little about who she should and shouldn't be friends with online etc. So BM is dead WRONG. There are predators and all sorts of trouble kids can get into. a 10 yo doesn't understand it and it is up to her guardians to watch out for her.

2. I am not 100% in agreement in DH and you having the passcode though. Despite the fact that you saw some not nice and flat out wrong stuff between SD and BM, that was a little bit on the verge of violation of privacy. It wasn't a safety issue really. It would have been tempting but I think that leaving that alone would have been a good idea. (even though BM was wrong in what she said). But, SD should be able to unlock the phone for you to go through her other account information. Obviously, she should have you and DH as her facebook friends and full viewers of her instagram stuff. In fact, she can give you access to her social media accounts and you can look at activity from your computer. I would want to scan her messaging list though to make sure that the numbers I saw there were appropriate and she should let you do that.

3. I wouldn't make her leave the phone at home. Most homes don't have a land line any more and I think it's unfair to block access to BM while she is with you and that might be what not allowing the phone would result in. My DH got livid when BM would take the phone from his DD's that he paid for as "punishment" for whatever BM decided was wrong. The problem is that was the only way DH could keep in touch with them. A lot of times he didn't eve get to see them when he was supposed to because BM filled them up with activities that prevented him taking them for the weekend (we don't live in the same town). So, the phone was his way of being in contact with them every day! When BM took the phone, she was basically keeping the kids from their father.

I do agree to a certain extent that the phone is a little too much responsibility for a 10 yo though. Maybe in your home instead of making her leave it at the BM, you could require that the phone stay in a designated spot when she is in your home. The only allowed use is communication with BM?

SteppingUp's picture

I agree with all that you said too. Even knowing that morally, we were a little in the wrong reacting to her text conversation, however the reason why I bought it up was because we had JUST had a counseling session where the counselor suggested that I be allowed to voice my concerns (I have often bit my tongue in the past) and BM even agreed that I should say more if I have something to say. So I brought it up to her as a "I was so so so hurt by this, this was heartbreaking for me when I was in a very sad situation that you didn't give SD the opportunity to practice empathy, instead made us the bad guys and that honestly made me cry." -- BM had no sensitivity to the situation. Otherwise, I never would have said anything and looking back yeah, I definitely should not have said a thing about it. But I honestly was so hurt by it, I felt she should understand the depth of her actions.

Also though, BM has our phone numbers. She can do it old school and contact her through our phones.

SteppingUp's picture

Those are great points. I will definitely suggest the phone stays at BM's house, period, for the week she is not with her.

LadyJ's picture

I cannot agree that it was OK that you read messages between the child and her mother. Serious violation of privacy. Checking for unsafe pics on Instagram, interactions with other children etc I can understand but clicking and reading those text messages is not OK and you had no right.
That is why the phone is locked as , in BMs eyes, you've proven you can't be trusted.
You seem like a nice, caring woman and a great influence in the child's life but I think you made a gross error in judgement here.
Not unfixable in time but I think you should back off the phone access for a while and wait till things calm down before bringing it up again.
Other posters have good suggestions re phone staying at BMs for a while you can monitor Internet safety a different way or let one of other two households manage it a for a while

Cocoa's picture

I agree with you that bm is gearing up to cut you out of her life or at the very least making sure you have a 100% dictated relationship with sd. Your only hope is to continue a good relationship with her bio dad. I feel HE needs to step up and insist on passcode or back you and not allow sd to have phone at his house either. Sd has absolutely no business with a phone that is unmonitored. I'm afraid this is just the beginning of sd being allowed to run wild and bm undermining the good parenting coming from you and bio dad. Prepare yourselves for PAS and rebellion as sd becomes a teen.