We came across an article today that got us thinking about when, if ever, it's appropriate for a parent to invade their child's privacy and snoop around. Parents ask us about this often, and really struggle with balancing limit-setting, independence-seeking, trust and respect for their child's privacy.
Kids this age are striving to create their own identity, to become the masters and mistresses of their own lives, and they deserve to be spared parental intrusion into areas they wish to keep private.- via ParentingAdolescents.com
While you may or may not agree with what the author states above, the truth is that there are real risks for the parent/child relationship when parents decide to snoop. Parents often talk with kids about their need to be trustworthy. It's just as important for parents to demonstrate trustworthiness to their children, and one way to model that behavior is to respect their right to increasing privacy as they get older.
With a young tween, it may make sense to have supervisory authority over their email and facebook accounts, and to share that with them. Whenever parents are going to access potentially private information, it's critical to be upfront with your tween about what she can reasonably expect to be shared with you. Limit setting and boundaries are still an important aspect to raising responsible kids. As they get older, you can begin to allow them more and more access to privacy, and then respect those limits to model your own trustworthiness.
We want adolescents to develop autonomy over their bodies, thoughts, beliefs, values and hopes. Trusting them to their age-appropriate privacy is one way to help them get there.