Do Teens Have a Right to Privacy?
My son has a cellphone and I admit that I have glanced over, maybe even scrolled through a couple of his texts to see what he was talking about. The many forms of "Whassup?" bored me though, so I haven't rushed to read it again.
But it won't always be so innocent. Cellphones, Facebook and live chats are the medium of choice for teens and we parents are scared because we can't hear what is going on in their lives anymore. So we invade their privacy and we tell ourselves it's okay because teens don't have a right to privacy due to the issues facing them in the big, bad world. And since we foot the bill, we can do what we want. But something about snooping in my kid's private life doesn't sit right with me.
Without a clear strategy I started to fear that I was falling into both of the camps mentioned in this Redbook article; telling my son that he had no right to privacy but also wanting him to trust me. So I turned to the expert - Beverly Cathcart-Ross from the Parenting Network.
I find that I am always surprised when I talk to Beverly because her words can go against conventional wisdom - usually because they are well-thought out and not some kind of emotional knee-jerk reaction.
She said that teens absolutely have a right to privacy; reading their text messages and Facebook page is akin to our parents picking up the phone extension or reading our diaries.
She said we need to stop parenting out of fear."We cannot assume they are hiding something, or that a pedophile is stalking them or they are secret drug dealers." We cannot let fear of life dictate how we parent our kids, she said. We should be keeping our long-term goal in mind: raising self-reliant, confident, respectful adults. She said kids very rarely mysteriously fall off the earth. There are signs and we should heed those signs. She said even if you respect their privacy there will probably be a time that you will want to invade their space and you probably will.
She said all teens will make mistakes - that is how they learn and we need to look at this time as an opportunity to show them how to solve problems and build self-confidence. We can't expect them to show respect if we refuse to show them any.
There are much smarter ways to get the pulse of what is going on in a teen's life - talk to them and use the technology to build your relationship by texting with them.
My 11-year-old may be okay with me reading his texts, but by the time he is 16 he will overrule me and find ways to circumvent my authority, says Beverly. And that is okay - you absolutely want kids to have some space and make mistakes - that is where the growth happens.
Beverly convinced me that the trust we have is more important to keeping them safe than my intimate knowledge of their texts.
How about you? Do you snoop into your teen's online life? Do you think teens have a right to privacy?
Want more chaos? Last year I wondered if parenting had jumped the shark.