Social media and digital technology have taken over the world of teenagers today. We live in a world where Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the internet are the in thing. Anyone can access any information they want on the internet. This has brought a myriad of problems to parenthood. Many parents are baffled by the question of how far is too far when it comes to protecting your child privacy. Where do we draw the line between ensuring that our kids are safe and not crossing the line and invading their privacy?
To start with, parents should understand that there is a direct relationship between the amount of privacy that a child is allowed to have and how consistent, honest and responsible the child is. In order to understand how much privacy should be accorded to any child, parents need to grasp a clear understanding of how kids develop and how much privacy should be accorded at each particular stage of development.
When a child is young, there is a close bond between the child and the parent or the caregiver. Parents will feel the need to be close to their children and vice versa. They will want to cuddle and embrace each other for a better part of the day. Psychology describes this as ‘attachment parenting (Hawk, pg. 443-458). As the child grows and develops, a healthy and natural separation begins to occur. The child will become more sensitive to privacy issues. You will find that a child will start to close the bathroom door and will become embarrassed if someone comes in. The child will now prefer to spend more time with their peers playing and socialising. The line of separation becomes clearer and bolder when the child gets to adolescent.
During adolescents, the kid will feel the need to be recognised as an individual. At this stage kids want to be independent. At this point in life many parents will start to fight with their kids over the issue of independence and privacy. Parents need to know that it is necessary to accord the child the prerequisite amount of privacy but within set boundaries. Allow the kid to have their own room and to close the door when they want. This will allow the kid to have some alone time and learn to do things independently.
The term ‘spying’ comes in when a parent starts to go through the kid’s stuff. You will find some parents going through their kid’s phone, drawer, diary, closet and the backpack. The word spying is used here to denote a term that the modern day parent understands otherwise it has a negative connotation.
When it comes to the issue of protection and privacy, parents need to understand the personality of the kid they are dealing with. If you are dealing with a teenager who is obedient, respectful towards you and other people then accord that child the kind of respect that they deserve but within set boundaries since you are the parent and you don’t want to abandon your primary role of a parent. Caution should be taken since some teenagers are good at faking. They can pretend to be all good but in the real sense they are engaging in fishy business.
The game changes when you know you are dealing with an irresponsible and disobedient child. This is the kind of teenager who does not give you the respect you deserve. If you discover that your child is engaging in suspicious activities or you find anything incriminating against your child then you need to take the necessary action (Kerr, pg. 39-64). At this point, many parents find themselves in a dilemma. Parents often wonder how far is too far when it comes to the child’s right. The term ‘right’ has been overrated in this modern world. I believe that as long as the child is under your roof and you are paying the bills then you need to do your parental duties without hesitation. Instead of referring to the child’s right, it is better to talk about accountability and responsibility (Youn, pg. 362-388). If you have any suspicion as to whether your child is taking drugs or engaging in any risky behaviour, put the term privacy aside and go through anything and everything connected to that child.
Parents need to take the issue of privacy seriously. It is always good to monitor what the kid is doing but at the same time allow them some level of privacy. The required dose of privacy will help them gain independence and develop their characters and personalities as individuals. Parents are encouraged to actively monitor the activities of their child when using computers, phones, emails and messaging apps. Many children have fallen victims of cyber-bullying and other threats because of lack of guidance and online protection from their parents.
Communication is an important key in parenthood. Parents need to constantly communicate with their kids and spend adequate time with them. This will enable them develop a close relationship with their kids and they will get to learn of their behaviour. In case a child develops any queer behaviour then the parent will be able to pick it up and know how to deal with it. Every child has a right to privacy but it should be accorded within set boundaries that gives the child 100% protection and at the same time allows them to develop independence and their personal characters.
Hawk, Skyler T., Andrik Becht, and Susan Branje. ““Snooping” as a Distinct Parental Monitoring Strategy: Comparisons With Overt Solicitation and Control.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 26.3 (2016): 443-458.
Kerr, Margaret, Håkan Stattin, and William J. Burk. “A reinterpretation of parental monitoring in longitudinal perspective.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 20.1 (2010): 39-64.
Youn, Seounmi. “Parental influence and teens’ attitude toward online privacy protection.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 42.3 (2008): 362-388.