Xanet Scheepers
Digital Lifestyle Editor
4 minute read
11 May 2022
11:04 am

Parents, have you invaded your teen’s privacy by doing one of these things?  

Xanet Scheepers

Balancing your teens' need for privacy and keeping them safe online is presenting a conundrum for many parents.

Picture: iStock

There might have been a time when your toddler didn’t even let you go to the loo without them being attached to your hip, but as your child grows older and carves out more independence for themselves, you might find yourself tempted to snoop in your teen’s life ‘just to check if they are safe’.

This, however, warns experts is a big no-no.

Mother and tech innovator, Rachelle Best, who is also the founder of AI-based app FYI play it safe says she found it completely unacceptable to scroll through her 15-year-old daughter’s online chats.

Best says this type of device checking is too invasive, and it erodes trust and happiness in the parent-child relationship. 

Lekha Daya, a Counselling Psychologist and Senior Psychologist for the Panda app adds that teens are looking to the future and exploring the possibilities of the adult they will become.

She says parents should give their teens some space to take charge of their own narrative.

“The freedom to explore and experiment with different facets of identity goes hand-in-hand with a need for greater privacy as they navigate their unique sense of independence of thought and behaviour.”

ALSO READ: TikTok safety tips for teens and parents

While many parents understand this important psycho-social development stage and have no problem with respecting their teens’ need for privacy and clearer boundaries, the challenge of keeping their kids safe online, especially in the face of cyberbullying, is presenting a conundrum for scores of parents.

Daya says affording your teen privacy is an act of both love and trust which promotes their healthy development.

“Trusting your teen means you trust them to make good decisions, behave appropriately, and decide what information they need or want to share with you and others. Trust goes both ways. Your child needs to trust that you respect their right to have privacy and a say in decisions about their life. When you and your child have mutual trust, you’ll have better communication. Your child will also be more likely to come to you when they need help. Teens’ development can be positively influenced by a trusting relationship with parents and caregivers as it encourages a growth mindset and builds confidence in their own abilities and sense of responsibility,” she explains.

How much privacy is appropriate?

Daya says there are some things parents need to know like where their child will be on Saturday night, how they’re getting there and back, and whether there’ll be alcohol or adult supervision.

However, other things like what your child and their friends talked about at a party, or who they danced with should remain private, unless your child wishes to discuss this with you.

Daya suggests discussing privacy with your teen and setting some ground rules and boundaries.

She says some simple, practical steps parents can implement to respect their child’s privacy includes knocking before going into their room, giving them space to talk with their friends and asking them before looking in or getting things out of their school bag.

When discussing these boundaries, also make it clear to your child that situations might arise where you would need to cross these agreed upon boundaries, when, for example, you are really worried that something isn’t right with your teen.

ALSO READ: When parents turn children into weapons, everybody loses

Five privacy no-no’s parents shouldn’t disrespect:

  • listening to their telephone conversations
  • looking at things in their room or in their drawers
  • reading their diary or checking their email account
  • ‘friending’ them or communicating with them on social media if they don’t want you to
  •  calling them to check on them all the time

How to balance privacy and online safety

With the ever-changing digital landscape, it’s important for parents to stay up to date about risks, trends, digital spaces available to their child and content they could access.

There are various parental apps available that monitors the content of your teen’s online activity, including in-game chats which alerts parents to potential signs of online predator contact, cyberbullying, engaging with content around various mental health issues and accessing adult content without you needing to do any invasive phone and computer checks.