Young People Ask
Is It Wrong to Want Some Privacy?
Put a ✔ next to your most likely response in each of the following scenarios.
1. You’re in your bedroom with the door closed, and your sibling barges in without knocking.
◯ ‘No problem . . . I do the same thing to my sibling.’
◯ ‘How rude! What if I’d been getting dressed?’
2. You’re talking to a friend on the phone, and your mom is within earshot, obviously listening to every word.
◯ ‘No problem . . . I have nothing to hide.’
◯ ‘How awkward! I feel like I’m being spied on!’
3. You just got home, and now both parents start plying you with questions. “Where did you go? What did you do? Who went along?”
◯ ‘No problem . . . I usually tell them everything anyway.’
◯ ‘How frustrating! My parents just don’t trust me!’
WHEN you were younger, privacy probably wasn’t such a big deal. If your younger sibling barged into your room, you welcomed the company. If your parents asked you a question, you answered without hesitation. Back then, your life was an open book. Now there may be times when you wish you could close the cover. “I like it when I can just keep some things to myself,” says 14-year-old Corey. *
Why the sudden desire for privacy? In part, it’s because you’re growing up. For example, the bodily changes that take place during adolescence can leave you highly self-conscious —even in the presence of your family. Also as you grow, you start feeling as never before the need to ponder over matters privately. This is a sign that you are developing “thinking ability”—a quality that the Bible praises in a young person. (Proverbs 1:1, 4; Deuteronomy 32:29) Even Jesus went to “a lonely place” for deep thought.—Matthew 14:13.
Of course, you’re still under your parents’ authority, and they have a right to be aware of what’s happening in your life. (Ephesians 6:1) But when you combine their need to know with your need to grow, there may be some conflict. How can you deal with the challenge? Let’s look at two areas where problems might arise.
When You Seek Solitude
There are a number of valid reasons for you to seek out solitude. Perhaps you just want to “rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:31) Or when you want to pray, you may, as Jesus advised his disciples, “go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father.” (Matthew 6:6; Mark 1:35) The problem is, when you shut the door to your private room (if you have one), your parents may not think you’re praying! And your siblings may not understand when you simply want to be alone.
What you can do. Rather than turn your bedroom into a battle zone, do the following.
● When it comes to your siblings, try setting a few reasonable ground rules so that you can have some time to yourself. If needed, see if your parents can help in this regard.
● When it comes to your parents, strive to understand their viewpoint. “At times, my parents check up on me,” says 16-year-old Rebekah. “But to be honest, I would check up on my teenager if I were a parent—especially knowing all the temptations young people face today!” Like Rebekah, can you perceive your parents’ underlying concerns?—Proverbs 19:11.
● Ask yourself honestly: ‘Have I given my parents reason to suspect that I’m up to no good when my door is closed? Have I been so secretive about my personal life that they feel they must resort to covert tactics to learn about me?’ Generally, the more open you are with your parents, the less suspicious they will be. *
Action plan. Below, write what you might say to bring up this topic with your parents.
When You Make Friends
During adolescence, it’s normal for you to form friendships outside your family. It’s also normal for your parents to wonder who your friends are and what you’re doing with them. To your parents, this is just part of their job—standard operating procedure. To you, however, your parents’ concern might seem to border on paranoia. “I just want to have my cell phone and my e-mail without my parents’ looking over my shoulder every ten minutes to ask me who I’m talking to,” says 16-year-old Amy.
What you can do. Instead of letting your friendships create a barrier between you and your parents, try the following.
● Bring your friends out into the open, and make sure your parents are acquainted with them. After all, you might not like your parents’ playing detective, but what choice do they have if your friends are a mystery? Remember, your parents know that your choice of friends will have a big effect on you. (1 Corinthians 15:33) The more your parents know about the people you’re spending time with, the more comfortable they’re likely to be about your choice of friends.
● Respectfully talk to your parents about the matter. Don’t accuse them of being busybodies. Instead, you might say something like, “I feel as if everything I say to my friends is being scrutinized and judged. It’s very difficult for me even to hold a conversation.” Perhaps your parents will allow you a little more privacy with regard to your friends.—Proverbs 16:23.
● Be honest with yourself: Is the issue privacy, or is it secrecy? Brittany, 22, says: “If you’re living at home and your parents have a concern, your thought should be, ‘What I’m doing isn’t bad, so why should I have to hide it?’ On the other hand, if you need to hide it, then something else is going on.”
Action plan. Below, write what you might say to bring up this topic with your parents.
Privacy and You
Now you’ll have opportunity to brainstorm some solutions to a specific area of privacy that concerns you.
Step 1: Identify the issue.
In what area do you feel that you would like more privacy?
Step 2: Consider your parents’ viewpoint.
What do you think could be their underlying concern?
Step 3: Work at solutions.
(a) Think of at least one way you might inadvertently be contributing to the problem, and write it below.
(b) What changes could you make regarding your answer above?
(c) In what way would you like your parents to address your concerns?
Step 4: Talk it out.
At an appropriate time, discuss with your parents what you have written above.
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
^ par. 13 Some names in this article have been changed.
^ par. 21 If your parents still seem untrusting, calmly and respectfully tell them how you feel. Really listen to their concerns, and make sure there is nothing you are doing that is contributing to the problem.—James 1:19.
TO THINK ABOUT
● Why do your parents have a right to be inquisitive about your life?
● How might your efforts to build skill in communicating with your parents help you to communicate with other adults later in life?
[Box/Pictures on page 19]
WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY
“If young people are open with their parents about things, then the parents will have less reason to read their teenagers’ e-mails and text messages to find out what’s going on in their life.”
“I wouldn’t be upset if my parents read my e-mails. If an employer has the right to monitor his employees’ e-mails, why shouldn’t parents be able to monitor the e-mails of their children?”
“Parents don’t want anything to happen to you, and at times they may seem to intrude on your privacy. It doesn’t seem fair. But honestly, if I were a parent, I would probably do the same thing.”
[Box on page 21]
A NOTE TO PARENTS
● Your son is in his bedroom with the door closed. Should you barge in without knocking?
● Your daughter left her cell phone behind as she rushed off to school. Should you peek at her stored text messages?
These are not easy questions to answer. On the one hand, you have a right to know what is going on in your adolescent’s life and an obligation to keep him or her safe. On the other hand, you cannot forever be a “helicopter parent,” suspiciously hovering over your child and monitoring his or her every move. How, then, can you strike a balance?
First, recognize that an adolescent’s desire for privacy does not always spell trouble. Often, it is a normal part of growth. Privacy helps adolescents ‘test their wings’ as they forge their own friendships and think through their problems using their “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1, 2) Privacy also helps adolescents develop thinking ability—a vital quality if they are to function as responsible adults. (1 Corinthians 13:11) It also gives them opportunity to meditate before answering difficult questions.—Proverbs 15:28.
Second, realize that attempts to micromanage your adolescent’s life may breed resentment and rebellion. (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Does this mean that you should back off? No, for you are still the parent. However, the goal is for your child to acquire a trained conscience. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Proverbs 22:6) In the end, guidance is more effective than surveillance.
Third, discuss the matter with your adolescent. Listen to his or her concerns. Might there be times when you could be yielding? (Philippians 4:5) Let your adolescent know that you will allow him or her a measure of privacy as long as your trust is not betrayed. Outline the consequences of disobedience, and follow through if it becomes necessary. Be assured that you can give your adolescent some privacy without relinquishing your role as a caring parent.
[Picture on page 20]
Trust is like a paycheck—it must be earned