Megan M. Shaw
Assignment: Documented Argument Essay
Due Date: 11-30-2006
A Trusting Relationship Protects Privacy
Privacy. For teenagers, it is the right to lock their doors and keep secrets. To parents, however, privacy represents something much more serious than a lock on a diary. It is the invisible wall in their child’s mind that keeps them wondering what is going on behind those dark tinted sunglasses. Teenagers today are open with their friends and peers, but keep their life a closely guarded secret from their parents. They loudly protest that they have a right to privacy, but do they really? Is privacy a god-given right to each child, or is it a privilege given by parents?
In its June 2002 issue, Parade magazine conducted a survey for the mock “Teen Bill of Rights,” asking teens what they would include. It was no surprise that the number one item on the list was, “The right of teenagers to be secure in their persons, rooms, diaries and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures” (Giannetti and Sagarese 2).Teens feel as though it is their right as individuals to have privacy, and thereby be treated as adults. However, the simple fact remains that they are not adults. A child must earn privacy by demonstrating trustworthy and responsible behavior.
In their book, “What Are You Doing in There?” authors Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese, experts in adolescent parenting issues, state that the question to ask isn’t “Do I trust my child?” but “Does my child trust me?” They claim that mutual trust is “the best insurance policy against risky behavior.”
If teenagers trust their parents, then they are more likely to share important parts of their lives with them. However, if they do not trust them, then they will most likely hide behind locked doors and password-protected email accounts. But what does it take for teens to trust their parents? How do both children and parents make the crossover from Barbies to boys?
Parents who maintained a healthy relationship with their child while in elementary school often feel hurt and abandoned when their child reaches adolescent age and abruptly becomes distant and guarded instead of open and approachable. The key to maintaining that healthy relationship is communication. However, instead of waiting until the problems arise, parents should begin talking with their child early on and should explain the basic privacy rights that he or she has as an individual, but also how such privacy must be earned through proper behavior. If the child proves that he or she can be trusted, then privacy will naturally follow. But parents must also explain that it is their duty to protect their children. Should the child should begin to display negative behavior that could lead to a dangerous situation, then the privilege of privacy will be removed. If clear rules are established and boundaries placed, then there is a better likelihood that the child will abide by those rules.
When the lines of communication are opened in early adolescence, then the child is more likely to keep them open during later years. Children who feel as though they can trust their parents will voluntarily go to them for advice and guidance, or just to tell them how their day went. To some parents, such a relationship seems unlikely or even impossible. However, most teenagers say that they would be more likely to share information if their parents trusted them more and showed more interest in their lives.
Many parents make the mistake of waiting until their child reaches the driving age before taking an active role in his or her life. But studies shows that many of the problems facing today’s teenagers begin when they are in their early teens, and sometimes even before then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a survey in June of 2006 entitled “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance.” The nationwide survey, which was conducted with students from grades 9-12, found that 16.0% of students had smoked an entire cigarette before the age of 13, with 25.6% of students having drank a substantial amount of alcohol. Likewise, 8.7% had smoked marijuana while 6.2% of ninth grade students admitted to carrying a gun with them to school. Astonishingly, 17.9% confessed that they had seriously considered suicide with 10.4% actually having attempted to commit suicide. Of all the students surveyed, 34.3% of ninth graders said that they had already experienced sexual intercourse, 6.2% before the age of 13. Children aren’t staying children for very long. It is imperative that parents not wait until their child is a freshman in high school before developing a relationship.
As children grow into teenagers, they expand their individuality, discovering who they are and who they can become as a person. Privacy allows them the ability to make this discovery for themselves. Because they are often insecure about themselves, teenagers are hesitant to allow anyone, especially their parents, into the world that they have created. They feel the fierce urge to defend their privacy from any would-be invaders, often feeling threatened by questions and probing. In order to take their teenager off the defensive, parents must cultivate a non-threatening image. An over-eager parent can often question his or her teenager too much, sometimes pushing the teen even farther away.
It is imperative that teenagers have at least some form of comradeship with their parents, but parents must be careful that the teenager does not forget that they are parents, and thus, in control. All too often, parents are so desperate to gain their child’s trust that their child loses all respect for them as parents. A parent must learn to find the balance between parenthood and friendship.
However, when their child does not want to friends, much less tell share his or her deepest secrets with them, parents are at a lost of how to be involved in their child’s life. Unfortunately, many parents stoop to finding out things for themselves.
Nearly every household has experienced a shouting match over a ransacked sock drawer or an opened diary. Though parents will discover the information they were looking for, it is often not worth the price paid: the damage inflicted on the parent-child relationship, which can sometimes take up to years to recover from.
Still, many parents insist upon entering their child’s room under the pretense of putting away laundry or looking for dirty dishes. Most teens admit that they know what their parents are really there for, and that the pretense only adds to their resentment.
Same as teenagers can view their parents as threats to their privacy, some parents view their child’s attempt at privacy as a threat to family moral. If their child tried to hide the smallest thing from them, the parents’ suspicions are immediately aroused, often times thinking that their child is involved in some sort of sinister activity. The majority of time, unless accompanied by outright suspicious behavior or signs, teens are simply “asserting their developmental independence,” according to Elizabeth Pantley, author of “Perfect Parenting.”
One of the most-asked questions of parenting experts is, “When is it okay to invade my child’s privacy?” There is that point at which parents do need to step in and find out if their child is keeping something potentially dangerous from them. But where is the point? When do parents cross the line? Chris Crutcher, a licensed child and family therapist, says that before any “snooping” takes place, parents should sit down with their child and voice their concerns. But Crutcher stresses that the conversation should be two-way, if at all possible, and that parents rarely make any progress when lecturing. Only in extreme cases, when their child’s safety is in jeopardy, should parents cross the threshold and search their child’s bedroom. “If we want kids to respect privacy,” Crutcher states, “then we have to respect theirs.”
Headlines today are filled with stories of ordinary teenagers who participating in startling, sometimes horrifying, activities. One such headlines is:
Eighth-grader Charles Bishop crashes a four-seat Cessna airplane into a forty-two story Tampa building leaving behind a handwritten note explaining that his suicide mission intended to show his support for Osama bin Laden. The fifteen-year-old’s fate dumbfounded classmates, neighbors, teachers, and his mother. Patriotic, polite, an honor student with all A’s on his December report card, a flag bearer belting out The Star Spangled Banner, a kid who washed airplanes to finance flying lesson--- none of these descriptions belied a kamikaze-esque lunatic. January 7, 2002 (Giannetti and Sagarese 6).
Parents look at situations like that and use them as excuses to search their child’s room, saying that “the end justifies the means.” However, the fact remains that most teenagers aren’t suicidal. Most aren’t selling drugs. Most aren’t involved with thirty-year-old predators. Most teenagers are simply worried about the upcoming history test and who’s going to take them to the Spring dance. If parents work to cultivate a trusting relationship with their child, then both the chil and parents will be able to withstand whatever difficulties the teen years may throw at them. Parents will be able to be involved in their child’s life and their child will be able to lock the bedroom door.