Handling Teen Privacy

Teen Alone

One thing teenagers will fight for is privacy. They badly want that freedom to do as they wish, without “invading” parents or prying siblings all up in their business.

Teenagers have a need for privacy. As your child gets older, the need for a psychological and personal space grows. That child is dealing with some teenage challenges. She is gaining new physical and thinking capabilities, developing new social interests, and is working out the kind of person she is. To become an adult, she has to learn how to handle these challenges responsibly and independently. That being said, teenagers are not really ready to deal with the adult world. They are not adults – yet. Their teenage brain is still developing and so they may sometimes make decisions too quickly to think through the consequences. This may put them at risk. So your child still needs your support and advice. You have to stay in touch with her – the word is monitoring. But you should be discrete and sensitive in going about it.

When a child is born, she is totally dependent on the mother. You hardly find a separation between the child and her mother. There is no boundary. As the child gets older and develops, boundaries start to form. As an adolescent, she would want to have a life of her own and part of it would be wanting to separate and individuate. Boundaries are where your child ends and you as a parent begins.

Teenagers still need the support of their parents to make safe decisions about behaviour and relationships. This is why it very important for their parents to monitor them. Too little monitoring can leave them without the support they need and too much monitoring can send the message that you do not trust your child. When you monitor your child in a trusting environment, you are giving her what she needs to learn how to behave responsibly and make good decisions. Let your teens know you are on their side. You want to let them have some privacy but you are responsible for their safety. They would have to show that you can trust them.

Your teenager may insist that she is entitled to privacy. But she is not entitled to privacy the same way an adult is. She is not yet an adult even though she is on her way to becoming one. So how much privacy should a parent allow for a child? I would say it depends on each child. If your child has built a record of trust, you may not want to monitor her so much. But if you suspect something, you should take action and this may require the “invasion” of the privacy of your child. Let her call it invasion, I will call it parenting. The risk of respecting a teenager’s privacy is greater than the risk of hurting her pride by inserting yourself into her life. When you do that, she may come up with an emotional outburst, “You don’t trust me!” This is a deflection technique teens usually use to back parents into a corner. As a parent, you should not fall for it. When she says that, you can reply her, “I trust that you are a teenager and you will make mistakes which means you need my guidance and instruction so that you grow up as you should.”

Trust is earned and rewarded with responsibility and privacy. So it is not an entitlement until that teen is living as an independent adult on her own. But many parents are giving much freedom to their teens today. Unfortunately, there are freedoms that can be harmful, unhealthy, and even dangerous.

When something triggers your suspicion (if you think your teen might be engaging in risky behaviour like drug, alchohol, sex), you have a responsibility as a parent, an obligation to look into your child’s room. It your responsibility to protect your child even if it is from her very own self. In order to do that as you should, you need knowledge.

But the key as regards all of this is to build a relationship in which your teenager knows she can talk to you about anything even the things that are difficult. It is unfortunate that many parents have not been able to foster such relationship between them and their children. If you have developed a relationship with your child and she brings information that unsettles you, respond calmly and display the maturity you would want your teenager to display. By doing so, you are creating the right environment for transparency.


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