How (Not) to Spy on Your College Student Online

Chandler was home from college for about a week when he announced at dinner one night that he had not given me permission to, and did not appreciate me posting photos of him on my blog. I told him I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I did that. (BTW, I just did a search inside my blog to find out and it was March 2015. That kid needs to calm down.)

I then went on to say that he was lucky – when people googled his name they just ended up with the cast of Friends. (And no, since you’re wondering – my Chandler was not named after Chandler Bing. He was named after Raymond Chandler, the author. For reals.)

A screenshot of the Images you get when you Google Chandler’s name.


“Oh,” he said. “And when I do Google searches on my phone, I’ve noticed that “Sarah Smith Instagram” pops up.

Oh shit!

(Sarah Smith* is the name of the girl he told me he was dating at school.)

“Who’s that?” Marley asked.

“That’s a friend of Chandler’s from school,” I answered Marley.

And okay, I may or may not have looked at her Instagram a few times to see if she seems like a nice girl (she does – I love her!) or to see if she posted pictures with Chandler (she hasn’t). But how could he know that? How could my searches inside my Instagram app turn up on his phone?

“Well, I may have looked at her account one or two times,” I told him.

“More than that, Mom. Way more than that.”


“You never tell us anything, Chandler. I just wanted to see if there were any pictures with you.” Still, how does he know???

“Yeah,” he went on, “I guess I didn’t log out of my Gmail on Dad’s computer when I was home at Christmas so I could see your searches. But I’m logged out now.”

So it wasn’t my searches. It was Dave’s.

“What’s going on?” Dave asked, playing dumb. Oh. No. He. Didn’t. Oh yes, my friends. Yes, he did!

“I was just looking at an Instagram account of one of Chandler’s friends,” I said, taking the bullet. “Sorry, Chandler. I just miss you.”

“Well, we’re just friends.”

“Okay,” I said, deciding it best not to tell him that a.) I had already figured that out and b.) now that he’d logged out of Dave’s computer he’d no longer know what I (or rather his father) was searching.

After dinner when the kids had retreated to their rooms and Dave and I were finishing with the clean-up I looked at him and said, “That was a pretty heavy bus.”

“Yeah, you got thrown under that one. Sorry about that. I owe you.”

“Yes, you do,” I told him. “Big time!”

The moral of the story? If you’re going to spy on your kids online make sure they’re not logged on to your computer. (And if your husband throws you under the bus, make sure you let him know he owes you. Big time.)


*Sarah Smith is obviously not her real name. (And they’re just friends anyway.)


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