Whether it’s as extreme as reading someone’s diary or as subtle at checking browser history, invasions of privacy generally aren’t tolerated. It’s rare to find someone who will defend these actions. Yet to this day, some parents still insist that they have every right to do this simply because it’s their child.
There is some logic behind this mindset. In general, a parent does and should have authority over their child, and it makes sense that parents would want to keep themselves informed about their children’s lives. However, that doesn’t give them the right to breach a trust. Prying into anyone’s life without consent is a clear overstepping of boundaries, and parents should not be exempt.
With that said, it would be remiss to make it seem as if all parents who refuse to respect their children’s privacy are tyrannical, unjust or downright cruel. From the parents’ perspective, it usually isn’t an issue of privacy at all, but rather an issue of protection. After all, it is a parent’s job to watch over their children, and it’s difficult to protect someone without first knowing what’s going on in that person’s life.
What some parents don’t realize is that many teenagers withhold information for a reason ― usually either because it’s unimportant or because they don’t want their parents involved. So, even if it turns out that there is something to worry about, the parent still can’t do much of anything about it, because protecting someone who doesn’t want to be protected is a nearly impossible task.
More importantly, when a parent breeches their child’s privacy in this manner, it assures that their child continues to see the need for privacy. To put it plainly: prying into a child’s life is the fastest way to make sure they never want to share anything ever again, which is wholly counterproductive.
Think of it this way: if a child were to steal money from their parent’s purse, then the parent would never want to give them pocket money again. In the same way, if a parent were to invade their child’s privacy without consent, the child would likely never want to tell them anything freely again. After all, if a parent can’t be trusted to respect the most basic of boundaries, then how can that same parent be trusted with any personal information in the future?
Parents want their children to trust them with personal information; children want their parents to respect their privacy. If children don’t trust their parents with information, the parents are less likely to respect their privacy. If parents don’t respect their children’s privacy, their children lose trust in them.
It all boils down to an issue of trust and respect.
- Cheryl Jolin is the adviser of The Reflection and Gull Lake High School’s yearbook publications for 16 years. In addition, she teaches English, Writing for the Press and AP Literature with a Master's in Journalism from MSU.
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