While teens today are demanding privacy, I believe we have a twisted sense of the word. Teenagers are a multi-billion dollar market, thanks to advertising and the great affluence that we as parents afford them. For this reason alone, advertising and media sharply target this lucrative, pliable customer. This pseudo-adult market has created a class of teens who feel entitled, not only to all that consumerism has to offer, but all of the so-called privacy that we as adults enjoy. This concept, however, has been deeply tainted. Let’s consider the expectation of privacy. Every individual certainly needs privacy. Although, the definition of that term is open to interpretation. Privacy can be safely defined as an area of one’s life that need not include others. Your teen certainly is entitled to bathe, change, study, or keep a journal without others intruding on this privacy. These are acts to be done alone. If, however, an action or event involves another person, or intentional deception, it is no longer private…it now becomes a secret. You see, if a conversation with a friend is off limits to you, it is not a matter of privacy. It now becomes an intentional secret. Your teen may argue that there is not deliberate deception, but it is none-the-less and area of secrecy that is off limits to you as a parent, which is dangerous territory to tread upon. As a parent, you bear the right and responsibility to protect your teen from developing a life of secrets. Jesus warned all of us of the danger that a desire for secrecy presents in John 1 John 1:5-7…"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
We want our deeds to be in the light as a reflection of our desire to please God. This is the desire we must cultivate in our kids. There are no dark corners allowed in this type of living. Here are some things to consider as we keep watch on the secret world of our teens:
1. Be Vigilant. As stewards of the young people God has entrusted to us, we must be vigilant and help them to live in the light. Just as you would be suspect of ‘off-limits’ arenas within a marriage relationship, so should we be on guard in our parenting relationships. We are responsible for their well-being. It is a relationship that God ordained and there are boundaries and expectations set forth by Him in His word. (Eph. 6:1-4, Pr. 1:7-10)There are no time-outs for parents!
2. Be nosey. It is not only your right, but your job to know your teen’s friends, whereabouts, hobbies, and general ‘business’. Ask questions. Check up on them. Know their friends and their friends’ parents whenever possible.
3. Take control of technology. Being tech-savvy is a must for parents of teens. You not only need to know the ins and outs of the technology your kids are using, but you need to be apprised of the software and apps that they have access to as well. Many apps are specifically designed to allow users to hide content and cover tracks making it nearly impossible to see what has been sent or received. A parent who is intentional about monitoring a teen’s secret world may consider banning the use of these types of tech.
It is also wise to set specific limits as to the times of use and approved contacts with any technology devise. Consider having a ‘bed’ for cell phones in the kitchen or family room and set a curfew for the internet. When you are off-duty for the night, there need not be contact with the rest of the world. Look into parental controls as well as monitoring apps for cell phones and other wireless devices. Remember, chances are, you paid for all of the devices, you get to make the rules!
4. Build bridges. Entering the social world of your teen need not feel like a trip to a foreign country. If your world and that of your teens’ have drifted apart, this may take some doing. Start by creating shared experiences where you can show a genuine interest in your teen’s world. Make time to do the things with them that they like to do. Of course, you do not need to take the place of their peers, but you do need to be a part of their daily life in ways that do not center on discipline and financing. Most of all, talk with your teen! Doing an activity or going to a location where they are comfortable is a great way to start a conversation. Showing a genuine interest in your teen as a whole person can be very disarming and makes setting boundaries a natural part of your relationship. While there may still be resistance, most teens will rest in the knowledge that their parents do care about them and are doing what they feel is right.
5. Network. Adults are not immune to peer pressure. Surround yourself with other adults who hold to your values and will encourage you when parenting gets tough. You will want to back down. Too many parents are caving to their teen’s assertion that EVERYONE else’s parents let them do what they want. We are here to tell you that holding to God’s best for your kids is hard, but you are not alone in your tireless commitment. A bible believing youth group is the perfect place to start to find adults who will echo your desires for your kids and should back your play when you set boundaries. It is no small comfort to know that other Christians are partnering with you to be vigilant over your children and train them up in the light! (Deut. 6:4-7)
By: Kathleen Bryan
The much anticipated, yet always shocking, words can be heard echoing through the halls of happy homes everywhere. "You’re invading my privacy!" seems to be the mantra of the day for teens. While this is hardly a new declaration, the expectations of this so-called, ‘privacy’ have expanded significantly in recent years. Do we as parents have a right to step into the secret world of our teens? Even if we do, do we even know where to begin? Perhaps the basic question to ask is, "Does my teen expect a right to privacy, or a right to secrecy?"
Times have changed
Even in my short lifetime, I am keenly aware of how different things were when I was growing up. We did not have cell phones, the internet was for MapQuest and was located in the family room, and three-way calling was the extent of social media. Now, you are hard-pressed to find a 3rd grader who doesn’t own the world in the palm of their hand.
While the changes have been exciting, it has certainly changed the job of parents. Your teen’s friends (using the term lightly) have access to them 24/7, and offer constant competition to your quality time. The expectation of instant access and immediate response has changed the dynamic of relationships as well as the atmosphere of the home.
Our kids are growing up on a stage unlike any other generation. With cell phones and social media, every success and every failure has an audience, and the feedback is addictive! Teens have long craved the approval of their peers, but never before has the virtual world offered an alternative to the here and now. It is as if we have accepted the idea that what happens in cyber-space, and what happens in ‘reality’ are two separate existences. This has afforded us the luxury to say what we want, show what we want, be who we want, and seldom contemplate the implications at the family dinner table.
An Enslaving Freedom
Our dependence upon this ‘other reality’ of our own creation cannot be overlooked. Think I’m overstating? Try leading a youth trip where cell phones are not allowed and watch the convulsing begin! This freedom that we have come to embrace has become viciously guarded. But are our teens entitled to this much autonomy? Is it responsible for us as parents to look the other way as long as everything seems smooth on the surface of our kid’s lives?
Consider this. What would be your teen’s reaction if you were to pick up their cell phone and scroll through their text messages? Many teens would feel violated and angry because the world contained in that handheld device has become secret, separate from the one involving parents. As you seek to give the best to your kids, do not always default to the latest technology as the answer. The irony is that the very outlets that entice us to pursue our own independence and freedom, often become the throngs of our own enslavement. We learned this in Genesis and yet our nature still yearns to be unaccountable. Was it not freedom and autonomy that Satan used to coerce Adam and Eve out from under God’s protective authority?