How Much Privacy Should You Give Your Kids?

Pensive teen girl sits near a window and looks at her laptop computer
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"Should I really be reading my daughter's posts? I hated it when my mother pried into my private life."

Many parents have expressed some variant of that sentiment — wondering if it's appropriate to keep such close tabs on their kids' personal lives. Whether it's monitoring a daughter's social media accounts or checking to see if there's anything problematic hidden in a son's bedroom, parents wrestle with the balance between wise, intentional parenting and respecting their child's blossoming independence.

Parents, of course, expect some privacy for themselves when they view websites or send a picture to a friend. They may wonder, Don't my kids have this same right to privacy?

Parental guidance

This question starts with recognizing the responsibility of parents. God has entrusted us with the care of our children, with the goal to teach them how to make good decisions in a world filled with so many opportunities for poor ones. For many years, that's a hands-on task, but as kids mature, parents transition to the role of mentors, guiding and advising teens through situations that require good judgment.

When our kids learn to drive, we're there beside them, helping them use the power wisely. When teens leave the house for a night, we're still acting as a guide, talking about where they are going, who they'll be with and how long they'll be gone. As they show themselves to be trustworthy with privileges, we slowly give them more trust and privacy.

So, yes, wise parents should absolutely remain involved in their teens' decision-making. This includes a keen interest in their lives at school and on the field, the people they hang out with, how they spend their money. This also includes monitoring areas of life many kids think are off-limits, such as their communication over laptops and smartphones.

Communication

Technology today offers a level of privacy that can quickly get our kids into a lot of trouble. Wise, intentional parents walk with their kids in these areas so they can someday move on toward a healthy, independent use of technology.

As in other areas of parenting, this mentorship should include open, ongoing conversations. There may be disagreements, but through honest and respectful dialogue, we can help kids recognize that our involvement in their lives is done out of love and a concern for their well-being.

That's not a violation of rights. It's wise parenting.

Daniel Huerta is the vice president of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family.
This article first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2018 Focus on the Family.

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