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?