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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