How Much Privacy Should A Teen Have?


Can you imagine in our day and age posting pictures of what we ate, people we spent time with, or even activities that were a part of daily life? The word "selfie" appeared for the first time in print in 2002. Prior to that the thought of posting personal information for public consumption was at best self-centered and at worst narcissistic. Since then, our kids Instagram and VSCO accounts are full of "all the above". So why is it that they want privacy? It can seem paradoxical until you take a moment to try to think about it in terms of a 13-17 year old.


It really boils down to their understanding of the idea of privacy. When you think about privacy from their standpoint they don't want to be told what to do, who they can and can't talk to, or how they should be spending their time in general. In other words, the more I keep things private, the MORE FREEDOM I'll have. What they don't get is that privacy is about protection, not secrecy.

Teens want to be know and accepted and what they fear, is that being "known" will result in being held accountable for their temptations or even for the actions of their friends. In a recent conversation with a mom, we were talking about how difficult it is for teens to even carry on a conversation with an adult in front of their friends.


For many teens there is a fear of being "judged" either by the adult for what they may perceive as awkward or inappropriate behavior, or for being shamed as impetuous and immature. Also as one student admitted to me, "I never know what in the world my friends are going to send me. My parents don't really understand that memes are just funny and don't really mean anything real, they would probably like, freak out or something."


Okay, okay I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done my fair share of freaking out over a misunderstood meme or comment, of which I was not privy to its meaning. So, showing patience during these times of "discovery" is a great example of how we can try to understand rather than SHAME what they are going through and experiencing. Even if we discover something awkward, like in our blogpost: You Sent WHAT?! we can work through and learn to gain trust back.


For many teens, Snapchat offers a way to avoid getting in trouble over things that may be brought up or taken out of context later.


There HAS to be a careful balance of giving our teens room to "figure some things out the hard way" and being completely hands off. Our goal as parents should be to help our kids to become fully-functioning adults capable of making decisions and part of that process as we have mentioned in other blog posts is the ability to help them navigate "failures" in a way that helps THEM to choose the next best steps.


AXIS offers the following information to help parents know how to help kids out:

How can I help my kids desire healthy privacy?

  1. Pause. Dr. Townsend says in Boundaries with Teens that before creating and implementing boundaries, we should pause and take some time to recall what it was like to be a teenager. Teen privacy isn't new, it's just changed since we were their age. The more we can empathize with our teens, the better we'll be at parenting them.

  2. Model good boundaries. The main way our kids will learn from us is by picking up our habits. We need good boundaries and accountability in our own lives first. If we don’t have them, our teens won’t learn good privacy habits from us—and they will call out our hypocrisy when we try to make them have them.

  3. Have an ongoing conversation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that applies to every teenager everywhere for all of time. What worked when your child was 8 will most likely not work when he/she is 16. So talk with your child about what those changing privacy restrictions look like and why.



OTHER Resources to Consider:

1. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-much-privacy-should-teens-have-in-digital-age-1213197



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