Our always connected culture continues to explode with new gadgets, devices and sites that anyone can get to in an instant. You folks living with teens know this first hand, and if you are a responsible parent, I'm sure this causes concern on a routine basis.
"Just what is my teen viewing, exploring, listening to, or posting somewhere that is filling his mind with who knows what?" Allow me to revisit a topic that continues to bring concern to today's parents.
Teenagers wanting privacy is certainly nothing new. What has changed is that today, a teen alone in his room may no longer mean that he's alone. Teens with Internet access have countless ways to communicate with friends, acquaintances, and yes even strangers. And let us not forget that, of course, it's no longer what Teen Joe is doing in his room with the door closed. Anywhere Joe goes, so goes his cell. He can be exploring or sharing inappropriate stuff anywhere that he finds a little privacy. With today's teens? Often they don't even need the privacy. So how do parents address teens wanting privacy?
Parents need to realize that there is a huge difference between privacy and secrecy. If your teen constantly locks his bedroom door, says "hang on" every time you knock, and looks rather sheepish when he finally opens the door, it's time to act. Sit down and talk with your son or daughter. Teens need privacy, but such time alone needs to come with trust and responsibility. If for example, your son gives you the "Hey, but this is MY room" business, give him the mortgage or rent-due statement and tell him you'll take cash or check. If secrecy seems to be the norm with your teen, you may have to make some tough decisions about availability of the TV or Internet access in his room.
It's the same with the cell or tablet. Does Joe Teen put it away every other time you enter his personal bubble? Tell him right then and there if secrecy of the cell seems to be a problem, the cell is a luxurynot a necessity.
If secrecy doesn't seem to be an issue but too much private time is, address that as well. "You know we want to respect your privacy, but you are still a part of this family." Set guidelines as to how much time your teen spends in his room. Again, if Joe Teen becomes defensive, you have to be a bit creative.
"Dad, I want to take Susie out this weekend. Can I borrow the car and a little spending money until I get paid?"
"Uh, sorry, but I can't lend out my car and money to strangers. What is your name again?" You get the point and so will your teen.
Privacy is not only normal, but a healthy aspect of growing up. However, there is a difference between quiet time alone and withdrawal. If your teenager is spending excessive time alone and seems to be withdrawing from you and others, get help. Such alienation may be a sign of depression or other problems that need to be addressed.
Bryan Greeson is a nationally certified School Psychologist and serves as the Director of Special Services in York School District One.