Does Your Teenager Have a Right to Privacy?

A very normal part of adolescence is a teen’s desire to spend less time with family and more time elsewhere – either out and about with friends or secluded alone in their bedroom aka teen-cave. Personal space and privacy isn’t entirely a bad thing for teens, but there are times when it’s sensible to limit seclusion and secrecy.

Despite the bravado and insistence they know all, our teens are still our children. Yes, as they will remind you often, they are merely a skip away from adulthood, but legally until they’re 18 and therefore old enough to be recognised as an adult and accountable for their own actions you, as the parent, remain the responsible party. It’s important then to be aware of their activities…. but should you resort to spying?


Your gut will be your best guide here. If you feel uneasy about your teen spending an excessive time behind the closed door of their room it’s probably wise to find out what’s going on in his or her life. And usually that best starts with a frank and upfront conversation coming from your position of care and concern.

If an uneasy feeling still remains and your attempts at discussion fruitless, another approach may be called for.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you spy on your teen, but to be truthful I’ve done it myself…. and each time told him of it afterwards. A sneak peak at a phone or Facebook is difficult to resist when presented with an opportunity; it’s almost like an invitation, right?

Look, I don’t make a habit of it and actually I never advocate a parent spying on their teenager unless there’s good reason to suspect involvement in something potentially dangerous. If those suspicions are well founded, then I firmly believe all expectations of privacy are null and void. I know some may disagree but under such circumstances I’ll even argue it’s parental responsibility to take whatever action necessary to identify risk factors and intervene. Your teen may not like it and could accuse you of intrusion, but aren’t their protests far less important than their well-being?

Your teen is actively practicing to be an adult and, yes, needs a reasonable amount of privacy. Their personal space is important and if there’s not opportunity for their own bedroom then at least a cupboard, desk or corner somewhere, which they can individualise and ‘own’ would be something appreciated.

However, don’t forget their room or ‘teen cave’ remains part of the house you own and/or manage. For that reason alone they’ve no right to tell you it’s ‘off limits’ nor should you be prevented from entering. Imagine the potential health and safety risk of not making an occasional visit into a teen’s room? Besides, you’ll eventually run short of mugs and cutlery and will need to launch a rescue and retrieve mission!

Regardless how argumentative your teen is when demanding their personal space and privacy, truth is they need safety and your protection more. Maintaining healthy limits in regard to their preference for self-sufficiency and alone time isn’t easy but necessary. I understand.

Often teens will fight for total independence before they are emotionally (or legally) ready. To test parental control is an inbuilt feature of adolescence and while they need an age-appropriate amount of privacy and space, they don’t require constant privacy, isolation and secrecy.

Is this an issue that’s arisen in your household? What are your thoughts?

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Shari Brewer is a mum of three – two teens and a preschooler – living in Queensland. She’s a practicing high school teacher and lifecoach passionate about helping parents of teens. You can find her on the internet ... blogging and supporting parents at Teenage Survival Coach and hanging out on Facebook.

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