This article is courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine.
Most parents want their teens to have some freedom. But in today's world, some freedoms can be unhealthy, harmful, and even dangerous. Without a doubt, parents need to establish proper boundaries for their teens. And, at the same time, kids want and actually need some privacy. So how can you balance independence with your parental right to invade their space?
Here are some facts about today's teens that can serve as foundational points:
- If your son is on a computer without an Internet filter to block porn sites, he's probably "taking a peek" at sexual Web sites. Guys are wired that way because God created males to be visual creatures.
- Teens are curious. They naturally want to know about things their parents consider unacceptable. In some cases, telling them not to do something may actually be taken as a dare.
- Media exposes girls to various morals, cultural messages, and lifestyles. Images and sexual ideas that were once taboo are now perfectly acceptable in a secular world.
- Adolescents get mixed messages as they process what the church says, what their parents say, and what the media says. They long to fit in socially with their friends, which adds to their confusion.
Early adolescence is a time of concrete thinking. Acting on impulse is the norm, and little thought goes into evaluating consequences. Media reports highlight many of the problems and dangers teens (and parents) might face.
So, how far is too far when it comes to spying on your teenagers' habits? How can you know the difference between "what you need to know" and when to give your kid more space? Here are some basic guidelines:
- Follow your instincts. If you suspect something's wrong, you are usually right. Even if you are wrong, it's always best to err on the side of safety. In addition to Internet issues, this would include cell phone usage and searching rooms or personal items.
- It is important to have a good handle on the Internet-even if there are no signs of a problem. Parents should know all their teens' passwords and should monitor their social networking randomly. If they show a lack of responsibility, take them off all networks for a month or so.
- Insist that you be added as a "friend" so you can view their status, the language they use, and the pictures they post. Again, if they show a lack of maturity, do not pay for their Internet access.
- Invest in good Internet filtering/blocking software for the computer. Make sure the computer is in a common room with the screen visible from different angles.
- Occasionally, view their browser history. Do your homework by becoming savvy regarding all the computer commands, networks, and Web sites that you allow your teen to use.
- Let your teens know you are on their side. You want to let them have some privacy, but God has entrusted their safety to you. Say something like, "I really don't want to control you. I truly want to trust you, but you have to show me that I can trust you."
Someone has said that parents spend too much time "correcting and too little time connecting" with their kids. Be intentional about giving affirmation and encouragement for every correction.
Bite your tongue when you're tempted to lecture and learn to listen a little better. You can learn about their world best by listening more than talking. Plus, taking time out to be with them says, "You are important in my life, and I enjoy being with you."
Finally, if you sense that your teen's actions might be out of control, seek help. Consult a trusted pastor, a professional Christian counselor, or an0ther community resource. Often God speaks through sermons, through His Word, through a youth pastor, or other godly adults. Don't hesitate to get an assessment of your situation. When necessary, consult a doctor who specializes in adolescents because God also can work through doctors and medication.
Above all, pray for guidance and direction in choosing the best help for your teen. Hopefully you will find a good balance regarding privacy and healthy parental "snooping" so you can lead your teen toward a healthier future.