Teens and Privacy

Parent Q&A

  • Discovered a fake ID in son's wallet

    (10 replies)

    I'm wondering how people have handled high school kids getting fake id. I find myself in the horns of a dilemma because, for no reason, I looked in my son's wallet and saw that he had a fake id tucked in behind his driver's license. My partner and i have been discussing how to handle this (and he checked computer browser history and found a series of searches for things related and a big cash withdrawal from his bank account which normally barely gets touched), and he decided to basically offer amnesty and not accuse our son directly or make him feel the need to lie. He told him all the reasons we were upset about hearing word that lots of kids have fake id's and that if he had one he could give it over to us, no questions asked, but that if we found out from others that he had one, we were taking his real driver's license, not giving him access to our cars, and taking him off insurance. Total backfire in that the son has not given them to us and is basically calling our bluff. Part of the dilemma is the privacy issue of looking in his wallet, the browser etc, but I am of the mind that he's in our household and unless it is a private journal, things like a wallet are fair game. I assume that just about all high school seniors with the means are doing this, it's so easy to get them online and with cash (and apparently, they often send 2 for the price so that if one gets confiscated there's a backup) but I'm hesitant to bring it up with his friends parents for fear that it gets back to my son that I was stirring things up. Any thoughts about this?

    ???? It is a criminal act, so yeah, I'd take away his real license AND car privileges AND allowance AND tell his friends' parents to check their kids' wallets and browsers too! No debate, and if my husband had a different idea about how to handle it, and implemented his way without talking to me first, then I'd have a problem with him TOO!  Look up what the fine is for having a fake ID, charge him that out of his savings, and then whatever the time element of the criminal penalty is, implement that at home with grounding/no allowance/whatever for that period of time.

    I can't remember exactly why we did what we did when we found our now 20yo had a fake id, when he was a senior, but we did not take it away. Or actually I think I took it and then later gave it back. I'm kind of surprised at myself but it's worked out fine. I guess I thought it wouldn't work as an id, that he wouldn't be able to drink with it but it turned out that he did use it a few times. He told us about using it, to go to a club somewhere and to buy beer to celebrate a sports win. Anyway he's been a responsible kid who doesn't drink much or get into trouble. I have the kind of relationship where I would just say hey I saw you have a fake id, what are you going to use it for? He would get mad about the spying and I would say well but you did something you weren't supposed to do and here's a big lecture about drinking and driving, and drinking and sex, and why drinking is bad. I'm sure I'm wrong and you should take it away and ground them and so on but I didn't and he'll be 21 soon, knock wood so far so good. So just writing to say that raising teens is a lot of guesswork and luck, but staying connected seems to have worked well. Good luck, you should probably take it away...

    Well, you made the threat (and good for you), now you have to carry through with it.  Call his bluff right back, and take away the fake ID, the drivers license and the car.  Fake IDs are illegal for a reason.  He won't be happy about it, but as long as he lives in your house and on your dime, you have the right and responsibility to monitor his activities and possessions, especially illegal ones.

    I would confront him about it, as well as tell your parent friends. I strongly respect teen privacy, and faced a difficult decision about searchin my son's room (16 at the time),  and to let him know that I did it and why. With fake IDs, teens don't realize how much trouble they can get into. Sure, not everyone get's caught, but many do, and the penalties are stiff. Check this site: https://www.abc.ca.gov/teencorner.html

    In a nutshell, possibilities include stiff fines, community service, drivers license suspension if there is a car involved and any license is consumed (a major insurance headache in addition to the suspension). And if you use, or even intend to use the ID, there are potential felony charges: http://www.shouselaw.com/driverslicense-fraud.html 

    I don't think many teens understand this, and I think this is a time when attempting to set limits outweighs privacy. 

    Good luck with your decision.

    I feel for you because this is not any easy issue for any parent, and I can't say I have an answer for you. You didn't say how old he is, and if he's under 18 years old.  Last summer I was able to read my 18 yr old daughter's (HS graduate) text messages through an iPad that has the text app that shows everything that she is texting on her phone. Lots of party planning and seems that she and many of her friends had fake IDs. I don't know if they are using it to purchase alcohol or just to go to bars.  Regarding confronting him about finding it, guess it depends on your parental philosophy. You don't have to say you looked in the wallet, and if he is under 18 and you would normally have access to the bank statement, you could inquire what the money was spent on. I have no special insight, but I think that especially for older teens, if you confront them and threaten action, the result is a break down of communication and they will lie to do what they can to get away and it drives you apart.  That was my own experience as a risk taking teen 40 years ago with my own parents.  I never confronted my daughter specifically about the fake ID or other things I read about on the text messages.  Instead every time she was headed out the door, I chose to have conversations about drinking, pot smoking, designated drivers, and the risks (even if you are a designated driver, if you got stopped, someone might be sick and then standing by the road when the cop pulls over to find out if everything is ok), , her personal responsibility, and the possible outcomes of making stupid decisions that would affect her future. Of course, if something actually happened, there would be consequences, both natural and imposed.  Also, when my daughter was still applying to colleges and wanted to go to some senior parties, I did mention the risk of colleges withdrawing their acceptances if she were arrested for underage drinking.  At least if the communication is open, I can get a better sense of how good her judgement is, and while I would prefer there was no alcohol or use of fake IDs, at least she is somewhat open.  Regarding other parents, maybe you could have a conversation as a theoretical of "I have heard some kids are doing this" to see what they say. Good luck.

    I have to admit I chuckled a little reading your post, because our kids sure know how to keep us honest. A friend said to me once, "being a parent is all about eating crow." This is a good example, and I totally empathize. We have to be smart and honest and on our game all the damn time, and one off day, we are left holding all the crow.

    So, your son called your bluff, and left you in a tough position. I am of the thinking that you have to be direct and honest. It seems to me that you should talk to him directly about the fake ID, telling him your concerns and asking for an explanation, and in order to do so, you are going to have to eat some crow. If you believe that looking in his wallet is part of your right as a parent, then you have be straight with him about that. "I looked in your wallet and saw your fake ID." And expect blow back, as--if he is like my teen--he will be incensed and argumentative. Stick with your guns: if you believe that taking care of him means knowing what he is doing, hold that line. Yes, it sucks feeling like you have no privacy, but that's how it goes while he is in your care (as you suggested in your post).

    I don't think you should talk with his friends' parents, I think you should talk to him. You want him to be honest and direct, you have to be too. You said your partner did not want your son to have to lie, so you decided to lie to him. Down that road is only more deceit, or confusion, or mistrust, or misunderstanding, or other things that lead not to resolution and trust.

    Talking to him now about the ID also means admitting you lied ("we knew you had a fake ID and were dishonest about it, hoping you would confess. That was a mistake" ... good lesson for him, parents make mistakes) and dealing with your threat (whether you really want to take his license and revoke his insurance).

    I don't know what the appropriate response or consequence will be, but I don't think you can figure that out until you talk with him openly. Maybe you give a big consequence like revoking the license, maybe you take it away for a limited time with some conditions, maybe you call amnesty since you all were deceitful too. You will know better once you talk with him. One thing that sometimes works in our house: ask him what he thinks the consequence should be. It is surprising how often teens come up with a good one, rather than just letting themselves off the hook, as you might expect.

    Just talk to him about the whole thing. Then go back to reading BPN so you can feel good about the other bullets you've dodged.

    -- Your compatriot in the mine field

    I'd leave it alone. Your son is a high school senior; he is probably only going to be around for a few more months before leaving for college, and if you confiscate his fake ID he'll just get another one (and do a better job of hiding it from you, especially since you will have demonstrated how little you respect his privacy). If you take his drivers' license you are potentially putting him in danger should a situation arise in which his operating a car means not riding with a drunk driver, or dealing with a life-threatening situation. If you don't want him operating your family vehicles then deny his access and take him off your insurance, but consider attaching that consequence to a situation in which he is driving under the influence or otherwise operating the car in an unsafe or illegal manner. Having a fake ID doesn't mean he is using the car in a dangerous way and I'm not sure what is to be gained by treating this as a cause/ effect situation.

    Also consider the number of venues that are over-21 because they serve alcohol, but that offer shows that are not age-specific. Perhaps your son simply wants access to concerts or shows that would otherwise be unavailable to him. And while it is, of course, more likely that he got the fake ID so he could drink, examine your feelings about this - do you not want him to drink because it is illegal, or for other reasons? (Personally, I find it bizarre that we allow teens to drive at 16 but not drink until 21; this seems really backwards to me.)

    Our (19 year old) daughter's best friend is coming to visit from France over winter break. They do not have a minimum drinking age, though one must be 18 to purchase alcohol. I've told my daughter to remind her friend that she won't be legal to drink while visiting us. It strikes me as absurd that my daughter and her friend are seen as responsible enough to drink in the friend's country, but not here. I would certainly understand if they decided to get fake IDs, and I definitely won't be asking questions about it.

    Finally, you didn't ask but I must say that I am always puzzled by the parents who have invaded their children's privacy, learned something they didn't want to know, and then don't know what to do about it. I say this because you first acknowledge that you were snooping, then by the end of your query suggest that anything other than a journal is fair game. I would suggest that you need to lay out some clear parameters about privacy in your household.

    I'm a college professor and Internet security researcher.  What you are describing is not what I would say typical, but it's not a surprise either.  To understand your sons behavior all one needs to do is look at the "honesty" of the adults in our society.

    What can be purchased online is unbelievable especially on the "dark web".  Fake IDs, drivers licenses, passports, etc. can easily be had with a just a few pieces of silver.

    Can I suggest taking a different approach?  Education.  Your son just like all teenagers are still developing their moral compasses.  They look at the  society they live in and see people successfully breaking the law and "getting away" with it.  What they don't see is what happens when they get caught and the future long lasting consequences of having committed a crime.  Mexico has call centers filled with United States citizens who committed some petty crime in their past and can't get a job in the US.  So they move to Mexico and get paid Pesos by the same companies that won't hire them in the US.  With computerized court records should he get busted this is something that could haunt him for decades.

    I am not a fan of scared straight.  But what I am a fan of is educating.  See if you could make arrangements with a judge to sit in a court room so your son can see what happens and the sentence if he get's busted using a fake ID.  You might want to show him the acclimations and the free meals tax payers will provide for him.  Once he knows the ramifications of using a fake ID it's up to him to decide if using a fake ID is worth the risk or not.

    As for peering into his wallet and browser history this one for me hasn't been easy.  Your son is a minor so legally you are responsible and have the legal right to look.  But this is a matter of privacy and trust between parent and child.

    But with some new just passed in the UK and US this answer is now easier.....  Ask your son if he would rather have his parents looking through his wallet, cell phone  and browser history or the government/law enforcement.  With the laws just passes it has made it much easier for the government/law enforcement to "see" what your son is up to.  I assure you if he's used his computer to visit fake ID web pages the government (not law enforcement) and advertisers have a record.

    Tell your son it's  better your parents bust you than law enforcement.

    If you like TED talks you might want to watch this one so you understand how law enforcement and marketing companies use Big Data to profile us.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgWie9dnssU

    I would like to say I did not do things  like your son.  Maybe I was smart or lucky, but never got more than a traffic ticket.  But I think times/society has changed and we are not as prone to forgive a teenager for making stupid youthful mistakes anymore.  My daughter, after the encouragement of four of her friends got bused for shoplifting $15 at a chain store.  She and they were had cuffed and turned over to the police.  My daughter and I thank the police sergeant everyday as he "lost" the police report and the girls were never prosecuted.  This one first hand contact with law enforcement corrected her moral compass.

    You are not alone...Best of luck

    Oh Boy. I remember those days. Meaning- I remember when I had my own fake ID.

    How you handle it really depends on your kid. You mentioned that he's calling your bluff, which to me means you need to follow through on your threats. Privacy is not an issue when he's living in your house, and it's hard because at this age our kids are making their own decisions in a lot of ways. You didn't mention his age. One thing for him to think about is if he's 17 and he's caught, say on a Friday night, he could go to Juvenile Hall, and they don't need to let you see your son. He could be there all weekend without access to a lawyer or you. If he's 18 then he can be arrested and booked, and it will be on his record. Ultimately if he's drinking and driving (or with someone else who is) they are a threat to their community. These are things I wish my parents had spoken with me about. I would also be concerned about the large cash withdrawal. How is he doing overall? Does he have goals? Stay focused? Get good grades? Challenge himself? A fake ID with a respectful and hardworking kid is one thing; failing and dropping out is another. I would look at the big picture and have an honest discussion with your son. He is, or is soon to be, an adult. Best of Luck.

    My parents found my fake ID when I was a senior and just took it. When I looked in my hiding spot and saw it was gone I knew I was busted. I did not think "oh, my parents invaded my privacy" I thought... "uh oh... I'm in so much trouble." I walked around with my tail between my legs for a few days while they let me suffer without saying a word. Then I was grounded from using the car for a while and from going out with my friends. I could only go to and from school and work. 2 things were accomplished... I realized I was still being parented at the age of 17 which is a good thing. And then I got better at hiding my illicit materials. Of course this was the 1980's... but its also the kind of parent I am now in the 2000's. 

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This newsletter is more helpful than anything out there to us parents raising teens! I learn things that I otherwise wouldn't know or even want to know about and feel better prepared to deal with them or avoid them. This is the same approach I take to finding out about my kid's life, issue or potential problems. I actively seek out information that I might not want to know even if it means snooping. Yes I will even read my daughter's IM messages and interestingly enough even though I often confront her about her messages ( ''I was high on double dose of Midol cramps medicine today'') she continually leaves those IMs on the open computer screen as if she wants me to read them. Others might dissagree but I feel it is my responsibility to know what my kids have under their beds or in their closets or in their computers. If the parents of those two Columbine boys snooped around their closets maybe they wouldn't be able to stockpile their weapons and kills so many innocent kids. Maybe by finding marijuana baggies one can prevent a kid to become a dealer or a user or save a girl's life by discovering she is taking large doses of Tylenol. Better safe than sorry, better a snoop than a naive, clueless parent. Snooping Mom


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