Teen privacy: Balance is key (2023)

If there's one thing teenagers will fight for in their lives, it's privacy — the freedom to do whatever they want without "curious" parents or siblings snooping on their activities.

Unfortunately, there are times when teenagers don't do things they should or do things they shouldn't. In the past, the privacy issue has revolved around whether parents should search their child's room or read their diary.

Today, there are the much more complicated concerns about internet use:

  • Cyber-Mobbing
  • the time children spend online
  • the appropriateness of the websites they access.
  • One of them is abandoning childrenlet go too soon(e.g. not checking your middle schooler's social media posts) before he's ready to take on more responsibility.

  • The second error is tolet go too late(For example, insisting on reading all of your teen's texts) which disempowers children by not giving them the freedom that their good judgment and behavior show they can handle.

Let's look at some steps you can take to ensure your teen gets the right level of privacy.

The best place to start is to observe your children's behavior. Think about how they've been behaving over the past few years and be honest in your assessment - if they've already demonstrated maturity in a particular area, you may not need to monitor them as carefully.

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Children who have made good choices in the past are less likely to engage in risky or dangerous behaviorin the future, but this is not absolute.

Remember that children are a work-in-progress, so you need to watch out for behavior that suggests you need to intervene again with more supervision.

On the other hand,If your children have shown a history of being unreliable, you should keep a closer eye on them– turning a blind eye to their behavior is not only irresponsible but potentially dangerous.

For example, if they're staying beyond lockdown with a new group of friends, their plans are often patchy, and their grades have plummeted, you might want to ask your child directly about their behavior and about illegal drug or alcohol use.

You may then need to search his room for signs of drug abuse paraphernalia. Yes, you are invading his privacy, but the goal in this situation is to keep him safe and on a sane path.

Few things enrage a teenager faster than the feeling that they are not being treated like an adult and have no say in things that affect them.Involve them in creating an action planClearly showing what different levels of privacy you are willing to give them is a way of showing them respect and showing your trust in them.

Explain to your teen that they need to earn more privacy- and there are certain things they can do to move forward.You will see that more responsibility leads to more privilege and freedom.

For example, if you get to know their friends, and maybe even their friends' parents, you'll be more likely to allow them to spend more time with friends.

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In fact, most teenagers are very responsive when treated seriously; formulate their sacred right to privacy as an agreement between two mature individuals.

Remember, you must keep your end of the bargain for this to be effective. The agreement loses value if your teen doesn't see you as trustworthy.

Teen Privacy: Getting Started

A major concern for parents is the safety of their children with ever-changing technology.The best time to start setting rules for technology use is when your child receives their first personal device.

Middle school is a common time for a child to get a cell phone, although particularly responsible children who have shown good judgment and have been reliable in the past may be able to use a device sooner.

If your children are active at school or in community organizations and you need to let them know when they can be picked up, or if they go home alone, you may want them to have a phone at a younger age.

set rules

Make it clear from the start that their privacy on the device is limited - they'll regularly check what's installed on it and maybe even add a monitoring app so you can track its location and what it's doing on it. It is helpful,Explain that you're not making these rules because you don't trust him, but because it's your job to protect him.

Give some specific examples relevant to your child's interests, e.g. B. using the GPS function to locate them when they get lost while exploring nature – this makes a concrete connection to their life and helps them see monitoring as a positive rather than a negative.

Explain that at the same timethere are things he can do to earn greater privileges.He should be able to do this in the near future, ideally within two weeks, and come with a specific reward.

For example, if he completes his homework before using the device for entertainment purposes, he is allowed to use the device one more time each day. Other potential rewards you can offer over time are:

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  • to be allowed to keep the device longer (instead of giving it back to you after the time has expired)
  • Upgrade from a basic device to a bigger, better one
  • You don't need to ask permission before downloading an app

If your teenager is not responsible

Of course, if it goes the other way,Make sure you're willing to strip away privilege to teach responsibilityto your child. If your concern involves a text message or two rather than a pattern, it's probably best to ask your teen about it directly. He may not be happy that you checked his phone, but a bad attitude is better than overlooking a potentially dangerous situation.

However, if your child seems to be lying or these suspicious patterns persist, don't hesitate to take more extreme measures.

For example, if you have reason to believe your child is skipping school — maybe you found suspiciously encrypted text messages on their phone — you need to consider reading their journal, if they have one, search their backpack, search his room and/or contact the school.

What's next?

Remember, as your children grow and mature, you will have to reconsider the issue of privacy. It's important to let them know that you will continue to monitor them as their behavior and situation changeYour responsibility as a parent is to make sure they are safe.

Remind them that you give them more freedom and more privacy if they show good judgment and trustworthiness, but the rope will be pulled back if you worry they aren't taking good care of themselves or making good decisions.

And make sure you comply so your children have no doubt that you are looking out for them and their best interests, even if it violates their sense of autonomy.

Von Amy Williams,
a journalist and former social worker who is passionate about parenting and education



For more information on raising a teenager, see the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents raise their children in the best possible way.

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