Do Teens Need Privacy?

Do Teens Need Privacy?

In the past week I have had three phone calls with desperate moms who need help in handling a teen who keeps crying out about the injustice of having their privacy invaded. I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts about this with you all too….in case any of you are also dealing with this issue.

The truth about teens demanding their privacy....

The thing about teens needing privacy is…’s bunk.  This is a “rule” of life that the teen just made up.  Then society and psychology feeds it by telling them that they deserve it.  I’m sorry, but it simply isn’t true.

Yes, we all need times that we can be alone with our thoughts to figure out problems or rest or help a friend occasionally.  But the idea that we should be able to keep secrets about what we are doing or planning or that kids should be allowed to hide their texts from their parents is pure craziness.

You, the parents, are responsible for your child’s actions and you are providing for and protecting them.  They have no right to privacy from you.  You give them the privacy that YOU think they need, not that they demand.  In fact, the more they demand it the less I will give.  That just tells me that they are hiding something and that’s not OK.

God gave us all a built in private place through our thoughts, dreams and prayers.  Your children have that automatically and they have complete control over how much of that they will share with you.  Parents definitely should not try to push their way into their child’s thoughts.  It’s disrespectful.

BUT they do not automatically get privacy over what’s in their drawers or who they talk to on the phone or where they are going.  That privacy is earned by proving you are trustworthy.

Now let me say here that I have never gone through my children’s drawers or made them show me their texts.  When we have a problem, I may tell them that because I am not trusting them in a certain area it would be best if they show me those things.  If they refuse (which has never happened so I am just thinking here) I would take the phone, contents of the drawer, etc. from them and hold it until they agreed to show it to me and discuss it responsibly and face whatever consequences come with their choices.  I would not just look through it behind their back unless I felt something dangerous was happening.

I work hard to make sure my kids can trust me not to overreact when they tell me they have done something they shouldn’t.  However, I have no problem taking a phone away, putting restrictions on it, holding favorite toys, whatever it takes to teach the lesson.  I love my children too much to let something like an ipod or toy come between them and their godly character.

The very idea that a child (and yes, teens are still children no matter what they think) can demand to have secret phone conversations or hide what is in their purse is simply the result of a world losing touch with righteousness.

Here’s what God has to say on the matter from Luke 12:2-3, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

He also says in Romans 13 that we are not to resist the authorities that God has appointed for us.  It is clear on that subject, but never says anything about 13 year olds having a right to use their phone at midnight.

I know this seems harsh.  I do think that a responsible, respectful teen should be able to have some private areas, as long as he knows that he is subject to being asked to share those places if a problem arises.  The main point is that YOU decide where privacy is allowed and not.  A young person does not yet have the wisdom, no matter how smart they are, to understand when that is necessary.  They also do not carry the weight of the financial, emotional, legal, physical or spiritual responsibility if something serious happens as a result of their actions.  You have every right to know what they are doing.

As long as my children are doing their work, taking care of their things, being respectful and kind….I give them privacy.  Although what’s funny is they don’t really feel the need for it as much if they aren’t trying to hide anything, which leads to me being happy to give it to them….the beautiful circle of trust.



  1. It DOES NOT sound harsh at all. It sounds like the voice of reason. It sounds like someone who knows her scripture and, therefore, where God stands on these things.

  2. Amen and amen!

  3. Thank You! Best post I think I’ve ever read.

  4. Kristy Szydel :

    Amen! We totally agree Lisa! We have 5 daughters ages 6-13. While we highly encourage modesty, we do not allow for secrecy, and our children are rarely alone. They can read a book in bed or draw in the playroom without others around, but they rarely shut their doors (just for changing clothes, using the restroom, etc). All property is God given, and therefore communal, to be shared and taken care of. Our children do not have mobile or electronic devices (only a family iPad with approved educational apps for school only, no texting or going on the web). Their friends do not call them and talk, they see each other at church or Bible study or homeschool outings (far more than most children see each other!) and they talk there, among the adults who could hear what they were talking about with no concern. We do not have diaries for ‘secret thoughts.” We want them to share those thoughts with us so we may guide them in a Biblical and Godly way. We do not believe in the world’s way of puffing up their ‘self esteem’ or manipulating them through psychology, we believe in teaching them the selfless and giving ways of Christ, to live and solve any problems they have. This is accomplished through trust and openness. And the Word of God! Proverbs 29:15b “but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Thanks for the great topic!

  5. Great post, Lisa! I do not have teenagers yet, but I am not too far off. I think this is excellent and Biblical. I especially like how you respect your children, but your are in charge. I like how you don’t just bull your way through-looking whether they want you too or not. You have them show you. Or you hold on to the thing until they do. It seems very wise.

    • I’m afraid I’m not convinced. My children are 12, 15, 17 and 19. I don’t want to embarrass them by giving specific examples, but I have not found the “invasion” of privacy to be a helpful parenting technique. On the contrary, it has been times when I have allowed them to keep “secrets” that the burden of those secrets has become too great and they have come to me in repentance. On the other hand, I have seen situations when their personal things have been investigated and it has created a rift with their parent, a lack of communication, and further deception. I truly believe that as parents we need to be careful to know our children and what makes them tick, and pray for wisdom to act accordingly. What works for one child in a family might alienate one of his or her siblings.
      Also, a 13 year old would most likely need more supervision than a 17 year old; they need to be allowed more freedom to make choices as they get older, while they are in the safety of the home, so that they aren’t bombarded by the possibilities in the “real world” once they leave.

      • Carol, I am definitely not trying to convince anyone of anything….just stating what I believe to be Biblical and how it works in our home. I totally agree with you that the older they get the more freedom (thus responsibility) they should have. And different things work with different kids, which is why the way you go about it is different with each relationship. But the basic principle is the same. They don’t have a right to demand their privacy. I am making the point that it’s the parents’ decision whether or not to allow privacy in certain areas and not the child’s.

        I thought I made it clear that we do allow our children to have privacy. I am not saying not to give it to them, but to use your own wisdom in those decisions and not be influenced by their manipulation.

        As far as creating a rift, it does happen in lots of areas. Like you said, know your child. Be willing to be humble, don’t overreact, talk it out and hold onto God’s Word when you’re not sure what to do.

        Thanks! Lisa~

  6. I absolutely agree lisa! couldn’t have put it a better way and when our children get older and more wise they will understand and be thankful for us doing that.

  7. I won’t give my children a cell phone until I believe they are responsible enough and mature enough to handle the phone properly. With the explosion of sexting and the repercussions for participating I wound not allow my children to hide their texts from me. They are still children and do not understand the lifelong implications of a thoughtless action. The reason that they have parents is to protect them from their own thoughtless actions.

  8. Thanks so much for this wisdom, Lisa!! Our oldest daughter is 13 and I think this will be valuable advice for me as we tread these waters in the coming years.

  9. Lisa, this is a lovely and loving post.

    Honestly, I think what many teens may be demanding is privacy, but what they really long for is respect. They want to have loving adults whom they can respect and who respect them. Sounds to me that’s exactly what you’re doing with your kids–respecting the wonderful persons they are and their precious place in your family.

    In my experience, what often leads to rebellion is a suspicious attitude displayed by parents. Clearly you try to foster a loving, trusting environment, and your kids respond to that. God bless you for sharing your experience!

    • Richella, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, I used privacy as the topic because that is what the moms I have talked with recently have had to figure out how to respond to. But you are so right, it is a lack of respect on both sides when the child is being demanding and the parent is being too hovering.

      It’s hard isn’t it? Because sometimes suspicion is warranted. We have certainly had our share of kids hiding things and Mom or Dad having to investigate. But we work to keep the lines of communication open and not just force our way in. Ultimately, we want them to trust us enough to share their problems with us, but if they don’t and we see a big problem coming we will step in and the child doesn’t have a right to cry, “I need my privacy!”

      But we also have to really hold back our desire to be controlling and manipulative ourselves. Every moment is a fresh opportunity to change the way we, as parents, are responding when trouble comes and teach our kids how to use God’s wisdom no matter how hard it seems.

      OK, I could go on about this all day. It’s such a blessing! Thanks my friend!!! Lisa~

  10. Interesting post. I do not have children but this topic interests me as I see more and more kids with phones and facebook profiles. I was wondering what was your attitude towards personal diaries – does the privacy you talk about here include that, too? I ask because think a diary is just a physical form of dreams, hopes, prayers, thoughts… and you said you value those as personal. Communication with others (ex. texts) can bring harm to other people or your children, but diary is, in my opinion, just a mind in a paper form and I would consider my kid’s diary as a very private thing. This, of course, excludes situations when I might think they are in great danger, as in: life danger..

    • Sana, yes! I would not read a diary. I wouldn’t read a diary. You explained it perfectly! Lisa~

  11. I love seeing the Bible verses to go along with this. As a teen, I was very manipulative, secretive, and while I was mature — I thought I was an adult and could do adult things. Literally all of this blew up in my face in very real world ways, not just a punishment from my parents, but lasting consequences. I was not a Christian then, but I am now. I am now married with one baby so I’m storing up all of this knowledge for the future. I did not trust my parents and they did not inspire me to trust them, so I want to do everything differently with my kids!
    I think it is very important that our children are deeply secure in their Christian beliefs and moral convictions. This will help them make wise choices and they will see where we are coming from when we make rules.
    You truly are a great inspiration as a mom and I love hearing all of your parenting advise.

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  13. In our house the only privacy a teen gets is when they are using the restroom and getting dressed. Outside of that I am curious what do they need privacy to do? They are not married, so they shouldn’t be doing the things God intended only for husband and wife. Now because there are seven people in this house we do provide ‘alone time’ in specified areas where each person can kick up their feet by themselves just to gather thoughts, take cat naps, etc. but these are in open areas where both my husband and I can see what is going on at any time. We have a couple areas outside in our small yard and a couple of areas inside. During those times, no one is to bother them. We provide books and other hobbies that they can work on while in these areas or they can just nap. NONE of our kids like writing so they don’t keep diaries, but if they did, what they write is between them and God. Anything they write will come to light in their behavior anyway. We trust the Lord to show us the behaviors that are undesirable in kids as he does with us (which honestly I don’t care to see LOL). If someone is sick or extremely tired they are allowed to sleep in their room, but we go check on them at those times. At our house bedrooms are not play areas and they aren’t allowed to play in them or just ‘hang out’. Bedrooms are for sleeping and getting dressed if the bathrooms are being used by others. As for going through their things, they don’t keep much in their room because most of what they have pertains to their hobbies and/or homeschooling which are kept outside of their rooms anyway. Our kids don’t have cell phones as yet and quite honestly neither do I. They can get one when they are on their own. We have had them and haven’t really used them much so we turned them off. We have two tablets and two laptops that we share and they have parental controls set up. I know most people would say this is strict, but honestly the reason we have become this strict is unfortunately my son got a hold of porn when he was 11 and that was a the hardest thing we ever had to deal with. He still suffers (very little) with occasional thoughts about what he saw. Why did this happen? Because I doubted myself and what I thought was Biblical. I listened to people telling me that I was being too strict with our son because I kept too close an eye on him that he was going to grow up to hate me or much worse he would get into it anyway. Now I am much more ‘strict’ and our family is thriving in a healthy way I never knew existed anymore. I just wish it didn’t come through that type of pain.

    So, the lesson I learned? When you feel strongly about something or it is really tugging at you and it goes against the mainstream of society and it lines up with the Bible it is most likely the Holy Spirit and you should pay heed. People will talk, look down on you but they are also the first ones to clear out when the problems hit.

  14. Sounds like good parenting to me. I agree with everything you have said!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  15. I love how you handled this topic! We have a 15-year old boy and a 13-year old girl. Because of our schedules, and our remote location, they do have cell phones, but they know that we monitor them, as necessary. They both tend to “spill their guts” when something is bothering them, so we generally don’t feel the need to investigate their texts, etc. We did give them strict guidelines when they received the phones and warned them thoroughly about how easy it is to hurt someone’s feelings in a text or email without meaning to. We don’t like closed doors, but do allow them to do so if they need some quiet time. Overall, when given the opportunity, we all tend to migrate to the same place in the house when we have activities that we are working on separately. It’s a nice feeling to know that your children could be in their room, the office or the kitchen to work, but they choose to be with my husband and I instead! 🙂