Is it okay to invade your child’s privacy?

An Aussie reader of my columns posted a note on my Facebook wall asking for input from other parents as to whether or not it was okay to go through your kid’s personal diary to see what they were up to. It sparked an interesting debate; with some parents saying it was a definite no-no, while others believed that it was acceptable under extreme circumstances.

The professional input, from Educational Psychologist, Leila Gafoor, was that your child’s privacy has to be respected at all cost, and an intervention as suggested should only be considered in an extreme situation and as a last resort.

Here’s the thing. Good effective communication is the key to the success of any relationship, be it between you and your child, in business or in love. If you can articulate your thoughts and emotions in a respectful and fearless environment, you can hear each other and resolve issues in a win-win way.

This is why the formative years are absolutely critical in establishing that bond of trust between you and your children. What we need to do as parents is to begin cultivating that trust and open communication from birth. As babies they trust us implicitly because they don’t know any better and frankly they don’t have much of a choice, they know you’ll catch them if they fall. So why should it have to change as they grow older.

In my view parenting is not an option, it’s a responsibility. Establishing a trusting, safe and mutually respectful relationship will ensure that when the faecal matter hits the fan, your baby girl would come to you first and tell you she might be pregnant, instead of going to a friend who’s had a few abortions. All kids will be faced with tough choices involving peer pressure. Issues like drug use, sexual indulgences, alcohol etc. will come up whether you’re Mother Theresa’s kid or Charlie Sheen’s.

As for the invasion of your child’s diary, the trust issue is sacrosanct. It is a line that once crossed will be very hard to repair. However, one comment on the issue summed it up nicely for me. If you suspected your kid was doing drugs and was showing signs of potentially fatalistic behaviour, would you invade their diary to get their dealer’s contact details, or would you risk fetching their lifeless body from the dealer eventually?

Sure it’s an extreme scenario but that’s the point. In my opinion respect privacy, but not at the expense of a potentially fatal or extreme outcome.

But what then of children’s rights? A while ago I wrote about a teenager being allowed to “divorce” her parents – a sure sign that children’s rights have come a long way since the days of yore when they were legally considered as “property” of their fathers. Again there were extreme extenuating circumstances. How do you balance a child’s intrinsic rights, to that of the rights that are inherent to your parental responsibilities, which above all is to protect and nurture them?

Is it ever okay to invade your kid's privacy? Would you read their diaries?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

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