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?