Carolyn Hax

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Carolyn Hax
Friday, December 26, 2008

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On spying on teenagers:

The sooner children learn that electronic communications are not private, the better off they will be. Teenagers, and for that matter, many adults, seem to think that their electronic communications can remain private. Messages (and photos) on Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, iChat and cellphones are not private. They are easily retrieved, by those who are not particularly technologically savvy and by those who may not have your children's best interests at heart. Online messages may easily be viewed by people other than the intended recipient. These messages can live forever in cyberspace. School administrators routinely scroll through messages on found and confiscated cellphones.

I tell my children that I will review their computer and cellphone communications routinely, as may school administrators, coaches, employers, potential employers, college admissions officers and law enforcement officials. If my kids don't want me to read it, then they shouldn't type it. If they don't want their grandmother to see it, then they shouldn't write it. Or, if they don't want 46 million people to see a message, they shouldn't post it on a Web site.

There is no such thing as respecting electronic boundaries. The newspaper is filled with stories of people who went to jail because they failed to realize that electronic communications are almost impossible to erase completely. These days, the smoking gun in litigation is invariably a deleted e-mail recovered from a computer.

It's not spying. It's raising your children to act responsibly in our electronic world. Teach children not to expect privacy on the computer or their cellphones. It's an almost impossible task, given teenagers' inability to foresee the long-term consequences of current actions.

A Mother Who Is Weary of Fighting This Battle, Among Others . . .

On too often being a bridesmaid, and never wanting to be a bride:

I'm in my late 20s, so everyone I know is getting married. I'd really like to know when it became expected that friends and relatives were to go broke celebrating (and celebrating, and celebrating) someone else's wedding. I have no problem saying NO to what I can't afford, and so I'm now officially the "cheap" bridesmaid.

I just don't see why anyone who doesn't want to run up a big debt should be made to feel bad about that. If I hear "but it's for so-and-so's WEDDING!!" one more time, I'm going to stuff a bouquet up someone's . . . nose. In all of these cases, it has not been the bride pressuring anyone, it's been the maid of honor flexing her muscles and demanding that the rest of the party fall in line with her ideas for the biggest and best engagement party/shower/lingerie party/bachelorette party ever. I've been setting my budget, giving cash for what I can afford directly to the MOH to use however she wants, and offering whatever non-monetary help I can give. I'm just tired of being treated like Queen Cheapskate because I would rather bring food to a shower than pay for a caterer, or because I declined to attend a "destination" bachelorette party.

Helllllooooo, Collapsing Economy

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.


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