Is it ever okay to invade your child’s privacy? - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: Is it ever okay to invade your child’s privacy?
Yes - I am responsible for my child and have to do what I can to make sure he or she is okay, even if it requires invading privacy but there must be a strong reason 52 85.25%
No - I believe we should talk to our children about our concerns and never invade their privacy 1 1.64%
Undecided 8 13.11%
Voters: 61. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Posting a poll to get everyone's input but feel free to share your thoughts if you wish.

 

I imagine most of us respect our children's right to privacy, whether it be their rooms, their belongings, their mail, their Facebook account, or whatever else might deserve the respect of individual privacy. But, is it ever okay to invade your child’s privacy? What if you were really worried about something and the best way to confirm that fear or set it to rest would be to do a bit of snooping. Would that be okay, simply because you are the parent and have a right and responsibility to make sure your child is okay?


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#2 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 11:50 AM
 
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This question is harder to answer than it seemed to me when I first read it. My overall opinion is no, but I can think of some extreme scenarios (i.e. fears of suicidal thoughts, or suspicions of violent plans) where I would snoop.
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#3 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 12:28 PM
 
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I voted "yes" but that doesn't mean I don't "believe we should talk to our children about our concerns."

 

We had a rough period with our DD from about 13.5 to about her 15th birthday. Our formally upbeat, straight "A", direct and passionate girl started pulling away from us and friends, getting secretive, hiding in her room, falling grades and having some hygiene issues (greasy hair, not showering enough.) We did talk to her... several times. When that didn't turn things around, we re-instated some middle school boundaries that had been lifted for high school and put some new rules in place. When things continued to deteriorate past just "teen hormonal stuff," I did decide to look through her phone and facebook. I didn't need to read anything... I mostly noted that she was lying about texting and messaging until 2 or 3 in the morning almost daily (even though she had to be up for school at 5.) I noted that the people she was still interacting with... all really down and negative folks... the sort that just suck you dry. I went through her school work which I'd never had to do before and discovered she was being horribly under-challenged and the low grades were due to her not turning in the most ridiculous of assignments. 

 

All that info really helped us and it wasn't info that DD was volunteering at the time. It allowed us to pinpoint the problems, make some very big decisions "for her" because, at the time, she was unable to make them for herself. DD is 16 now, in a new school and back to her vibrant, ambitious self. We have since had a good conversation about it. I have told her I went through her stuff and she was quite forgiving. No, she doesn't love the idea of my going through her things but she is healthy enough now to recognize that at the time, things were bad and she'd left us no other choice.

 

So, long way of saying that yes, I think there does come a time when invading privacy is necessary but there should certainly be a lot of conversation prior to that. 


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#4 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 02:18 PM
 
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I voted yes. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post

We have since had a good conversation about it. I have told her I went through her stuff and she was quite forgiving. No, she doesn't love the idea of my going through her things but she is healthy enough now to recognize that at the time, things were bad and she'd left us no other choice.

 

This was a great example of warning signs that need to be addressed. If discussion doesn't work, than breaking privacy becomes necessary. And whatsnextmom has gone further by admitting what she did, so that her DD can come to terms with it and her own level of acceptance. 

 

I had a sister and mother that obviously read my diary, and steam opened my love letters from my boyfriend. Was snooping about this OK? No way. I was happy, I was in love. The only thing I learned from this was that my mother and sister did not respect me. So I had to hide things better. 

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#5 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 02:32 PM
 
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I voted yes but wouldn't do it lightly. It would be an extreme case where I was worried about physical/mental health or safety.
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#6 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 04:23 PM
 
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Yes.
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#7 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 04:28 PM
 
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Life and death type issues: yes. A parent's desire to know information about their child's life than they're willing to share: no.

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#8 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 05:15 PM
 
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I used to think it was absolutely fine but now that my DD is older it doesn't seem like such an easy thing to be ok with. I think this is one of those issues you have to decide on when faced with a time you think it might be necessary.
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#9 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 06:44 PM
 
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If I were seeing a lot of warning signs (as in whatsnextmom's post above), I think it would be justified to invade my child's privacy. I'd have to be extremely concerned, and not getting any real response/information from my child.

 

I'm not sure exactly where I'd draw the line, though. DS1 never even came close to causing me any concerns as a teen. I feel that privacy is very important, especially as a teen, so it would take a lot.


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#10 of 57 Old 04-08-2013, 06:53 PM
 
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Yes! But not without some serious concern on my part and my partner's part to warrant such.

My mom read my diary... that was huge violation.
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#11 of 57 Old 04-11-2013, 01:07 PM
 
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I voted yes but only along the line that whatsnextmom posted.  I went so far as to tell my children that I would do so if I felt it was warented by their behavior (again like wantsnextmom).
 


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#12 of 57 Old 04-11-2013, 01:47 PM
 
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I actually have what is bound to be an unpopular opinion on this one. I don’t really believe in much privacy within a family. My husband and I know each other’s passwords to everything and, although I don’t feel the need to do so very often, I could read though all of his emails and texts if I wanted. Right now, my daughter is very young and we don’t have to confront this issue. I realize that my thoughts on the subject may change as my kids get older but I doubt I could be convinced to reverse my opinion completely.

My mother is Native American and we were raised to see our family as our tribe and to value its success over personal needs and desires. Part of the price of this kind of cohesiveness is a loss of some individual freedoms; maybe even a loss of some INDIVIDUALITY. But it has taught me to value others over myself and to think about my actions in terms of collective good rather than personal gain.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think privacy is very important between family members. 


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#13 of 57 Old 04-11-2013, 01:56 PM
 
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Rachel, I was debating whether I wanted to say something very similar. The idea of my kids' bedrooms or belongings being private seems weird to me. My bedroom and belongings aren't private. I wouldn't be shocked at all if my husband picked up my phone and started scrolling through my email looking for something, and my teenaged daughter wouldn't be surprised or upset if I walked into her bedroom and started digging through her things. She'd probably ask what I was looking for, just so she could tell me where to find it.

At the same time, none of us are "snooping" on each other. We already know what's going on in each other's lives, because we talk, all the time. And if I didn't know something, I'd just ask.
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#14 of 57 Old 04-11-2013, 05:17 PM
 
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With the situations that my son is in now (smoking, drinking, stealing, being arrested), I have no problem looking into what he is doing. 

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#15 of 57 Old 04-11-2013, 07:00 PM
 
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I would try talking openly about my concerns at first, but know from experience that kids, especially teens can get into all kinds of wild situations.  So I might if I was concerned about drug use, suicide concerns, sexual exploitation, or anything that might lead to a felony conviction. 

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#16 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 12:12 AM
 
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I agree with Rachel and Michellee--I think that the only thing that should be truly private is a child's diary. Texts, facebook, email, should all be accessible by parents. My husband has access to all my accounts/phone, and I have access to his. I don't even have a problem with kids having access to their parents' accounts once they have proved themselves trustworthy and are mature enough to understand the responsibility. 

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#17 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 02:32 AM
 
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as long as my children are less than 18 years of age, i'm the one who would be sitting in front a juge if they started having troubles => so i do consider that i sort of need to know what's happening (not in so much details it all seem to be going on all right) in their life

that mindset was a huge shock to DH, who is from another country/culture than me

am afraid that it's not negociable on my part ....

but anyway, we live all together, crammed into a flat with one bathroom and one (separate) toilet only between the 5 of us .... what privacy ??? LOL

 

now, i saw DD1 looking into stuff in my bedroom 2 days ago (which i hadn't put away properly) so i just (as of yesterday) baught a small portable strong box with a key which i'm going to use for what i want to keep private (little things i inherited, some in gold)

& am thinking of buying her something similar tomorrow actually because she's forever loosing her (cheap, but still) items of jewellery & DD2 "borrows them " from her too

now,....  i'll have to buy a strong box to DD2 as well (but then i'll get to keep the keys to all strong boxes, it will be to stop the kids going into what's not theirs)

 

am doing a theatrical workshop that is for parents WITH their teens & two days ago i had to improvise on the theme "you are a teen, you are in love, your parents are worried" i was playing the teen and DD1 played the mom .... am really bad at improvising/doing theatricals .... but the activity is supervised by a psychologist so we "debrief" after playing & it gives us all the chance to talk about all these types of subjects

=> i steadfastly refused to give the name of the boy in question (during the "play") and DD1 who was playing the mom was SO intent into me telling her !!!!!

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#18 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 07:00 AM
 
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I think it has more to do with trust than privacy. I had one of each parent, one who didn't believe children should have privacy and one who did. Guess who I have a more open relationship with today? 

My dad always told me I could tell him anything, he wouldn't snoop, judge or tell my mom, that he wasn't trying to control me because he knew he couldn't, he just wanted to know where I was, when I expect to be home, who I was with and what I was doing. I always trusted him and his guidance because the reasons he gave me made sense. They weren't just the regular "parent" reasons not to do certain things, they were reasons which immediately benefitted me. He would give me really awesome advice about guys, taught me to distinguish between guys that were just for fun and ones that were "husband material". 

Also, there is not much point to invading children's privacy these days. They're smart enough to have emails, Facebook accounts and phones we don't even know about. Their journals are online, they know how to delete internet history (or use a hidden browser altogether), so if they have a secret they don't want us to know, we're not going to get far unless they trust us. 

Same goes for my husband, firstly, I know full well he's smart enough that if he has something to hide, I'm not going to find it; second, if I do think there is something to hide and I don't get a good enough explanation, I know where the door is. 

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#19 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 07:32 AM
 
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My daughter and I "talked" all the time also. She just didn't tell me the right things, and she lied, all the time. It wasn't stuff I would have caught on my own. She finally one day admitted to "dating" a grown man when she was 15, so...I read through some of her things, she had developed an eating disorder bc he made her think she was fat(this can be hidden), she was cutting her arms (long sleeves in the winter, the older kids don't walk around without clothes on). There are other things I won't get into now. If I had not invaded her privacy I would not have been able to save my daughter from where she was heading. I blamed myself for awhile, bc I have always tried to be close, to have a good, open communication with my kids! And I did, until my daughter met that man.


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#20 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 10:50 AM
 
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We all have to remember that none of us birthed blank slates. Children aren't just what you fill them with. They come with their own quirks and traits. Some will spill their every thought at the drop of a hat. Others have higher privacy needs and different methods of processing their life. Many are smack in the middle open to sharing some thing and not others. I happen to have one child who is very open and one who is very private.

 

Sure, in our house, we know everyone's codes and hop on and off each others computers. We don't freak when someone else is in our rooms or hid our phones. However, there is a code of honor. Even after the one situation with DD that I explained before, my kids still trust that I'm not going to dig through their journals, listen in on their skype study sessions, read all their texts. When they were 5, nothing was off limits but then, one day, they felt shy about changing in front of others. One day, the door closed when they had a friend over to play. One day it was clear that DS liked a girl but he didn't want to tell us who... and we had to respect that because really, do I tell my child EVERYTHING? No. I wouldn't burden them with my every inner working lol. The closer your child gets to being an adult, the more privacy you need to afford them. Yes, when things are going bad... you need to use anything in your disposal to turn things around but to expect nothing to be private is more the mark of a naturally extroverted person who has little to no personal privacy needs than a generally successful parenting model.

 

I kept a journal when I was a teen and it was largely venting about my mother. It was a dumping place for all the things that if said, would have hurt my mother and our relationship. It allowed me to spew irrationally before having a productive conversation with her later. Do I think my mom should have read it? Of course not. I STILL wouldn't want her to read it largely because, as an adult, I can see how willingly I misunderstood her and the situation.

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#21 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 12:06 PM
 
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I did not mean to give the impression that my family does not have some privacy. I don't think I have ever gone through my husbands email for anything other than looking up a water bill statement. But I could if I wanted. Growing up I was the ONLY extrovert in the house and now I am married to a very strong introvert. I respect his need for alone time. I respect his need to sit with things and process information. He and I agree about the privacy issue 100%. 

Would I read my daughter's diary just because I am curious? Probably not. But I will never give her reason to expect that she has things that are "off-limits" to me as her mother. She will always know that I would look through her things if I needed to.

I agree that it is really about trust. I just think that to be truly honest with my kids, they need to know that the expectation of privacy between family members is lower than in other relationships. Living together as a unit requires more transparency and as parents, my husband and I will decide what level is beneficial for the family as a whole. That decision will not be based on personal preferences. I will not be based on how it effects my relationship with them later on. My interest is in raising responsible, compassionate people. I would love for them to respect me and be my friend as I am with my own parents but that is not my primary goal. 

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#22 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 04:02 PM
 
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I voted "Yes..." bc of the definition of "privacy" given in the OP.

 

That is not how I would define "privacy." It seems we are talking about limiting secrecy of your DC. Privacy to me, is like when one is using the toilet-- everyone knows what they're doing in there-- there is no secrecy involved-- only a healthy respect for their desire to not be seen nude or in an embarrassing act involving bodily functions. I would only invade this type of privacy in a bona fide medical emergency directly before dialing 911. (I did do this once & it was funny... more later...)

 

I will absolutely limit the privilege of "secrecy" of my DC, especially if any danger seems apparent, but they all grow up knowing this, and like PPs have said about family closeness, it's not a big deal in our household. My children are mine and I am theirs (obviously DH, too), and everything I have is theirs and everything they have is mine. This is a comforting thought to them and gives immeasurable security (even if it's occasionally annoying during middle school years, especially.)

 

I've worked at a children's home and was often called on in a technical capacity to assist parents in limiting over-extended secrecy when children showed signs of danger (ie, I do know more about the net & social sites than my DC or theirs, & I've never -not- found a "hidden" profile/ email acct or failed to help the parent view it when NEEDED). I also have never helped a parent, even once, and found nothing to worry about-- there generally was horrible and immediate danger to the child; they were not just snooping.

 

One young lady from this home, in a moment of brilliant maturity and insight, told a group of younger girls, "Yes, I resented my mom going through my things, but everytime I resented it, it was because I had something to hide." Of course parents can and do take this too far-- my mother read my journal and letters aloud to other people-- my xbf, her bf, my siblings, etc-- just yuck & no danger signs, just middle school-y poetry & love letter drafts, and stuff, hehe.

 

The funny, if anyone's still interested, occured when DD was about 4 yo & wanted to take a bath with no help. Well, she didn't need her hair washed & was able to manage the rest by herself, so I agreed if we kept the door cracked. I knocked and asked how she was or if she needed anything every so often & she enjoyed her big girl soak. Then I knocked and got no answer; I frantically call, "T___!?" No answer. I burst in and saw my child floating motionless in the water. I picked up her head and shoulders & jostled her, thinking she'd fallen asleep, no response. I yelled to xh to call 911, scooped her out of the tub, thunked her down on the floor and tilted her head to begin CPR when she finally woke up and said, "Can you stop that? You're embarrassing me!" Now that was an invasion of privacy (well-warranted), HAHAHA!

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#23 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 04:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mum4vr View Post

I've worked at a children's home and was often called on in a technical capacity to assist parents in limiting over-extended secrecy when children showed signs of danger (ie, I do know more about the net & social sites than my DC or theirs, & I've never -not- found a "hidden" profile/ email acct or failed to help the parent view it when NEEDED). I also have never helped a parent, even once, and found nothing to worry about-- there generally was horrible and immediate danger to the child; they were not just snooping.

Yikes, your bathtub story must have been scary for sure.

 

As for the hidden profiles and email accounts, how do you find those?

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#24 of 57 Old 04-12-2013, 11:28 PM
 
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I think it's ok, if there are warning signs (such as those whatsnextmom posted about, suicidal remarks, etc...) or if my child were to go missing.


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#25 of 57 Old 04-13-2013, 10:27 AM
 
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A good friend of ours was all about being her 12 year old daughter's "best friend" (gah, they even dress alike) and offered her privacy on everything, from daughter having a lock on her door, her own private phones (home AND cell), her own laptop (and, everything related to the internet).  She said, "I trust her, completely!"  I would never look in her room or at her computer!"  Her daughter got good grades and had a moderate social life (school sports).  One day, her computer was in the shop and she "borrowed" her daughter's laptop to check their home email.  She saw her daughter's email account and decided to "sneak" a peek.  She found her daughter had been sending pornographic photographs of herself to multiple adult sites for over a year.  Needless to say, she was devastated and any trust between them was over.  Three years later, they are still seeing a therapist.

 

We have no problem whatsoever going through ds things.  He is not on any internet social media except for one toy collectors message forum.  The computer is where we can see it, he has limited use of it and I have read his posts.  His room has no secrets, either (nor does ours).  There is nothing in this house that is hidden from anyone else. 

 

When he is living on his own, he can have all the privacy he wants and his life will be his own. 

 

This house belongs to all of us, not just him.  Our house, our rules. 

 

We are his parents, not his friends. 

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#26 of 57 Old 04-13-2013, 05:16 PM
 
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Journals are private. Internet is not.
 

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#27 of 57 Old 04-13-2013, 05:33 PM
 
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Journals are private. Internet is not.
 

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I think this is a HUGE point to teach to kids.......a journal that you physically write on and is kept in your room, is private.  ANYTHING you put on the internet, or send on a cell phone, just.isn't.  Isn't private from me, isn't private from anyone who might want to share or exploit it.  So, they can expect me to not snoop in a journal (unless I feared they were in imminent danger), but they will not be able to expect any kind of privacy on the internet or cell phones.  Because there IS none, and they need to get that, big time.  Anything you put out there can potentially be seen/used/saved by ANYONE...so if it's private enough that you don't want it spread around or known by anyone, don't put it out there. The stakes are too high for young people on the internet and with cell phones for parents to NOT be involved, IMO...I'm on tumblr and some of the stuff I see coming from teenagers, I'm just like - "WHERE IS YOUR ADULT???  WHY HAS NOBODY EVER TALKED WITH YOU ABOUT THIS STUFF???".  

 

And really, I have nothing to hide from my kids; they can see my emails, texts, and social media pages any time they walk by my computer or phone.  

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#28 of 57 Old 04-13-2013, 05:37 PM
 
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To me it is all very contextual. Sometime it is OK. All depends on the age, mental status etc.

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#29 of 57 Old 04-14-2013, 09:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Rachel88 View Post

I did not mean to give the impression that my family does not have some privacy. I don't think I have ever gone through my husbands email for anything other than looking up a water bill statement. But I could if I wanted. Growing up I was the ONLY extrovert in the house and now I am married to a very strong introvert. I respect his need for alone time. I respect his need to sit with things and process information. He and I agree about the privacy issue 100%. 

Would I read my daughter's diary just because I am curious? Probably not. But I will never give her reason to expect that she has things that are "off-limits" to me as her mother. She will always know that I would look through her things if I needed to.

I agree that it is really about trust. I just think that to be truly honest with my kids, they need to know that the expectation of privacy between family members is lower than in other relationships. Living together as a unit requires more transparency and as parents, my husband and I will decide what level is beneficial for the family as a whole. That decision will not be based on personal preferences. I will not be based on how it effects my relationship with them later on. My interest is in raising responsible, compassionate people. I would love for them to respect me and be my friend as I am with my own parents but that is not my primary goal. 

 

Then we don't disagree. We were upfront with the kids that if we kept their codes, didn't put locks on the doors and would go through their stuff if they gave us reason too. It's just, with kids, what THEY see as justification for snooping doesn't often line up with parents. And, there are too many parents who snoop when they aren't justified. In our experience, in families where there are no boundaries, where the parents are constantly in their kids stuff without just cause are not healthy. The kids become pros at the underground life and it's just so easy to do in this day in age. It's a delicate balance with teens... creating an environment where they know you are paying attention but that you also see the them worthy of trust and respect.

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#30 of 57 Old 04-15-2013, 08:20 AM
 
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i voted yes but the only time i'd invade privacy was if i was concerned...really concerned something was happening(i.e.bullying,suicide etc.) . i hope though that i am able to talk with my children and they feel comfortable to tell me everything..i hope

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