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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5 Comments

  1. paula October 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    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.

    Reply
  2. paula October 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    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.

    Reply
  3. Daire January 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    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?

    Reply
  4. Daire January 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    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?

    Reply
  5. Katie January 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

    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.

    Reply

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