3 Ways I Regularly Invade My Teenager's Privacy

I review his text messages, call log, photo album and notes. When I see something questionable, I ask him to explain (in a non-accusatory tone) and we engage in very productive conversations.
11/05/2014 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

As a parent, there is a somewhat constant struggle over what is acceptable when it comes to invading and respecting your child's privacy. It's not always an easy balance; we want to protect our children and to do so, we need to be as "in the know" as we possibly can.

Many of the decisions we make as parents are based -- in part or totally -- on how our parents raised us. My wonderful, beautiful, loving, graceful, wise (OK, this could go on for the entire post) mother was the absolute best mother ever. That was, until I gave birth in 1997 *wink*.

And while she did the best that she could, I remember exactly what it was like to be a teenager. So, when I started to create my family, I reflected on some of the things that I thought I could improve upon with the next generation. Being up in their business is one of them.

How much is too much?

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how much is too much. You truly have to do what is best for you and your family; there is not "one size fits all." What works for me is a complete while-you-live-in-my-house-there's-no-such-thing-as-privacy approach. Yup, I "invade" my teenager's privacy on a regular basis -- with his full cooperation (i.e., he's accepted that he has no choice).

He knows why I do what I do, and while he may not like it, he understands that it is only because I love him. One of the main reasons I am committed to invading my teenager's so-called privacy is that, although we repeatedly make many life discussions on every topic under the sun, there is nothing like a real-time situation to bring a conversation full-circle.

Was that really supposed to keep me out?

My privacy invading tactics...

Phone Check

Phone check is a random search of his iPhone and all its contents. I review the text messages, call log, photo album and notes. When I see something questionable, I ask him to explain (in a non-accusatory tone) and we engage in very productive conversations. It was a phone check last year that led us to have the "distribution of child pornography" conversation -- you know, the whole "I just forwarded the pic to my friends so they could see what she sent me" thing, well, it's actually a crime.

Room Search

At any time, I will search his bedroom. Every drawer, jean pocket, shelf, under the mattress, you name it -- and always without warning. A room search led us to a conversation about girls after I found a note from a female classmate who was inviting my son to sneak into her house late one night. Being able to talk about how he felt about this real situation was far more impactful than any hypothetical convo we have had.

Everyday Involvement

You want to go to your friend's house? Let me talk to their parents. You're staying after school for what? Let me talk to your teacher. I try my best to know who his friends are, know who their parents are, know his teachers and be aware of what is going on in his daily life. This level of involvement led us to have a conversation about one of his friends that, while a nice young man, was constantly making choices that led to negative results for himself and those around him. When my teen wanted to back away from this friend, he came to me and we discussed his thoughts. My advice would have been far less insightful if I did not know who his friends are and the types of issues he was dealing with in his friendships.

Final thoughts on teenagers and their privacy...

When I read this article by Dr. Phil titled "Develop a Healthy Relationship with Your Teen/Parent," I felt confident that I am on the right track. My teenager looks to me for advice, respects the rules that I have set forth and is on-target to discover his passion and purpose in life. He sometimes says that I just don't want him to have any fun (taking it to the extreme ... this is a teenager we are talking about). I readily admit that the amount of fun he has is at the bottom of the importance list. I would rather my teen be safe and make the right choices than to have privacy and freedom. Don't get me wrong; he regularly hangs out with his friends, attends parties, plays sports, video games and hits the mall with his buddies.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I feel that it's more important that I know as close to everything that is going on in his life as possible. If he makes the right decisions now -- such as, focus on school and extracurricular activities -- then I suspect he will be having lots of fun when he goes to college in a couple of years.

Hmm... I wonder if I can fit in his carry-on?!

This post first appeared on Memoirs of a Clueless Womanᅡᆴ.

Carin Kilby Clark is a mother of three, writer, blogger, and brand journalist who shares lifestyle and parenting insights on her inspirational blog. Join Carin on Faceboook and sign up to receive your free resource sheet with the Top 5 Productivity Tools Every Busy Mom Needs.