There is an enormous amount of pressure on parents to keep tabs on everything their teen does- especially online. But a little bit of privacy can be a good thing when it comes to healthy adolescent development.
The mall, the skate park, the beach, the drive-in, the soda fountain. These aren’t just spaces where generations of teenagers have hung out- they are where we *grew up*. Spaces where we got our hearts broken and found out we could survive, where we began testing out our personal ethics, and had opportunities to start making adult decisions without an adult on standby nearby. Danger was present (and had serious consequences for some teens) but the exposure to the adult problems and consequences (and the safety to return home or call in a trusted adult) were a big part of the transition into adulthood that is the work of adolescence. As culture shifts, it’s important we leave space for older kids and teens to have some privacy in the space where they are most commonly meeting up: the internet.
Jo Langford – a therapist and sex educator, teaches more about this concept in his podcast APPropriate, and I can’t recommend highly enough his episode on Instagram, which discusses how parents and teens can collaborate to create a social media ethic that leaves space for parents to do some monitoring and kids to have space to do the work of growing up. After you’ve checked out the podcast- be sure and download his free Family Internet Contract– a resource for collaboratively creating guidelines to keep kids safe online.
Authority based rules (i.e. “I know what’s best so this IS the rule”) are at times appropriate and important- especially with younger kids. As kids grow, though, it’s important to begin helping them develop tools to navigate the complex adult word. Crating and agreeing to certain standards- as well as encouraging the consideration of a “personal media ethic” can help keep teens safe online while growing independence and self-responsibility.