Is it ok to access 18yo son’s social media messages if you suspect he is suicidal?

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Casual scribe

Is it ok to access 18yo son’s social media messages if you suspect he is suicidal?

My son used a password I know about when setting up hid Facebook account when he was younger (I helped him set it up etc... which he was fine about at the time) he has forgotten that I know his password and is now 18yo. I suspect, well a friend of his has reached out to me and told me he has been talking about suicide. He is denying this and I really want to log into his account as I am very worried about him and his well-being and he won’t talk to my husband and I at all about it. I just want to know exactly how bad it is. His friend did reach out to me but he has stopped talking to her now he knows she has contacted me. I have no other way of knowing if he is still talking about suicide with anyone. Is it wrong or illegal to log into his account considering he is 18 when I think his life is at risk? (in another post I have asked advice on the topic of how to get him help)
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Re: Is it ok to access 18yo son’s social media messages if you suspect he is suicidal?

Hey @SMS77, thank you for speaking out on the forums about your son being suicidal. It must be incredibly difficult for both you and your child to be going through such an uncomfortable and stressful situation. 

The first thing that I wanted to address is that you already have some information that your son may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, so it is important that you should take immediate action now. We have an article on our website about what to do if you think your teenager might be suicidal. It's important that you receive some professional support on what to do in your situation. Calling telephone hotlines like LifelineKids Helpline or Suicide Callback Service, can put you in contact with counsellors who are trained in providing support to not only those who might suicidal, but also those who are close to them and are concerned for their safety. These counsellors can also give you some guidance on what to do next, especially if you want to try to talk to your GP and/or set up a mental health plan for your child. 

In regards to accessing your child's social media, while I can really empathise with wanting to check in on your child, especially to gauge how and why they might be feeling, I would strongly advise against breaching their privacy. Often the most important thing for an individual when they are experiencing difficulties with their mental is to be supported by people they trust. By doing something like checking his Facebook, your son might lose trust in you, and potentially push you even further away. This in turn could limit how much you can actually support and help him now and in the future. Furthermore, there's a pretty big chance that you won't find out anything more than what you already know. If his friend did reach out to tell you about your son feeling suicidal, then you already have enough information to act on. 

 

I also wanted to check in with how you're feeling right now. It is very common that when someone we love is experiencing difficulties with their own mental health, it can in turn negatively impact our own mental health. It's really important that during this very stressful period of time that you also have someone you can talk to and a support network to rely on. Is there anyone you've been able to discuss this with recently? Parentsline is another really helpful telephone support-line which specialises in providing counselling and guidance to parents about any and all issues - including supporting a child who is thinking about suicide. 

I hope this helps, and please let us know if you have any other questions or topics you wanted to talk through, we're here to listen and offer support Heart

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Casual scribe

Re: Is it ok to access 18yo son’s social media messages if you suspect he is suicidal?

It's a matter of personal opinion and debatable whether you should 'check in' on your son's social media accounts.
It's thoroughly understandable that you want access in order to see what he is writing on it and with whom he is communicating.
One problem.....OK....A couple.....
Do you tell him that you have accessed his social media content or do you wait for him find out from an email/text telling him that someone 'logged in from a different device'.
Will he know you have accessed his computer? How will he respond when he finds out?
There is a risk here. Especially at a time when you need to get as close as you can.
You say that his friend informed you about his talk of suicide. It's unfortunate that the friendship had to end because of this. It seemed that she was really trying to help.
Could you connect with her yourself? It's only a suggestion but it could be a reasonable option for you to find out what your son is getting up to regarding his social media activities.
The friend may be a good source of information.
Following people....Timelines....Friends.....Groups and so on....With her being better connected to your son's peer group, she will more likely be able to find out what is going on in your son's life. Even if not directly communicating with your son.
You may feel that you are going 'behind his back'.....However. It's safer than accessing his social media account.
This could follow on with trying to make careful conversation with your son about how he is feeling when you notice he appears 'down' or anxious. Or you may feel that he may want to talk but don't know how to start the conversation himself.
Sometimes, we can notice when someone wants to say something but is 'holding back'. It's trying to tactfully ask how their day has been or if there is anything on their mind at that point in time.
As you are concerned for your son's well-being, you could speak to your local doctor and enquire about counselling for your son.
You could ideally benefit from some professional advice regarding how to tackle this situation in order to communicate with your son about this.
There are the advice lines available for a start. You could also speak with a counsellor/therapist in order to get some advice on how you could deal with this situation.
It's finding a way that will carefully and slowly encourage him to communicate with you.
Would he consider his friend if you explained that she was only trying to help and was concerned for his safety? He may consider talking to her again.
Is there any chance that he'd consider talking to a helpline/counsellor himself?
Another option is going to counselling sessions together. Admittedly. There is the issue of carefully trying to encourage him to do this.
Whatever choices you make here. It is justifiable to want to know exactly what your son is getting up to - especially online - because you want to help him.