Why I Regularly Invade My Teenager’s Privacy

Let me just state up front that NO I’m not an idiot, YES I do remember what it’s like to be a teenager, and I completely understand that I will never know everything that my teen is up to. But, I’ve still gotta try.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… *let’s move on*

why I regularly

As a parent, there is a somewhat constant struggle over what is acceptable when it comes to invading and respecting your child’s privacy. During a lunch conversation with colleagues, we discussed the subject of teens and their privacy, and whether they are entitled to any privacy at all.

Many of the decisions we make as parents are based – in part or totally – on how our parents raised us. My wonderful, beautiful, loving, graceful, wise (ok, this could go on for the entire post…) mother was the absolute best mother ever that was, until I gave birth in 1997. And while she did many things right, she’s human and there’s always something we could have done better, right? Hindsight and all. So, when I started to create my family I reflected on some of the things that I thought I could improve upon with the next generation. And, being up in their business was one of them.

How much is too much?

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much is too much. You truly have to do what is best for you and your family; it is not ‘one size fits all.’ What works for me is a complete while-you-live-in-my-house-there’s-no-such-thing-as-privacy approach. Yup, I ‘invade’ my teenager’s privacy on a regular basis — with his full cooperation.

He knows why I do what I do, and while he may not like it, he understands that it is only because I love him. One of the main reasons I am committed to invading my teenager’s so-called privacy is that, although we repeatedly have many life discussions, on every topic under the sun, there is nothing like a real-time situation to bring a conversation full-circle.

Was that really supposed to keep me out? Lol

Was that really supposed to keep me out? Lol

My privacy invading tactics…

Phone Check

Phone check is a random search of his iPhone and all its contents. I review the text messages, call log, photo album, and notes. When I see something questionable, I ask him to explain (in a non-accusatory tone) and we engage in very productive conversations. It was a phone check last year that led us to have the ‘distribution of child pornography’ conversation — you know, the whole “I just forwarded the pic to my friends so they could see what she sent me” thing, well it’s actually a crime.

Room Search

At any time, I will search his bedroom. Every drawer, jean pocket, shelf, under the mattress, you name it — and always without warning. A room search led us to a conversation about staying focused and not allowing girls to entice and distract him, after I found a note from a female classmate who was inviting my son to sneak into her house one late night. Being able to talk about how he felt about this real situation was far more impactful than any hypothetical convo we have had.

Everyday Involvement

You want to go to your friend’s house? Let me talk to their parents. You’re staying after school for what? Let me talk to your teacher. I try my best to know who his friends are, know who their parents are, know his teachers, and be aware of what is going on in his daily life. This level of involvement led us to have a conversation about one of his friends that, while a nice young man, was constantly making choices that led to negative results for himself and those around him. When my teen wanted to back away from this friend, he came to me and we discussed his thoughts. My advice would have been far less insightful if I did not know who his friends are and the types of issues he was dealing with in his friendships.

Final thoughts on teenagers and their privacy…

When I read this article by Dr. Phil, titled “Develop a Healthy Relationship with Your Teen/Parent,” I felt confident that I am on the right track. My teenager looks to me for advice, respects the rules that I have set forth, and is on-target to discover his passion and purpose in life. He sometimes says that I just don’t want him to have any fun (taking it to the extreme … this is a teenager we are talking about). I readily admit that the amount of fun he has is at the bottom of the importance list; I would rather my teen be safe and make the right choices than to have privacy and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, he regularly hangs out with his friends, attends parties, plays sports, video games, and hits the mall with his buddies.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I feel that it’s more important that I know as close to everything that is going on in his life as possible. If he makes the right decisions now — such as, focus on school and extracurricular activities — then I suspect he will be having lots of fun when he goes to college in a couple of years. Hmm, I wonder if I can fit in his carry-on!

I want to hear from you!

Go ahead and let me have it. Agree or disagree? Delusional or proactive? Please give me your two cents in the comments below.

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Comments 25

  1. You are right on about this. There is so much peer pressure out that and some kids will succumb to this. Our teenagers are growing into adults but their brains aren’t fully developed until some time later. I always did this with my boys and always knew their friends and the parents. Keep up the good work.

  2. I was raised by the rule, “Privacy is a privilege, not a right,” and I will continue that teaching to my children. When you have your own house, your own bills, and provide for your own self, then we talk about a right to privacy. In my house, though, everything is fair game.

  3. Yup I snoop. But unlike you, there is no fair warning. I’ll just be in their room cleaning up and be all, “I wonder what this is?” which is usually something I would have rather not found and now I have to have the dreaded “convo” about porn or whatever. But the kids know I do it so either they need to keep their noses clean or hide their tracks better. Great article.

  4. I understand the need for keeping an eye on your teenager due to dangers which may befall them but you must also allow them a bit of privacy as well.

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  6. Pingback: 3 Ways I Regularly Invade My Teenager's Privacy 

  7. I agree. It is our job as parents to keep our teenagers safe. There are a lot of dangerous situations that can crop up in their lives and/or with their friends. It is best to know and prepare and have the opportunity to keep them in a safe place.

  8. My kids are grown but I have a grandson living with use and I Moneter what he does and what he does on the computer there are just to many things going on now a days and so much presher for kids that you have to Moneter them to keep them save

  9. Its important to keep up with our children.I ask about their friends ,have them over,etc My son tells me everything.

  10. :::wipes my brow::: I thought I was thee only “nut” who calls for phone checks, set the passwords for social media with the strict rule that if it is changed the account(s) go bye-bye. While you cannot control all they do and yes they will find ways around it it is still naught for nothing.

    All of us deserves Mommy of the Year Awards!!

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  12. I definitely am very involved in my sons’ lives (mainly because they’re still in elementary) and so, its good that they see it as normal that I ask a lot of questions. I hope to continue the same trend throughout their teen years. I am a bit iffy about checking their phones etc but I guess I will change my mind when the teen years hit me!!

  13. I am COMPLETELY >> here << with you! I live by the "Privacy?? whats that??!" rule, especially when you are under the age of 18. I regularly check my sons text messages, PS4 messages, bookbag, notebookes, etc. If it's in my house – I'm checking it. Similar to you, it's definitely opened the doors to many conversations that might not have been had otherwise. and I'm thankful for that

  14. I always remember seeing an interview with late actor, Carrol O’Conner. Sadly, his son passed from a drug overdose. He said he wished he had snooped. He advised that all the peripheral,moral arguments can be made later, but it is SO important to truly know what your kid is up to. Often, it is a matter of life or death. Snoop on, Carin!

  15. I feel you are doing the right thing and I have gone through this with my children, now they are adults and I deal with my grand-children of all ages 🙂 I have gone through everything up and down, one of my daughters got upset snuk out the window , so I told her she was not allowed in the house till she appologized, she slept in a park then came and apologized.. she was at her late teen years.. I don’t put up with stupidty, no not even from my own children, Some say I was in the wrong, maybe but I would go through everything again if it meant saving her life……

  16. You have to be involved and almost in their face daily to keep informed of what they’re into. Just too many influences out there today not too and it also shows you love them and care what they do.

  17. I think you’re right on, although I haven’t gone as far as checking her room for things but I can if I want. She knows it and that’s enough. I go in there to straighten up and when I get a chance I will fix the clothes in her drawer that she sometimes just throws in there. She knows that and I know there is nothing hidden. My daughter does not have Facebook or Twitter yet, she’s only 14 and she knows the drama that’s on there even though she would love these accounts. I am the parent that waits close by at the mall or in the parking lot of a movie when other parents just drop their kids off or rely on me. I have to say she has a pretty good head on her shoulders and even though she is young I am finding more and more that people around her are having sex. I’m glad they call her a prude and I think she and I are both proud of it. I discuss this subject all the time and she might have a higher standard about that than I could have even have hoped for. Keep on doing what you’re doing, in the end he will appreciate it, even if times you bump heads on certain things at least he is still talking to you about it…You’re doing a great job

    sibabe64 at ptd dot net

  18. First of all- GO YOU!!!! And secondly? GO SON!!! I am so impressed with his attitude to having you in all the areas of his life- and digging deep nonetheless!!! I am truly inspired by this post, to do the same thing with my kids when they become teens.

    I was planning on it, but not 100% confident on how much I should get involved versus respecting their ‘space’. I do think it is a totally independent decision relative to the kid and the parent. But I love your approach!!!!

  19. I pretty much agree with what you wrote. I do allow more “freedom” and “privacy” if they show they can handle it. Thus far, my 16 year old daughter has shown me that she makes mostly good choices and chooses friends wisely so I don’t check as often as I did at first. But our kids know that we CAN check up on anything at any time. They have come to us with questions, just to talk and concerns so I feel pretty confident we’ve found a good balance and they trust us. But, as you said, they are still teenagers and still do think they’re invincible and all-knowing. 😉

  20. Great article!! I think if parents should keep a closer eye on thing they may be able to stop unwanted things from happening. My biggest thing is keeping a closer eye on bullying. Please make sure your child’s not bullied or being a bully.

  21. All I have to say is that when my parents caught me doing something it just made me sneakier about it so I wouldn’t be caught the next time.

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