O. M. G. My Au Pair is “Sexting”

by cv harquail on December 29, 2009

I can’t even figure out how to begin this post! Where do you start, when you find out that your au pair is sending lewd photos of herself from her/your cellphone, and downloading lewd photos of someone else onto her/your computer?

200912291557.jpgWe got this request for advice from a host mom who is, to put it mildly, distressed:

Our 20 year old AP is very pretty and quite “popular” on Facebook (2000 friends?!).

Recently she asked for help with something on the computer. When I went over, I (unfortunately) caught a glimpse of her chat box and wanted to burn my eyes out. She was having net-sex with some guy. EEK! I’m not sure what level her participation was, but there was some comment by him about her nipples and …

I really didn’t want to know any more. I didn’t say anything, mainly because it’s totally embarrassing and what do I say?

Wait, it gets worse.

So a few days later, I needed to update the firmware on her cell because we changed phone plans. When I picked up the phone, the wallpaper inside is some guy in his underwear!! So I looked in the pictures file and there she is taking self-portraits of herself half-dressed (top half not-so-much dressed).

What do I do?

Do I:

  • ignore it,
  • tell her about the dangers of sexting,
  • inform her that it’s our phone and computer and can’t be used that way?

This is worse than having my own (young) adolescent. At least American teens know that if they send pictures of their boobs around the whole school is likely to see it!   HELP

Ultimately, we’re all going to put this one in our family guidelines, in the computer/phone section… but right now… what do you host parents recommend?

Some resources:
Sexting: New Technology, Old Problem: Calling All Public — and Other — Health Professionals
Nearly 1 in 3 older teens gets ‘sexting’ messages

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{ 20 comments }

Anonymous December 29, 2009 at 6:05 pm

This is something I do not want on my phone or my computer.
My brother is a fashion photographer and I consider myself very liberal but I just don’t like this. Over the years , I have had a bunch of aupairs and fortunately, they talk to me and tell me about their friends problems , too. I try to mind my own business as much as possible but I have learned by listening. Once, an aupair told me that she wanted to leave her host family because the host father had Playboy magazines in the bathroom. She was too embarrassed to discuss this with the host mother. My feeling was that this man should have kept this sort of thing private. I knew who he was and thought he seemed like a decent guy. But I felt for the aupair.
This really is the same thing. Aupairs should keep some things completely private and as long as it isn’t illegal , I think I should stay out of it. My eleven year old daughter had a friend with two teenage brothers and sometimes she saw/learned things in that house that I would rather she had not seen or heard ( videos about locker rooms and cheerleaders ) : nothing evil but icky. The school psychologist told me that this is life. I encouraged my daughter to play with this friend at our house and mostly that worked.
But on a strictly emotional level, I sympathize completely with the aupair who didn’t like Playboy and this lady who found these pictures. I just don’t want it in the house, on the phone or on the computer.

future au pair December 30, 2009 at 10:53 am

Not matter whether the personal computers and the phone is the au pair or host family. The au pair has not the right to disseminate pornography. She should at least be discreet about it.

If she leaves openly pornographic photos on the phone probably she has not a lot trial about what should be disclosed or not. It is a total lack of sense and I think this rule should be equal for both the family and for the au pair too. The host father does not have the right to leave this type of material exposed in the house .

The au pair is supposed to be part of the family and only in a troubled family must be allowed that kind of attitude of their children. And if the au pair has not a relationship as “old sister” with a host family, even worse because at work no one can disseminate pornography.

OB Mom December 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I presume that the cell phone is owned and paid for by the host mom. For that reason, I would say she has a complete right to access the content and advise the girl that sexting is dangerous. Moreover, I think she can “forbid” it on her phone and computers. Teach her her about the the general rule that anything written in an email should be OK for the world to see (including her REAL mother).

I would also think one might also argue that there is a risk that the kids would see it. My kids use my AP’s phone to call me and check the time and stuff. What if the kids opened the phone and saw a half naked male as wall paper. NOT appropriate from an AP! My kids also enter the AP’s room (with her permission) when she is on the computer, skyping with family and friends; what if the chat was on the screen and the kids started to read it.

We put a lot of effort into teaching our kids about dangerous behaviors on the internet. If a good example is not set from within the house; how can we expect them to learn?

franzi December 30, 2009 at 5:58 am

if the computer and phone belong to the host family then you as host parents have every right to restrict her access, tell her that this is inappropriate, and if nothing improves, to send her into rematch.

if you can find this on her computer then your kids can, too!
and apparently, she is not even trying to hide this. i mean, if i have a sizzling chat open and need help on my computer, i would close the chat! if she doesn’t have the brains to do this, it means to me that she doesn’t grasp the consequences of her actions. maybe she thinks it’s normal to do all of this. maybe she is in a group of friends that boost each others confidence by bragging about what they do online.

bottom line, you want a role model for your kids and this is not role model behavior!

Sara Duke December 30, 2009 at 7:57 am

Here is another thing to consider – do the people who view these lewd photographs on the Internet have access to either a) your landline number [and therefore can find your home address] or b) information about you and the community in which you live from her posts? If so, then the au pair is putting your family at risk of exposure by a sexual predator.

I’ve had one au pairs who was stalked (one was a Social Security Office employ who liked what he saw when she filed for her card – we complained to his supervisor and he was fired, but he had already called her several times on our land line and had access to our address).

In my experience, au pairs enjoy sexual freedom that they would not experience at home where extended family members often live in the same neighborhood or community. However, your au pair needs to know that her freedom ends when your family is at risk, and that includes putting semi-naked pictures of herself on the Internet that could attract the attentions of undesirable characters.

Also, make it clear to her that downloading inappropriate content on your home computer is unacceptable. Ask her to think what message it teaches your children? (Especially if they are old enough to be curious and start surfing the sites!) It was much easier in the days when children could only use a dictionary to look up dirty words – with Google it opens a world you may not want them to know about.

I am already talking to my 9-year-old about treating women with respect. If my au pair had exposed her breasts to the world, she would undermine my lessons in a second (and he might start to see her as a sexual object rather than an authority figure).

My last au pair, who took great risks sexually (in my opinion) was a nice woman. Her wallpaper was my children taking a walk. When I expressed surprise that my kids were her cell phone wallpaper, she smiled and said, “All the au pairs I know have their kids on their cell phones.”

Jeana December 30, 2009 at 9:14 am

I would request rematch immediately. This aupair has shown extremely poor judgement. If she could show such poor judgement in this aspect of her life, she has the potential to show poor judgement in other areas that could endanger your children. Her behavior could have put your children at risk. Absolute deal breaker for me. One of my expectations of our aupairs is that they are a good role model of a young woman for my daughters.

Me January 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

She has the same “poor judgment” than you have than. Judging somebody as whole thing for one particular situation…

I´m sad when I see in XXI century so closed mind people !

If you want a role model, why don´t you get a nun?

I believe that kids must learn that people make their choices and it´s not because they are close that the person is “a model to be followed”. It´s the responsibility of the parents to teach what is wrong and what is right, putting your kids in a bubble of perfect world is the worse thing you can do.

My opinion, of course!

NoVA Host Mom December 30, 2009 at 10:05 am

I agree with Jeana. Someone who shows so little judgement and maturity (and frankly, common sense in basic safety) would be spending her last 2 weeks with the LCC and not in my home. In no way would I ever allow for a “second chance”. Franzi’s right. What kind of dolt leaves a sexually explicit (and any discussion of nipples like she was having qualifies) chat up and asks the HM to come help on the computer? Really? This is the person you want to leave in charge of your most precious cargo? I think not.

Frankly, she would be lucky if I did not also call her real mom and tell her why her daughter was fired. It would be a very tempting thing to do. (No, I wouldn’t really do this, but I can promise it would cross my mind more than once).

I would be monitoring the heck out of all previous cell phone bills and accounting for each and every number to see what (if any) contact was made with any of these “friends” and would charge the AP with the cost of changing the cell phone number so the next AP does not have to deal with lewd calls or messages.

Mom23 December 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Not exactly the same thing, but after a former au pair left we found nude photos that she had presumably mailed to her boyfriend in Germany on the computer that she and the kids used. It was way more than I ever wanted to see of her. We now have a section in our manual about computer use when the au pair doesn’t have one of her own.

elle January 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

I’ve sent 4 au pairs home in 6 years…one that I fired/packed up and had her removed from my home was “Katie, the Canadian porn queen”…after I found sexually explicit, extremely graphic texting/IMing on a family computer…all easily accessible by my children with the push of a button…that was bad enough….and when I read she was trying “to figure out how “to do” the neighbor’s husband while she was at work”…I added her being a threat to my community as ANOTHER reason to get rid of her. That would be my advice…if you don’t want your kids exposed to this kind of stuff…get rid of her!

Aupair January 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

I would speak to the au pair and let her know that it is inappropriate to leave personal items such as that visible to the children. I do agree that it is a tricky tricky situation but best to deal with it head on

Should be Working January 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

So what about this one: I just looked at my au pair’s facebook page (I’m not her friend, this is the publicly available page). Picture of her, fairly close range, in teeny weeny beady-jangly nightclub bikini, very little left to the imagination, very sexy pose. Looks just like a stripper, but I guess it’s not a strip club, but it is some kind of club. New Year’s party??

But I suppose this counts as her private life? I say nothing? Should it not count against her (I’m so-so on the fit here.)

Anonymous January 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Say nothing. Especially considering you aren’t her friend on Facebook, she’ll probably see it as being none of your business. And if it’s in her free time, what can you do about it?

Melissa January 12, 2010 at 2:32 am

I have the same issue. Our au pair, who is sweet and respectful with us, has all these provocative looking photos on her facebook page. Nothing pornographic, mind you, but it looks like she thinks she’s a fashion model in every one. We know close to nothing about her personal life, because she is gone much of the time and shares very little. She definitely seems much more interested in meeting boys, dressing scantily and attending parties than seeing the U.S. It hasn’t had much negative impact on us, so we’ve said nothing. I certainly don’t want to be her best friend or know the intimate details of her life, but the fact that she now has figured out how to block my access to her facebook pictures and chats, makes me wonder what it is she feels compelled to hide. I haven’t said anything b/c I don’t want to interfere in her personal business, but this isn’t helping my image of her.

TX Mom January 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Our best AP got a bit wild on the weekends and had some photos posted on FB that I would rather not see. However, she had good judgement about her safety and we could speak openly about men and sex. She also never exhibited those photos or got into mischief in front of children. I think she was a typical young adult trying to figure out who she was, exploring and having some fun.
However, we had an AP who was much more provacative and risk taking on her own time. She was extremely sweet with my kids but she was “boy crazy” and it interfered when she was watching my kids. She wasn’t totally open with me about her relations with men and as she shared more I realized this “obsession” was overtaking her brain processes. The combination of her immature decision making with my kids (because of men) and my concern about her safety on her off duty time made us rematch. I think she has become a better AP with her new family – but I’m guessing she has learned to keep her private life private from the HF.
I think you have to know enough to feel confident your AP is safe and she maintains decorum with your kids. Other than that, it’s better to not see the pictures! After the interviewing phase, I don’t even want to be a friend to a current AP on FB. It’s too much info and too much anxiety that I don’t need.

sipsi April 4, 2010 at 8:15 pm

inform her that it’s our phone and computer and can’t be used that way?

ILHM January 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

I realize that this post is a little dated, but it is exactly what I need help with now!!! My AP, who has been wonderful up until now, made some very bad choices over the holidays when she was off (not vacation but not working). For starters she broke the house rule of no overnights with the family car unless I know where it is going to be and lied about it. I got a text from her saying she’d be in one (pre-approved) location but GPS (she knows we have GPS tracking) showed she was in a very seedy gang-infested part of town. Confrontation confirmed the overnight location but has made her pouty since I talked to her. She is fine with the kids. I told her when she finally came home that it violated the family rules and that honesty has to be part of this relationship. Fast forward 24 hours and I picked up her cell phone and looked at her messages when it beeped (ok, probably not right ethically) but I pay for the phone and the text messages, not her, and I do that to my 11 year old daughters phone all the time. XXX pornographic text messages from the boy she met last week. It was obvious from the messages this had been going on since before Xmas so I doubt the trip to gang-land was a first for her. Her behavior has improved a little since our talk, but I haven’t mentioned the sexting. My husband isn’t happy about the lying but is way to laid back to be responsible for any of the discussions with her.

Like the post from above she is utterly boy crazy. To the point she is a little stalkerish in her behavior. I checked GPS last night, and sure enough on her trip to the college she stopped by the porn kings restaurant – no doubt to see him. This is boy #3 that I know of in 4 months…..

Now what do I do? I called the LCC (who is also good) who said to talk to her – we are all adults and I am actually fine with her having a sex life. I certainly did at her age. AP is older and has been so so so great and we all really love her. Until now. Now I can’t even look at her and am still mad about lying about the car. This just makes it worse. I was planning on telling her no more overnights for a month or two with the car and am considering a mileage limit per month (porn boy lives about 30 miles away) and she has a reason to go up there 4-5 times a week because her AP friends are all in another cluster.

Thoughts?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 4, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I’d use the same strategy with her that I use with my son – have her pick her punishment for driving the car into the forbidden zone and lying about it. Are you truly prepared for the stress on your relationship if you withdraw car privileges now? She knows you will be checking the GPS. Before you sit down with her, you and HD will need to invoke GPS sampling and have punishments picked out for a second violation (you need not reveal them to her – but you do need to be on the same page). I assume that she is on time for her shifts and you say she is great with your kids.

However, I would recommend leaving her cell phone out of it. Even if you pay for the phone, you abused her privacy in using it (unless your handbook says that you will monitor messages from time to time). She is not your 11-year-old and will resent you for having looked at her messages.

I had one AP who was fantastic – energetic and enthusiastic with the kids, a great friend to newly arriving APs, and put effort into meeting the requirements of her AP year. DH and I truly enjoyed having her around. We did our best to ignore what she did when she went clubbing, some of which bordered on dangerous (like going home with men she met in the clubs). It didn’t make us happy. We worried about her. But we also felt that she had to live her life on adult terms, and part of that included sowing her wild oats. We did tell her that if she found herself in a truly dangerous situation in which she felt that her life was being threatened, that she should call us and we would come and get her. That strategy paid off for us.

hOstCDmom January 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

A few thoughts and some info you might find relevant:

There are software programs that interface with mobile phone use (i.e. texting). These programs send you a daily/weekly/monthly report (however you set it) that includes the text of all text messages sent and received. Some parents use this monitoring tool with their children who have texting on their mobile phones. OF COURSE, using a tool like this has all sorts of implications (both with one’s kids and certainly with an AP) — ethical, moral, trust and privacy implications. But, it is your cell phone and if you want to monitor it, *and tell your AP that you will be doing so before you start*, then that is perhaps one option to ensure she does not use your mobile in that manner. HOWEVER, if you do this, you will probably lose a window into who she is calling, when, who she is texting, when etc., because she will likely get her own mobile to which you will have no acces. Something to consider, as some HP value the information about how/when an AP is using the phone more than they do about the transgressions with such use of the phone (I fall in this category).

Another variation is that you could TELL HER that you will consider use of such software if she does not cease using your mobile in the manner she has been (and in this case, I think you need to be pedantically specific about what is OK and what is not — i.e. no calls while on duty or only calls to HP while on duty or no calls longer than 5 min while on duty; no use of any swear words (give her a list), no texting about any body part or bodily function; not texts discussing any sexual acts; no MMS or pictures of any body part unclothed other than a face. Tell her that any text she sends she needs to be comfortable showing to you (or to her priest/minister/rabbi…you get the picture.

Re the car use, I would have taken away her personal car use once she lied to you (and in my case since we don’t need a driver i would have taken away all car use, including driving my children which my AP does but does not need to do (but likes to do bc she likes driving). I don’t know how long I would have taken it away, but probably at least 2 weeks and perhaps longer. I would have been more angry about the lying/deception than the geography of where the car was, although I would be angered by that also. I would put not only a mileage limit but a radius of how far from you home she may travel (such radius to reasonably include other APs in the cluster, shopping, cinema, restaurants etc. (a common sense radius based on how an AP could reasonably and fairly use your car). If possible I would make such radius NOT extend to the areas of town that you don’t want the car in (I realize this may or may not be possible, but perhaps a quick review of a map could give you some basis.). I would also print out a street map and highlight the radius and areas/streets (major ones) where she is permitted to go. I’d draw a red line around the radius and/or areas of town where she is not permitted to travel. Don’t leave anything to her “common sense” or “reasonable interpretation” of how you want the car used and where you do or don’t want it to be. Specificity will take any ambiguity out of her future use or misuse of the car, and give you a basis for any future discussions about misuse and consequence. I would also put in writing what the future consequences of any breach of your car rules will be. I would copy the LCC on all of the foregoing.

Just some food for thought….

ILHM January 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

Thanks both of you! I talked to her last night mainly about the car and dangerous choices she is making. I told her that the car is symbolic of what I can control and that by her lying to me, and violating our family rules, she has made me start to doubt her decision making ability which overlaps into child care. I told her she is an adult and free to make decisions about her body and who she hangs out with and I will not make any judgements as she has to live her her decisions. That being said, the overnights with the car were a benefit given based on trust and those are now suspended. She continues to have full use of the car for personal time but it will sleep at home everynight as stipulated in the handbook.

Regarding texts, I didn’t bring it up….like TaCL said, it wasn’t called out in the handbook (this year – but next year cell phone use will be detailed out!)…so nothing on my part. What I did say is that the same report I get with GPS details also allows me to see who and when she is texting and that it is a family phone and part of the family plan. She needs to use good sense when using that phone for personal business just like she needs to use it for car use. She may assume I saw the texts, I don’t know. But she looked concerned and worried. Given where she is hanging out, that is what I wanted her to be. Thanks again for the advice. I really needed it to bolster the discussion!

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