A parent-child relationship should be based on mutual trust. Part of that relationship includes your teen trusting you to honor their privacy and allowing them to have increased privacy as they mature and demonstrate greater responsibility.
However, you may ask yourself, is there a limit to your child’s privacy when you suspect dangerous or unhealthy behavior? How much privacy is too much for teens?
Knowing the Potential Dangers
It is important to expect the best from our teens as a parent, but be aware of the worst. We do not need to know where they are and what they are doing every second of the day, but we should know the potential dangers available to them at school, at their friend’s homes, in the community, and even within your own home.
Some of these dangers include:
- Substance Use
- Eating Disorders
- Cutting/Self-injurious Behaviors
- Internet Addiction
- Pornography/Sexual Addiction
- Promiscuity/Risky Sex
- Groomed for Sex Trafficking
- Suicidal Ideation/Attempts
Rather than simply assume that “my child would never…” be sure to educate yourself about these and other harmful behaviors. Make every effort to keep communication lines open with your child, and be sure to educate them about dangers surrounding the use of substances, social media, the internet, mental health, and more.
What Are Some of the Warning Signs?
Each category has its own warning signs, but the most common signs your teen is engaging in risky behaviors include pulling away from family and possibly even friends and spending more time alone in their room. Secretive behaviors, missing money, catching them lying to you about even little things, and other behaviors that are not typical of your teen could also be indications that they have something to hide from you.
Parents can also be on the lookout for sudden changes in sleep, weight, irritability, anger, and other indicators. When there are obvious signs such as hearing them purge in the bathroom after eating, or coming home smelling like alcohol or marijuana, or seeing bandages or scars on their bodies, there are dangerous secrets that they are keeping.
When Do I Cross the Privacy Line?
When multiple signs indicate serious and potentially dangerous behaviors, parents may need to cross the line and investigate. This may include but is not limited to:
- Accessing devices, accounts, and apps
- Tracking their whereabouts via their phone while they are out
- Searching their room for evidence
- Contacting other parents to confirm whereabouts
- Reading journals, notes, or letters
Keep in mind that crossing this line violates mutual respect. Even if you are right and acting in the best interests of your child, once you have violated their privacy, healing this betrayal of trust will take time, too. Although their behaviors betrayed your trust, they will likely only see that you violated their trust.
What Do I Do If My Fears Were Correct?
Sometimes parents do not want to find the answers they are looking for because they will have to face the problem. Finding out that your child has been cutting means talking to them, getting them therapeutic help, and the overwhelming task of keeping them safe. Not unlike certain forms of suicidal attempts, household objects like knives now may need to be stored under lock and key.
Finding out that your child is using substances, viewing pornography, or gambling may mean that they have an addiction that will need to be treated.
Perhaps the most frightening part is confronting them with what you found. Not only do you need to find a way to reach them and try to find out why they have these behaviors, but you must also let them know it was that their behaviors led you to violate their privacy.
You will have to carefully consider the consequences for their actions, knowing that you risk pushing them away or acting out more. Trust is shattered on both sides, and an often bumpy and difficult road to healing will need to be undertaken.
Can Teens Be Given Too Much Privacy?
Privacy is a privilege, not a right. As a parent, you are responsible for their health and safety. Giving them a reasonable amount of privacy is fair so long as they do not violate your trust. However, when there is evidence of dangerous or unsafe behaviors, they have too much privacy.
Trust can be mended, but it takes time and effort. Privacy can be restored when trust is re-established and responsible behavior is demonstrated for an extended period of time. If your child has taken advantage of the respect, trust, and privacy you have given them, they have too much privacy.
How much privacy is too much for teens? When they violate your trust, your guidelines, and indulge in dangerous or harmful behaviors, then they have too much privacy. Despite wanting them to have independence and their own space to mature, parents need to intervene when poor decisions lead to risk-taking behaviors, even if it means violating their teen’s privacy. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center helps parents know when it is time to give their children more responsibility, trust, and privacy and when it is time to limit their ability to access dangerous substances and situations. We help teens heal from a wide variety of behavioral issues and learn to stand on their own. We also know that healing as a family is crucial to healing the child, so our services include free resources for parents to help guide them on the path to healing. Contact us today at (303) 443-3343 to find out more.