The Predicament

In the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with something of a rather difficult situation in my head revolving around the youngest of my two brothers, currently aged 14, and what he gets up to. He’s at that awkward age where he thinks he’s not a kid, but really he is, taking stupid decisions and needless risks, because he’s invincible. Fair enough, we all felt like that, and it’ll never change as part of humanity.

But my brother is causing me a bit of concern. He is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He has a load of friends who are all quiet, hard workers and don’t really go out much, meanwhile he has a bunch of friends who are much more “street”, and come with everything you’d expect them to in terms of attitude and appearance. 

My brother can’t choose between them. He alternates between groupings whenever he feels like it, but lately he has become more attached to the latter group because he now has a girlfriend. Some nights he goes out and returns after 10pm, smelling of smoke and girl’s perfume. I don’t think he smokes, but someone in the group is, and it wouldn’t surprise me if alcohol will soon follow in the years ahead. 

He’s growing up, I know that, and I accept it. He’s exploring who he is. He’s not doing it quite as I expected him to, but kids are like that. As his older brother I feel like I have a bit of a duty to look out for him though, and try to offer him advice on subjects that might be just too embarrassing to speak to our dad over. 

But, of course, that’s just the theory. As brothers, we have never been all that close. We don’t really have common interests (I’m determined to find something though, as per my previous post), we don’t share life experiences with each other, and we certainly don’t talk about emotions. That’s unthinkable. 

So in reality, there’s very little I can do to talk with my brother over the things he gets up to and try to make sure that while he can have his fun, there are some risks that are just unacceptable, and he must know the boundaries that simply can’t be crossed.

But therein lies a further complexity. The modern world, with its commercialist pressures and the freedom the internet provides adds a bit of a problem. Boys will be boys, and now they can be even more so by free access to a huge range of pornography, widely distributing it to each other on mobiles and computers, and in some cases even making it themselves, despite all the legal problems that may cause if it falls in the wrong hands. Like I said, they take stupid risks and don’t understand the consequences.

So the other morning, I was a little surprised to see some unexpected items in my Google search history. I’m not sure how they got there, as my search history is linked to my Google account, and there’s no way my brother could have logged in as me, but there the search terms were, and at times when I knew that there could have been no one else responsible.

I did a little digging, and sure enough, while the history had been erased, the relevant files were all still in the cache. 

It left me in a dilemma. He’s a teenage boy. What he was looking at came as no surprise. In fact, I’d be more surprised if he wasn’t looking at it. In truth, when I was his age I did the same. I also know my other brother did it. No – the actual porn itself is not an issue. While I don’t look at it any more, and haven’t for several years, it’s perfectly understandable that my hormonal brother would be looking at it.

The thing was, this time I didn’t really want to leave it be. The sites he’d visited had left a number of presents on the computer (viruses, adware, etc) – and so, at the very least, I had to give him a bit of warning to be a bit more careful about the links he clicks on. Of course, this would be a very embarrassing conversation not just for him but for me. But I figured it would be better him hearing it from me than from my parents, as I’ve no doubt my dad would have done his usual spyware sweep of the computer in good time and uncovered all the stuff himself.

But there was another reason for me doing it. I wanted to show my brother that a) he’s not invincible after all, he will slip up; b) that I care about him and want him to be careful and c) that he has another person he can confide in if he needs support or guidance. 

I think I did that and handled it sensitively. There’s no need for me to go to my parents with any of this info, as long as my brother starts to appreciate his situation properly and have more respect for himself and others. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Yesterday I stumbled across some rather unsettling material on his phone, and with that as justification I’ve had a look at his MSN conversation archives. Suffice it to say, they’re not good. Full of masculine bravado and massive exaggeration no doubt, but behind them is an obvious veneer of truth that my brother is in with the wrong crowd.

This isn’t the brother I grew up with. He has changed almost beyond recognition in the last year. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst his former friends, as I read in his MSN archives. 

He’s gone astray, and I’m now incredibly worried about where he’s heading. The difficulty I now have is that all the information I’ve got which I could use to have a talk with him has not been obtained legitimately. I can’t raise any of this without making it obvious that I’ve been forced to spy on him to try to get to the truth. And that’s a massive breach of trust.

But at the same time I’ve got all of this running around my head constantly and it won’t go away. 

I just can’t believe how early kids lose their youthful innocence these days. It seems only five minutes ago when I was talking about the good day I had with this very same brother eating the Pizza Hut buffet lunch

I need advice, badly.