Are you a nosy parent? Where to draw the line on privacy

Over the weekend, a bunch of kids were over and I heard them talking about a text some girl had sent my son. She was accusing him of breaking up a couple who were mutual friends. From the conversation in my home, the text sounded pretty brutal, borderline threatening.

Later that night, I asked my son for his cell phone. I told him I wanted to read the text messages from this particular girl. My son told me I was being nosey. This isn’t the first time he has said that to me. I told him, “I am nosey and since I pay for the phone, I have the right to look at it when I feel it’s necessary.” I read the message and begrudgingly, he had a conversation with me about what was going on.

The next day, I read a blog post that made me question whether reading his text messages, demanding to read them, is an invasion of his privacy. The post by Aurelia Williams of Parentingmyteen.com advocates total teen privacy and gives two arguments for it: First, privacy builds trust – Giving your teen some privacy will show your teen that you trust them enough to give some space. Privacy will allow your teen to prove to you that they can be trusted without your watchful eye over him all the time.

Second, Williams says, privacy helps your teen make responsible choices – If you are constantly watching every move your teen makes, how can her or she learn to make responsible choices? Guide your teen in the right direction, then step back and give him or her the privacy they want, she says.

Should I have asked my son what was going on and trusted him to share with me what I needed to know? Does it make a difference if you tell your teen your interest in what’s going on comes from a place of love and caring and not from a sense of snooping or spying?

By-parents-for parents.com also says teens need lots of privacy and should give it to them. “Keeping journals, having private conversations with their friends on the phone, and wanting some alone time is a teen’s way of becoming who they are. They are slipping into their bodies, their minds, and their distinct individualities. It helps to remember what it was like to be a teen: the writing we may not have wanted to show our parents, the conversations with friends about “crushes,” the times that we wanted to listen to The Beatles when our parents only wanted to hear classical music.”

This privacy issue is tough: Give a teen too much space, and he may feel as if he is on his own to solve problems. Not enough privacy and he will feel like you don’t trust him.

Readers, where do you think you draw the line on privacy? When does asking questions or reading text messages really move into the nosey category?

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About raisingteensblogger

I'm a crazed mother of three, Journalist, PTA volunteer. I aspire to be as cool as Kelly Ripa, as fit as Gwyenth Paltrow and as carefree as Lucille Ball.
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8 Responses to Are you a nosy parent? Where to draw the line on privacy

  1. paula says:

    This is a very hard issue. As a mom of younger kids, I am not sure where I will stand on this in the next few years. However, I can tell you what not giving a teen privacy can do. When I was 19 my mom read my diary and proceeded to confront me about stuff in it. According to her, the fact that it was in a place where she could find it was a clear request for her to read it. FYI – it was in my closet under a pile of my things where she should not have been looking in the first place. Since then, not only have I been very resistant to sharing with her (I am 38 now and it still goes on), but I have also never been able to write on a journal again. Trust was destroyed that day. So, if you must find something out, don’t sneak around and be careful how you confront your teen about what you do find out.

  2. Daire says:

    I’m having this problem with my parents and I’m 15. When on Facebook they are constantly demanding who I am talking to and to look at my profile. They don’t know the meaning of privacy and feel that they need to know everything that’s going on in my life. An I feel that they should be reading this because they consider me a ‘strange’ child, not allowing my them to gather every little piece of information about my life. Even worse is that they think I’m hiding something, but that is not the case. Social networks are the best places for me to be myself and have time to myself away from my family, and i don’t think its right to invade someone’s privacy, much like they would like to keep information about salary, credit cards and other financial information to themself.
    Then when it comes to having to go somewhere together for a meeting or discussion (I’m not exactly sure) they would not tell me anything about it, as it seems to be their privacy.
    A bit hypocritical isn’t it?

  3. Katie says:

    Being a 16 year old girl I can strongly say that parents have very little “rights” to read their child’s diary. Very little. The only reason you should read it is if you feel like they are in trouble. But how is it fair to read it when you have absolutely no reason to? If your teen ever finds out that you have read it, you broke that trust and It will be a VERY long time before they trust you again. Do you really want to break that trust just because your nosey?
    They keep a journal because it’s something they can turn to. A teen shouldn’t have to worry about their parents reading it. How would you feel if it was the other way around? Our teen is going through your room, finds your journal and reads it without your knowledge?
    So snoopy parents of the world, before you crack open that journal think about why you are and how you teen would feel about it because a journal is highly personal.

  4. Anna says:

    If I hadn’t ‘snooped’ I would not have found out that my 15 year old daughter had had casual sex, was drinking and smoking pot… as if that wasn’t bad enough she had also sold it to my 13 year old son! She was given trust and an opportunity to make the right decisions, time and time again but look where it got me. Teenage kids will tell you that they know what they are doing, that everything is cool – but rest assured, you are just kidding yourself if you believe that! They can look you in the eye, like butter wouldn’t melt and tell a blatant lie! They don’t understand the consequences of their actions like we do. If you are even slightly in doubt about what your kids are doing then don’t wait till it’s too late – if you have to pry into their privacy then do! You could save their lives!

    • Rezvon says:

      You are so wrong. You see, you obviously either didn’t give her enough attention or guidance that she turned to that. Teens will feel lost and susceptible to peer pressure unless their role model (in this case, you ) comes into play. Not being involved with your child and describing the dangers of drugs, sex and etc is a recipe for disaster. But snooping is wrong. If you are concerned about your child, look them in the eye and ASK them. Because if your daughter finds out you’ve been snooping, she will never trust you again and your relationship with her is as good as gone. I am 16 and my mother is constantly prying into my personal life. I screwed up once and she hung it over my head. But way before the incident she was always prying into my life and I wouldn’t let her in. I treated her like she treated me. She never told me about her day, or what was troubling her or what she was up to or who she was seeing. Like so, I did the same. She interrogated me soon after asking me what I was hiding. I told her, “I have nothing to hide, but I never go through your phone or device or even your hamper. You told me I was on my way to becoming an adult, so treat me like one. You told me I had to be independent. So you pretty much left me on my own. Now don’t you dare go through my computer, I have nothing to hide. But if you so much as touch it with the intention to find something, you are only reflecting your past life and how you don’t trust me. And without trust, I can’t respect you.” She hasn’t touched my stuff since, but i can tell she is dying to do so.

  5. Victoria says:

    I, myself, am now 17 years old and I had a nosy mother. She would ask thousands of questions, try to unlock my phone, go through the computer history, etc. I was never close to her, so she felt the need to go through my things and find out every little detail. (I eventually learned to never leave my phone out and never write down personal information). The funny thing is, my father knew me much better than her and I only saw him a few hours a week. When you invade a child’s privacy you are sending the message that you don’t trust them and believe they are hiding something. You can’t be a nosy parent without pushing them away. It just won’t work in your favor. And plus, chances are your child isn’t going to put their complete personal lives in journals, phones, or social networks. I firmly believe you had not one right to go through his messages, it was NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Whether he broke up a relationship or not, that had nothing to do with you and you shouldn’t have interfered. Let your kids make their own decisions, because later in life they’re going to have to face the real world.

  6. Kyle globle says:

    Being just turned 18 and I used to live with my mom, now my dad, they were complete opposites raising my mom was at all carring what I did or where I was gave me the freedom and opportunity to make good and bad choices, but my dad on the other hand should just stop stalking me and just hold my hand every where I go, I think it’s different for each teen but I personally enjoy when I get to be alone with my friends and while we don’t always make the best choice, atleast now I’m not ignorant and I got All the stupid out of me while I was still a minor, I think being less nosy is better until you have actual cause to start looking in more, and even then the punishment should fit the crime, like don’t take a phone away if your kid was driving where they weren’t supposed to be because then I’d just drive there again for spite

  7. Nosy-ish mom says:

    It depends on the age of the teen. My oldest who is now 18 has a lot more freedom and privacy then she did earlier in her teen years.

    As far as phone and internet use. It’s not an issue of trusting your kid or not. It’s an issue of propriety and safety. Any teen who has full privacy regarding these things with no accountability to their parents is a recipe for disaster.

    With regards to trust. Trust works both ways. My philosophy with my children, with trust comes freedom. If you want freedom and privacy you need to show me that you are trustworthy. If you give me a read not to trust your judgement about something then be prepared to deal with the consequences of that.

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