Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Teens the Right to Privacy

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The terrible “P” word finally reared its ugly head into my house the other day so like fighting a King Cobra that’s snapping at my family I stomped it dead in its tracks.

“Privacy” is the “P”-word I’m talking about.   My 10-year-old son Jonathan uttered that word to me the other day for the first time as he  ATTEMPTED to lock me out of his bedroom.  The problem for him was that  I actually don’t believe in “privacy” for kids under 18.  Here’s why you shouldn’t either:

Privacy gives room to mischief: As a former police news reporter I can tell you that most of the craziest crimes kids commit inside their homes have been done right underneath their parents’ roof.    I don’t mean to be melodramatic but the Columbine killers planned, plotted and even armed themselves right underneath the parents’ noses because said parents were more concerned about the privacy of their kids than parenting.  The Columbine kids enjoyed weeks of unfiltered private room time, computers and emails.  You know the outcome.

In stark contrast to them, when I was a high school teen, my removed the door knobs to all of our rooms and guess what?  As much as my brother, sister and I HATED it, not having privacy helped us avoid more trouble than we knew how to get into.  (If we had to change clothes we would do it in the bathroom).

Privacy Rights Can’t Be Taken Back:  Every single right to privacy you give a teenager becomes a right you cannot reclaim.  As parents we need to understand that once we build certain expectations with our kids about what rights they have to privacy, they will NEVER let us have it again.  Sure, there will be times when our kids will let us have them under martial law for something bad they did but once martial law is lifted, your kids and mine will always expect their privacy to resume.

Privacy Claims Will Grow: Another problem with privacy for kids is that parents always start with a pinky finger compromise with them but then it grows.  Kids are natural born manipulators so once they get a taste of how they can play the privacy game with us they will always seek more and more of what should properly be called “privacy power”.  I think we all know parents who have been so generous with their kids’ privacy that they are practically locked out of their own children’s decisions.

Set the Right Privacy Expectations: From the moment my two older children first understood what privacy meant, they knew it was something that adults used but kids didn’t.  I proactively and frequently remind my children that they have the right to be fed, loved and cared for but other than that, their parents rule the roost and they can’t ignore us or claim their rights to privacy for anything.  The issue of privacy is not even brought up because my wife and I have set the expectation that rooms (even bathrooms) cannot be locked and computers cannot be played with privately.  That may change when they hit 18 but for now their expectations about privacy are next to nil.

Don’t Let Privacy Hamper Your Parenting

A lot of parents think that privacy is a God given right for kids.  It’s part of helping your kids mature, they say.  This argument sounds great in theory but in my experience, for reasons that I’ve outlined above, the more rights you retain in their life, the wiser you will be especially as it relates to this slippery issue of “privacy rights.”  Don’t let the privacy rights you give your kids come back to haunt you.

If you have a different or other unique way you deal with privacy with your kids, let us know.  I would love to hear from you.

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  • Meagan

    I believe that this is a lazy way of parenting. If childeren do not make mistakes as teenagers they will never learn for themselves. I believe that all teens deserve a right to privacy until they do something to make you not trust them and then things gradually get taken away. thats how kids learn. they also have to know what teenagers generally do and at least experience it once. so they know what is going on when they have kids of their own. its all in how you grew up. your supposed to raise your kids right so that they can be open with you and let you know everything that is happening in their lives so that you trust them. thats how you gain trust. besides if you shelter your kids that much, when they get into the real world they will go crazy and party constantly and make lots of bad decisions. and it will be all your fault for all those mistakes they make. and some mistakes you cant change and you cant take back. the columbine kids cant change what they did, if your child got in a drunk driving accident and got killed they cant change that, and if they do drugs they cant change the past or what they have done, but you are supposed to teach your childerent right from wrong in the beginning. but instead you would rather just keep everything from them and make the world look perfect. so that you can sit back and be lazy.

  • PapiBlogger

    Hi Megan,

    There are a lot of ways to accomplish what you say should be done with kids but I’m just talking about one area where I see constant problems between kids and parents. I do believe it’s important to give your children responsibilities but I don’t want them to think that they can or should consider using our home to develop “privacy” habits that can hurt them and/or our family. What I find is that kids begin to rebel more when they believe they are entitled to some thing. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one but believe me I do not believe in sheltering my kids at all. Quite the contrary. I’ll discuss that in more detail soon and thanks again for your comments.

  • Sam

    “Columbine killers planned, plotted and even armed themselves right underneath the parents’ noses because said parents were more concerned about the privacy of their kids than parenting.”

    What about adults? Following your logic, adults should have no right to privacy either, because adult criminals plan things out in private. How am I to know you’re not planning to shoot everyone with whom you work? I don’t want you to have privacy. I think you’ll use the time to plan to kill people.

    Adult killers plan, plot, and arm themselves right under the government’s nose because said government is more concerned about the privacy of its citizens than governing.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it funny how Fascism is an acceptable form of governing – assuming it’s only used on human beings until they hit that magic age of 18 when they are suddenly granted their constitutionally-offered (and as some would say God-given) rights.

    So, congratulations on being a totalitarian dictator over your own kids’ lives who you would proclaim to love, sicko.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry you see it that way. It works for me given the times we live in.

  • Mike, 23

    My parents did the same to me. That’s how I learned to program in the 5th grade–to write a keylogger to steal my parents’ passwords, circumvent the antivirus and the parental controls. That’s how I learned to pick locks. That’s how I learned to encrypt my journals with an unbreakable soviet hand cipher. That’s how I learned to keep my technical projects on a micro sd card embedded into my dresser and encrypted with a 40 character random password. I would sneak out of my room in the dead of night, pick a deadbolt and use the computer until dawn. Actually, I thank my parents for turning me into a security engineering genius.

    The fact is that we live in a fascist state bent on crushing all forms of privacy in order to turn massive profits. Nothing will prepare a child more than feeble attempts at peeking into his or her inner life. As much as you try, you will not be able to crush privacy. As your kids get older, they will become much more clever than you. And there’s nothing to worry about there–they will likely also develop better integrity than you.

    Maybe if your kids aren’t fighting for their privacy, you could give them books on programming and cryptography. If you’re able to control them, I don’t see how that’s a good thing. If your worried, give them books on philosophy too.

    You know, some kids like to sit in quiet contemplation of truth. Personally, that’s all I wanted.

  • David Greene

    I thoroughly disagree. Of course, teenagers and children don’t have a right to lock their door, hide their cell phones, and keep their parents out of their lives. I do think everyone DOES have an ethical right to respect and dignity–that doesn’t mean you can’t check your kid’s text messages, but I do think you should leave personal thoughts recorded in journals and diaries to themselves. And banning them from locking bathroom doors? That’s just stupid.

    You obviously struggle to understand that a child does not instantly become an adult when they turn eighteen. It is a slow process that takes years to complete, and your parenting style should reflect that. Since your child is living in your house, that obviously means you have a right to lay down rules, but it does mean that over the years you should treat them more and more as an adult. 17 year olds are very different from 2 year olds, but you treat them both the same. Pathetic.

  • David, thanks for your comments. Of course, I totally disagree with your style but you are entitled to parent as you like. My children enjoy MANY privileges and freedom and I don’t think any of them feel they live in a totalitarian environment. That said far too many parents are so loose about what their kids are up to in their “private” worlds that you have situations like Columbine, Sandy Hook and more. Call me a proud dictator if that’s what being a vigilant parent makes me.

  • Lindsey Crites

    My parents are the same way. I have absolutely no privacy. I hate it. But at the same time i know they only do the things they do bc they care about me.

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  • Paul

    I’d like to take issue with your argument privacy claims grow my reaction was well yeah a 17 year with a spotless record and no reason for you to suspect anythings amiss is sure as he’ll gonna deserve’s more privacy than a ten year old
    Oh and no matter how hard you try it will send the message of I don’t trust you which can do a lot of damage to the young mind

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