Teenagers Sharing Paswords as Show of Affection
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2012 Jan 19
This new trend strikes me a s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision! While parents can't guarantee that their sons and daughters won't share passwords, they can set the clear expectation that passwords are to remain private.
Young couples have long signaled their devotion to each other by various means — the gift of a letterman jacket, or an exchange of class rings or ID bracelets. Best friends share locker combinations.
The digital era has given rise to a more intimate custom. It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail, Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts.
They say they know such digital entanglements are risky, because a souring relationship can lead to people using online secrets against each other. But that, they say, is part of what makes the symbolism of the shared password so powerful.
It doesn’t always end so well, of course. Changing a password is simple, but students, counselors and parents say that damage is often done before a password is changed, or that the sharing of online lives can be the reason a relationship falters.
The stories of fallout include a spurned boyfriend in junior high who tries to humiliate his ex-girlfriend by spreading her e-mail secrets; tensions between significant others over scouring each other’s private messages for clues of disloyalty or infidelity; or grabbing a cellphone from a former best friend, unlocking it with a password and sending threatening texts to someone else.
In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. The survey, of 770 teenagers aged 12 to 17, found that girls were almost twice as likely as boys to share. And in more than two dozen interviews, parents, students and counselors said that the practice had become widespread.