Was Mom Right or Wrong?

The Issue

What happens when a concerned mom, evidently without her 16-year-old son's permission, allegedly accesses his Facebook page, views his posts, and then generates several entries?

She gets arrested:

Arkadelphia, Arkansas - An Arkadelphia mother is charged with harassment for making entries on her son's Facebook page.

Denise New's 16 year old son filed charges against her last month and requested a no contact order after he claims she posted slanderous entries about him on the social networking site.

New says she was just trying to monitor what he was posting.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"You're within your legal rights to monitor your child and to have a conversation with your child on Facebook whether it's his account, or your account or whoever's account. It's crazy to me that we're even having this interview."

New remains in shock after her son slapped her with the charge of harassment. In a document from the Clark County prosecutor, he alleges she hacked his account, changed his password and posted things that involve slander about his personal life.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"I read things on his Facebook about how he had gone to Hot Springs one night and was driving 95 m.p.h. home because he was upset with a girl and it was his friend that called me and told me about all this that prompted me to even actually start really going through his Facebook to see what was going on."

Prosecutor Todd Turner won't comment on the specifics because of the son's age, but he did cite Arkansas' harassment law.

A person commits the offense if with purpose to harass, annoy or alarm another person without good cause, he engages in conduct or repeatedly commits acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person.

(Denise New, Arkadelphia)
"Oh yeah, I'm going to fight it. If I have to go even higher up, I'm going to. I'm not gonna let this rest. I think this could be a precedent-setting moment for parents."

New's son lives with his grandmother who has custodial rights, but New maintains she'd had a great relationship with him despite their living arrangements.

Her next court date is May 12th.
As long as parents have been parents, the activities of minor children have been monitored to some extent.

Some moms and dads search bedrooms. Some read diaries. Some listen to phone conversations or monitor computer activity.

Whatever the tactic, parents try to protect their kids.

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. Mom not having custody is likely an issue that will contribute to the DA's decision.


More on the Story

Interestingly enough, a commenter over at the local television station's site, appears to be the mom charged and she is defending her actions and rallying others to her side:

"...even tho she has legal cust...that has never mattered b4. I hired an atty for him when he was hit by a DD...I signed all the paper work not his grandmother...they had no prob with me not being his guardian when he got busted with pot....

I delt with his atty for that and the same prosecutor that has filed this. It didnt matter that I wasnt his legal guardian when he was skipping school...I was the the school called.

They cannot pick n choose when i should be in his life and when I shouldnt. My son has had a long list of behaviorial problem for awhile now. He not only endangers himself but other kids as well.

Furthermore I didnt HACK into anything...he left his FB loggied in ON MY COMPUTER....and me having his password was a given if he wanted to use my computer. I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO MONITOR HIM.....just b/c i dont have custody doesnt mean i dont care...and maybe if grandmother was doing her JOB I WOULDNT HAVE TO!"
Unfortunately, her explanation does not help her defense as she seemingly admits to the unauthorized access of the account.

In other comments, the same person describes the content of her Facebook posts, and requests that readers contact the DA and request that her charges be dropped.

I don't believe publicly listing your actions pertaining to an alleged criminal offense and then pleading with others to contact the DA in charge of your case is a wise move.

She should consult with an attorney about the charges and wait until her case is resolved to comment--then she is free to become a champion of parental rights.


What do you think?

Was it ok if Ms. New searched her minor son's Facebook account?

How far do you think that parents should go with actions intended to protect their young sons and daughters?


Momma Fargo said...

I think she has a right to monitor her child. However, she might have handled the Facebook think poorly and should have talked to her son. Communication is everything. Charges? Silly.

jinksy said...

Talking should always be the first step.

Matthew Rush said...

Thanks for sharing Slam, but this is ridiculous. The charge not the post. She may have gone a little overboard but as a parent she has every right to monitor his online activity.

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Janna Qualman said...

16? Absolutely, it's her right. It's her DUTY. Parents have to take control back. It's way out of hand with today's generation.

Still, I agree with the ones who've said a conversation may have been the first apt step. Did she ask him about any of this? And then if she did post things on his page, that's a bit extreme, especially if they weren't positive in nature.


mappchik said...

Judging by the history she gave as a commenter on the news site, her son was definitely a troublemaker.

Is the biggest problems that she was reading her son's Facebook posts, or that she was posting from his account?

Monitoring a child's activity on parents' computer is something done by many. I thought that was okay. When the kids have been told access is the requirement for use of computer & internet, it's not like the parent is violating their privacy - it was part of an agreement.

I can understand why there might be charges against her for posting to her son's FB account. (Doesn't mean I agree with it in this case - would have to know what she was posting.)

That case of the mom sending email and - was it Myspace? - comments to one of her daughter's classmates, ending with the classmate's suicide... Those were the extreme actions of a crazy lady who should have been stopped from acting through the online identity of her child. Not the same situation as here, obviously.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is a hard one. He has the right to his privacy, except FB isn't all that private when you think about it. I know my niece has hundreds of people following her activities. But like others have mentioned, the mother should have been talking to her son instead of what ended up happening.

J. J. in Phila said...

There was something that I am not clear on from Ms. New's comments. Is she her son's legal guardian? For me, that is the key issue.

If Ms. New is guardian, the person responsible, I would not favor charges. She should have talked with her son and handled it better, but charges are inappropriate.

If she is no longer legal guardian, then she does not have that parental responsibility and she crossed the line. I'd favor charges in that regard.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I'm thinking that poor kid has more problems then he needs, including his mother. I know of many parents who stalk their kids on Facebook. I don't know - I tried to raise mine with their knowing I trusted them to make good decisions - seemed to put the pressure on them to not screw up. Now, I know kids do screw up, that how life lessons are incurred. But making sure it doesn't go too far begins very early. There are ways to know what is going on in your child's life without having to appear so obvious. Ah, so glad my kids are perfect and I'm the perfect parent.

Luisa Doraz said...

Well...if that same kid would have done something that got them into trouble, who would be blamed? The parents, in my opinion have the responsibility to monitor their kids actions. Communication is the key. What a story. :)

T. Anne said...

I don't have any problem with her looking at it. I would be curious to see what exactly these slanderous statements would be.

LadyFi said...

She should have talked to her son first... But who know to what lengths we will go if we feel we need to protect our kids?

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
It looks like this is a brawling contentious family that is going to play this out in public because they can't simmer down long enough not to shout.

Mom sounds bananas. I would not want her speaking for me. I would not want a son who was already in legal trouble and bragging about more.

If she is this injudicious on the news article comments, can you wonder what she said on his facebook account?

That said, I'm with J.J. is she the guardian of record? She has the right to review, then.

If it's on her computer, I also think she has some rights. You would restrict anyone using your car if your son used it for crime; a computer is not different.

She doesn't have the right to impersonate him or make comments in his name, minor or major, ownership, guardianship or not. Get your own Fb page.

Talking first . . . YES.
If my child had an Fb page, I would monitor its traffic from time to time. Not in distrust for my child, but to check for inappropriate others. I would then talk to them about how to handle inappropriate people--so that she can do it face to face, too, where it's most important.

Just my take, although I think reading others here helped me decide!

Thanks for a thought-maker!

Ann T.

Sue said...

I do feel that she had a right to monitor her minor child's actions on the internet. However, she crossed a line when she started to post things (under his name, no less) about him, that would deliberately damage his reputation, cause him public ridicule, embarrassment, and shame, for the sole purpose of doing those aforementioned. That's not discipline.

As a parent, I do monitor my oldest child's internet activity(my son is not old enough to be online). When she disobeys my rules on internet conduct, I intervene by taking away the privilege and talking to her about the offenses.

I also agree that she made an error in "defending" herself online.

Parents walk a fine line these days. They should try to remember that our goals as parents is to TEACH, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE our children, not simply lash out in emotion and issue consequences with no lesson attached.

If she was so concerned about his behavior, she should have stopped at the snooping, and brought the issues up with his custodial guardian. There are safer and better ways to deal with this teen's behavior than the route she took.

tattytiara said...

There is no way to accurately grasp this situation without a full understanding of the woman's relationship with her son, what she posted, if there is any relevant, precedent setting behavior on her part etc. I'm definitely, definitely all for adults monitoring their kids on the internet, but we've all seen adults who act more like children than their offspring do on the internet too eg that woman who helped trick that young girl into thinking a guy was interested in her.

suzicate said...

I feel parents have the right to monitor their children but if she did not have legal custody I can see the issue there. Hoever, it could have been settled without her posting on his account and talking to him. Sounds harsh for the child to bring charges against his mom. I feel like there is much more to the situation than is being put out there.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

This is why I don't want children. Seriously? Suing your own mom? I'm on the fence, sounds like the kid it rotten, sounds like he might have gotten it from mom. Why is mom saying grandmas isn't doing her job? Why'd you give her custody? I'm a huge fan of the Internet and finding friends but its so scary to think what's out there and the people that take advantage of it.

Nicole, RD said...

I think she should've approached him first and given him a shot at communicating. Kids makes bad choices and social networking can be a slippery slope! But as a minor, I do think it's a parent's right.

Kellie said...

That's tough. I do believe a parents has a right to monitor what their children do.. but there's a limit. Also, she went about things the wrong way. She should have tried talking to him. Snooping should be something of a last resort.

Elena said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with a parent reading a 16 year old's Facebook account (my 16 year old daughter has "friended" me so I may be biased) but if the mom did post on her son's account as if she was him, that I have a problem with. Not a legal problem, mind you, but a parenting one. I suspect there may be a lot more to this story than we know...

marinademchuck said...

Hello from Ukraine !

If my mama was even able to navigate her way to facebook from my favourites I would be impressed with her :-) She very good and making computer crash though.

Without attempt at joke I will say you that I do not believe parent should do such. Very interesting story though.


Lisa and Laura said...

Wow. That's unbelievable. I think she has every right to snoop on her son's Facebook page! I agree with the other commenters that communication seems to be a big issue here. I'm not sure I'd ever go as far as to post things on his page. And can I say that I really hope that Facebook is long gone by the time my kids are old enough to use it? Ha.

Dan said...

I look at it as hinging on the non-custodial rights. Because she both breached the user agreement and come in from another location, I suspect her troubles are just beginning. I think the whole beast goes the way of the dokey bird if she had custody and it was a joint account and ISP.

Interesting to see what happens in the end.

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Creepy Query Girl said...

Jeez. Makes me happy I moved to France. People get brought in for the strangest things. I think parents should be able to monitor their children's internet access in all domains. All the kid had to do was delete her comments if he didn't like them. What a psycho- charging your mother with harrasment. If he were mine I'd kick his ass (descretely)

Holly said...

This leads to all sorts of issues. Yes, I think we should be able to monitor our children's actions...but hopefully we have taught them well YIKES!). Then you have to think about the ridiculous stuff people post on their accounts and blogs and how all of this can affect employment and other opportunities.

The Babaylan said...

i believe in the wisdom of parents.

BobKat said...

Thank-you for posting this Slam!

I see the kids side, I do.

But I see the mother's side too. And if I were to ignore what she wrote on his Facebook page, I'd have to agree she was in her right as a parent.

I haven't viewed her comments. It's possible she overstepped bounds in what she posted. There is a limit to what a parent can do before it becomes harmful to a child...

My jury is out on this one...

jodeeluna said...

I think that parents do have the right to monitor a minor child's social networking activity if there is reason to be concerned; however, I would hope the parent tried to dialogue with the child and explain that the parent's computer is open to their censoring.

On another note, I did want to ask you whether school administrators and law enforcement officers have a legal right to access. Students don't think through the incriminating nature of posting illegal activities.

Also, I am wary of accepting students onto my friends list even though other teachers have done so. I worry about legal implications if they see something on the newsreel that someone else posted. I imagine that there are new laws in process to monitor this uncharted territory of online social networking. Any thoughts about this?

I am amazed at what I hear that middle school students post not thinking through the implications of self-incrimination.

BobKat said...


It appears you may be or did teach. I appreciate your concerns and questions. I've worked in schools or in school related positions for over 25 years... I can assure you that there is an effort underway to address internet use and concerns, wireless services in schools. But it's not an easy task.

The idea in education is to teach and educate students. That means teaching them the very thing they could use against you or others. We focus rightly so on abusers, but we forget those who have cutting edge thoughts, and the ability to not hurt people, though they probably could.

The student may very well best their teacher. The question and goal ahead of us is how do we teach a sound sense of morality and human rights, when there is so much disagreement about what is right???

I'd say both the mother and son are "right"... but that both need to go into counselling... and not the legal system. In the meantime, online users of sites like FB, need to do all they can to learn about the online tool they are using, and voice complaints when there is a problem.

Selma said...

The charges are insane. I must admit that I am occasionally curious about my son's postings on Facebook. Thankfully, we have a very open relationship so if anything was amiss with him he would tell me.

I wonder why that mother didn't just talk to her son. Could've saved a lot of hassle.

Kristin said...

I think her not having custody changes the dynamics for sure! Apart from that, monitoring your child, totally warranted, posting with his account...totally not warranted!

James (SeattleDad) said...

Wow, interesting case. Will have to monitor how this on turns out.

Kat O'Keeffe said...

Wow that is crazy! I don't think New should be charged with harassment, but I do think she was wrong for hacking her son's facebook. If they had such a good relationship as she said, she should have talked to him!

Rowe said...

This sounds like a classic case for Jerry Springer and his lynch mob audience to sort out!!

Bob G. said...

Parents are there to...well, PARENT, and that often includes being able to "check up" on the young'uns.
The manner in which she did it was a bit much, as the door to conversation should have been wide open from the get-go.

In today's world it makes SO much sense to make sure your child is safe, who their friends are, and if they're getting in w/ the "wrong bunch"...and that is just the EASY stuff.

There are also criminals and sexual predators just waiting for them... and no matter HOW GOOD a parent you are, you can't be with them ALL the time to protect them.

So then Mom gets busted for "harrassment"?
(maybe a stern warning)
What a lawsuit-happy society we've created.

Good comments and post.

Jeanette K. said...

Wow, what an interesting story. I can see both sides of this story, but there is, of course, a fine way to deal with this w/o involving the law. Communication!

CMA said...

you have a lovely blog, keep it up
thanks for sharing as always, darling!
and thanks for your kind comments


Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the interesting feedback all.

@ Momma Fargo: I agree that the charges are silly and hope it is resolved quickly.

@ Mappchik: Good insight. FB presents a problem for parents since you can't really monitor activity on an account unless you have been friended--and what teen wants dad as a friend?

@ JJ: The story just indicates that the grandmother has full custody of the 16 year old--I agree that it does make a difference.

@ Ann T.: I like your balanced perspective.

@ Midlife Jobhunter: I know you are the perfect parent...

 ALH said...

I feel like it's not the 'monitoring' that is the issue. If she was simply reading his facebook wall from her facebook account than that would be completely acceptable since it's public information. However, changing information on his profile is more of an invasion of privacy. I feel that since she does not have legal custody of her son, than she does not have the right to go into his account and change information. I understand that she is his mother and I agree that parents do have the right to monitor and protect their children, however, without legal custody, it seems she does not have full rights to do so. I do concede that since I do not know the specifics of the custody issue I can't really pass judgement on the situation, but at first glance of the case this is how I feel about it.

LisaF said...

I'm a bit late to this party but here's my two cents.

I fail to see or believe that, despite her claim of having a "good relationship" with her son, she didn't try and talk with him about this. Red flag #1. Son sounds like he is terribly disturbed or in with the wrong crowd evidenced by the trail of offenses he has to date. Red flag #2. If mom did indeed access his fb page and make posts under his identity, she didn't show any common sense or integrity in those action. Red flag #4. Depending on the age of the grandmother, how in the world could anyone expect her to be able to keep up and control a young man evidently bent on risky behavior? Red flag #5.

I vote for mandatory family counseling and a very strong male role model in this kid's life.

Candice said...

I think she went too far. However, is this a matter for the courts? Hell no! Don't they have better things to spend their time on. Do we really want Big Brother setting laws for how we parents (besides cases of abuse)? I think not.

Sue said...

I have been mulling this over and had a few more questions.

If this Mom did not have custody, then can this be considered "parenting" at all? And it wasn't that the court jumped in and pressed charges, the teen himself felt harassed to the point of taking this step, and if a child cannot reach out for help when they feel threatened what recourse do they have? Sure, there might have been a better method for HIM to choose as well.

What's to stop other non-custodial parents from hacking into their children's accounts?

Did the mom have any legal custody rights (not the same as physical custody rights in some states)? If not, she may have crossed a line in violating privacy whereas a parent who has legal custody can rightfully assume the role she took, a parent without any legal rights to their child would be considered under the laws eyes as just another adult.

Do you see what I'm saying? The only difference between ME hacking into that child's FB account and HER is her assumed legal rights as a parent to do so, and if she had none, then she had no legal standing to do what she did, whether she gave birth to him or not.

I think it all hinges on finding out where her legal standing in his life was.

Slamdunk said...

@ Sue: Good points and questions. Custody and the role of parenting by the mom is a critical issue in this case.

I read through Facebook's privacy page and I did not see where it gave a parent consent to access a minor's account.

I think in the discussion page of the linked article, the person claiming to be the mom states that the 16 year old accessed his Facebook page using her computer and his account was logged-in when she saw her computer. Personally, I still think that he had a right to privacy whether or not he was logged-in and her actions do constitute unlawful access to an account.

Now, whether this is a matter for criminal courts to be investing time on--that does not seem to make sense to me.