General Question

Dutchess12's avatar

Do you think it's wise for a parent to read their teenaged children's diaries?

Asked by Dutchess12 (1575points) April 7th, 2009

I personally think you’d be crazy not to. Now, what you do with the information you glean is a different story—your reaction shows if you’re a good parent, a mediocre parent, or a bad parent. Say you read that your 13 year old daughter is thinking of having sex with her 14 year old boyfriend. I think a good parent would take a deep breath, then patiently bide her/his time—days even, until the subject of sex came up “naturally”—then when there is an opening take the opportunity to share your thoughts on sex, birth control, decisions, the emotional impact, etc. A bad parent, at the other end of the spectrum, would freak out, take the diary and throw it in the girls face, scream that she’s a slut and whatever, and destroy whatever fragile bond they might have had left at that point…those are the two ends of the spectrum, IMO.

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115 Answers

3or4monsters's avatar

I cannot condone the invasion of privacy in the least, even with their best interests at heart. A good parent wouldn’t have to do that.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

When I was about 14 or 15, I think, my mother read my journal. She did not like what she came across in it and completely freaked out on me. To make matters worse, she literally hunted me down when I was out with friends at the time and made me leave. It was beyond humiliating and she could not have handled the situation any worse than what she did. It wasn’t about having sex, but it was about other things that the typical teenager goes through.

I blew up, right back at her, shut completely down and didn’t say one word to her for weeks. Then, when I did choose to bring it up, I screamed at her because it’s what she did to me. It almost ruined our entire relationship.

Now that I’m older I realize she was just scared, but she definitely should have handled it very differently. She should not have read my journal in the first place and any parent that has any type of concern needs to realize that they only have to create a comfortable connection, so they can talk to their child about anything, so that the child feels safe doing so.

hitomi's avatar

I can’t agree with violating someone’s privacy. I also think that if you HAVE to read your child’s diary in order to know what is going on in their life you have messed up….You should be able to ask and trust the answers and trust that they will talk to you about things. Also, at some point you have to have faith that you have given them the skills to make good decisions without violating their privacy in order to know what they’re doing.

I understand that you can’t guarantee that your child will tell the truth, but if you violate their trust by reading something that’s private you won’t EVER be able to trust them.

PS. They’ll also find new ways to keep secrets from you.

tinyfaery's avatar

Only if you want to violate their trust.

Dutchess12's avatar

@3or4monsters I agree with the sentiment, and to that end I think the protection of that privacy is of the utmost importance, not to be shared with another living soul, unless you’re seeing something very, very serious coming on—a crime, or severe drug use or something. But…let’s take it to the extreme. What if your child commits suicide, and after the fact you look into the thoughts they had written down, and it was all right there for you to see it coming…but in the name of not invading their privacy you didn’t….see it. Could you justify the sentiment then?

Dutchess12's avatar

@DrasticDreamer A perfect example of what I meant in my qualifying statements, about good parents v bad parents. As the parent of a teenager you have to be prepared, 24/7, to take a deep breath, step back and count to a million! Please see my response to 3 or 4 monsters.

Dutchess12's avatar

@hitomi “They’ll find ways to keep secrets about you”—yeah—if they know you got the info from poking around their room. See my qualifying comments.

Dutchess12's avatar

@tinyfaery I’m just gonna cut and past my response to 3 or 4 Monsters. I said, ”@3or4monsters I agree with the sentiment, and to that end I think the protection of that privacy is of the utmost importance, not to be shared with another living soul, unless you’re seeing something very, very serious coming on—a crime, or severe drug use or something. But…let’s take it to the extreme. What if your child commits suicide, and after the fact you look into the thoughts they had written down, and it was all right there for you to see it coming…but in the name of not invading their privacy you didn’t….see it. Could you justify the sentiment then?”

Jeruba's avatar

I’m shocked at the idea. Everyone is entitled to privacy. How could I teach my kids to respect mine if I didn’t respect theirs?

I’d rather have my kids trust me. Then I don’t have to pry at all. If something is important, they tell me.

MissAusten's avatar

I think a parent should only resort to this sort of invasion of privacy if the child has already completely shut out all attempts at communication and the parents have reason to think the child may be in real danger. Reading a teenager’s journal is only going to make matters worse.

I feel that a good parent would be observant enough to know if something is going on in the child’s life, already have set the standard for open communication with support (and without judging), and a willingness to spend time with the child. This isn’t something you can do overnight, but has to be a relationship “habit” that responsible parents set into motion years before the child becomes a moody, rebelious teen trying to prove independence from the parents.

If I suspected my child were having problems and my attempts to let the child talk to me about it failed, I would seek professional help rather than take a step that would probably make matters worse. Unless, as I said, I had good reason to believe the child’s life was in danger. Otherwise, there’s no excuse.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Jeruba Just curious…how old are your kids?

Dutchess12's avatar

@MissAusten Good answer. The thing is…the kid doesn’t HAVE to know that you’re reading their real thoughts. You can see what’s going on, then wait for a “natural” moment to happen, where that kind of thing can be discussed. Looking back on your teenagerhood—did your parents always know exactly what was going on with you?

Jeruba's avatar

They are 25 and 22 now, and they still confide in me to an amazing extent. I think I know way more about their personal lives than most parents do (and at least twenty times as much as my parents knew about me), and I have never pried into their private spaces.

I also always had lots of other ways of knowing what was going on with them. I didn’t grow up reading Sherlock Holmes without learning a few things.

YARNLADY's avatar

I thinkk it is the parents duty to do everything they can to protect their children. If reading their diary is part of that, than by all means. My sister and other parents I know with young children insist on having access to their children’s online activities as well. Hubby has helped them set up a program that allows the parents to “eavesdrop” on their computers at all times.

By the way, these same parents are as open and honest with their children in their lives as well. The children participate in decisions about vacations, savings, and where to live. They make it a two way exchange as much as possible.

Mr_M's avatar

You know your child. If your child is the type to get into situations she can’t get herself out of, then read the diary. Please.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Jeruba :) Cool! The fact is, my kids never kept diaries! They were pretty open with me too…like, when my yougest daughter was 14 she came to me and told me she was ready to become intimate with her 15 year old boyfriend. Boy, I cried! And she just patted me! But….gave her the best advice I could give her. And she listened. She’s 23 now, talking of marriage (not to the same kid, of course!) But that was her, and that was us. I’m just thinking that there are kids out there who…don’t have the confidence to confide in their parents. That could be because they don’t have a good and trusting relationship with their parents or it could be just because that’s the kind of kid they are—very private. I wish I had known more of what was going through my oldest daughter’s head….

arnbev959's avatar

It is wrong to read another person’s private diary. A good parent will not have to snoop through their kid’s room in order to have a general idea what their kid is up to. Instead, they would just ask.

Teenagers will keep secrets from their parents. But it’s more important to maintain an open, honest relationship where the teenager can trust his or her parents to respect their privacy than it is to know everything that your kid does and feels. Violation of trust is hard to mend.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Mr_M Best answer yet! Wonderful!! Yes, you absolutely have to consider the personality type of the child…is it in their nature to be very open and honest with you, or is it in their nature to be very private…

Dutchess12's avatar

@petethepothead “Wrong” is relative. It’s “wrong” to lie, too. But if a girl came screaming into your house, screaming that a man is after her to hurt her, and you hide her in your closet, and the man comes to your door 5 minutes later asking if you’ve seen her, and you say, “Nope.” Well, you just lied, even though lying is wrong. I’m not just talking about “people” BTW. I’m talking about people you love and have a huge responsibility for…again, I’m going to cut and past and previous response I gave: “I agree with the sentiment, and to that end I think the protection of that privacy is of the utmost importance, not to be shared with another living soul, unless you’re seeing something very, very serious coming on—a crime, or severe drug use or something. But…let’s take it to the extreme. What if your child commits suicide, and after the fact you look into the thoughts they had written down, and it was all right there for you to see it coming…but in the name of not invading their privacy you didn’t….see it. Could you justify the sentiment then?”

Dutchess12's avatar

@YARNLADY There ya go! Is reading their diary any different than knowing what’s going on online??

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess12 The very same thing in my opinion.

MissAusten's avatar

@Dutchess Yes, my mom always knew what was going on with me. She had set the standard years before I was a teen that I could talk to her about anything. She was excellent at being understanding, listening, and not telling me what to do or how to fix things myself. She basically taught me to trust my own judgement and be able to rely on her for help if and when I needed it. I never hesitated to talk to her about anything, even into my college years. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that her mental health deteriorating these past few years has been so sad.

I also think that a parent who expects to get away with reading a child’s journal thinks the kid will never figure it out, they’re fooling themselves. If you have to wait until you read that your kid is contemplating sex, alcohol, drugs, or suicide to discuss those things, you’ve waited too long to have those talks. My daughter is ten, and we’ve already talked about sex, drugs, and drinking (in an age-appropriate way, of course).

Anyone on the fence about this issue or considering reading a teenager’s diary should first read the book Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman. You’ll think twice about how you approach these issues and communicating with a teenager. It’s geared more toward girls, but does discuss boys as well as a resource list for parents of boys.

arnbev959's avatar

Fair enough. How about “It is a violation of a person’s privacy to read that person’s private diary.”?

There should be plenty of other warning signs if your child is suicidal.

Dorkgirl's avatar

Well, I won’t be popular here, but I am the parent of a now adult child. I did look around his room, in his backpack, etc. Typically I found nothing that surpised me or caused me too much concern. But, I did find his stash of pot and I did find his porn. I usually left things where they were and when the time seemed right we talked about it.
I did take the porn that I thought was especially offensive—not just Playboy but more hardcore stuff—and this was an opportunity for my husband to have a discussion with our son about how women are portrayed in pornography, respect, expectations, etc.
With the pot, we made it clear that we were not going to tolerate him smoking pot.
My son and I have a good, open relationship and talk about many things. This did not damage our trust and he’s grown into a reasonsible adult who usually makes smart choices.
I know this is not what many Flutherites will agree with, but it worked for us.
I agree with @Dutchess12 that the approach upon finding the information has much to do with how things play out.
I also believe that thinking that you will know what’s happening in your child’s life and that they will share with you when they are ready, etc. is naive. No offense intended to those of you with kids who have made this approach work.

aviona's avatar

I just exited my teenage years. Luckily I had a fairly good, open relationship with my parents. If I knew they were reading my journal, I would have been pretty pissed! Not only for what they were finding out, but just for violating my trust like @tinyfaery said.

cak's avatar

Here’s one situation where things look great. Daughter is a cheerleader, straight A’s, seems to tell parents everything and stories check out, too. She is where she says she will be and all is going great, right? No. My sister was starting to cut school, but only the times when she knew she would get away with it. She started drinking, but was able to hide it. She smoked, but you had to be completely blind not to see it – unless you were my parents – they just weren’t around when she came home. By the time they would arrive, she had swam, showered and brushed her teeth several times.

What did I see – the smoking. My sister was and is an adept liar. She hid everything. What she hid the most was a lot of her confusion and a lot of fear. By the time things were spiraling out of control, it was too late. She was doing drugs by that time.

My sister wasn’t a bad child. She was and is, mentally ill. She is bipolar, with a serious depressive condition. She also goes through bouts of extreme paranoia. No one could have seen what she was heading for, if you believed everything she told you, which was very hard not to believe – until she lost control, she was the daughter that everyone wanted.

If you have a suspicion, read the journal. My children understand that for their safety, I will do what is necessary. It doesn’t mean I plan weekly raids, it means that I listen and watch, closely. I will never promise my children that I will not snoop.

Dorkgirl's avatar

@aviona there’s a violation of trust, too from your parent’s side if you are engaging in dangerous, foolish, unhealthy activities. Trust is a two-way street and all parties need to earn it and then keep it.

arnbev959's avatar

In response to a different point:
There is a huge difference between online monitoring and reading a private journal. Kids typically know that the computer has monitoring software installed. (If they do not it is just as huge a violation of privacy.) Journals are private. Someone who keeps a journal does not anticipate that someone else will be reading it.

aviona's avatar

@Dorkgirl true, I suppose, but that wasn’t happening in my case. Plus, a diary is a diary…

Dorkgirl's avatar

@cak I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I agree with your final paragraph. I did not look at my son’s stuff all the time, only when I had an inkling that something was up.

cak's avatar

@Dorkgirl – I think you handled it in such a respectful manner – really. I like how you didn’t pounce (I know some moms that pounce…kids walk in the door and boom…bear trap!) you waited and approached the subject at the right time. I think that’s great.

It’s such a tough issue. It’s hard to know the right thing to do, but my deciding factor is, what am I doing to protect my child(ren)?

luckily, my sister is on a better track, now. She’s struggling right now – but I am so very proud of her!

Dorkgirl's avatar

@aviona I suppose my perspective is different from yours as a parent and not a recent teen. I certainly understand your sense of violation but wait until you have kids of your own and see if you feel differently. For your sake, I’m glad that your parents apparently did not read your diary and that your trust is intact.

I never kept a diary and I hid lots of stuff from my parents long before the internet. If they wanted to find things out they would have had to go through my car to find my stash or listen in on my phone calls. My parents were oblivious to much of what I did and who I did it with. It might have been good if they looked through my stuff and had some frank discussions with me about my choices and behavior. I came through okay, but things might have been a little different.

Facade's avatar

If they know their kid is a good kid, then they have no reason to read their diary. If the suspect a troubled kid (depression, crimes, promiscuity, etc.), then they should read it in order to help the kid.

Dorkgirl's avatar

@facade—I think my kid was a pretty good kid. I also know that kids do stupid stuff, try to hide it and want to get away with stuff. As @cak said, it’s my job as a parent to keep an eye on them and prevent them from being promiscuious, depressed, or engaging in illegal activities. I’d rather read my kid’s diary or look in his backpack, than have to bail him out of jail after he’s done something incredibly stupid and permanently scarring.

Dutchess12's avatar

@petethepothead I’d think there’d be plenty of warnings too….but..it always seems to take parents by surprise. IDK. Never come close to that situation. I just know that if it happened, I’d be killing myself if…there had been something I could have done, someway I could have known, but didn’t take the chance.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Dorkgirl My thoughts too….everyone likes to think their kids will be perfectly open and honest with them, but we all need to look back on our own teenage years…how perfectly open and honest were we with OUR parents?

Dutchess12's avatar

@aviona Maybe they DID read your diary!

aviona's avatar

@Dutchess12 :: true, maybe that’s why our relationship was so open! Haha.

Dutchess12's avatar

@aviona LOL! So open because they just seemed to “know things” maybe? I think it’s important in many cases to protect the sources of your information….

laureth's avatar

My mom read mine, and freaked the heck out – even though I was totally a good kid. It taught me to not keep a diary, that grownups weren’t trustworthy, and that I would have to spend my life guarded against others. If these are the things you want your kid to learn, by all means, start snooping.

What it didn’t do: make me want to share my life with my mom, or change anything I was doing (I wasn’t doing anything bad). It only bred resentment.

arnbev959's avatar

I’m going to find a new place to keep my journal. Just in case.

Dutchess12's avatar

@petethepothead They anticipate that no one will be reading it….so they write things they would not otherwise tell or share with anyone….which are exactly the things a parent may need to know. I think it would be unwise of a parent to freak out over every little thing. Not everything needs to be addressed. I also think it would be unwise for a parent to freak out over BIG things….they need to be addressed, but not in a freak out manner. Too late! I already read it! I know what you’re doing next summer!!

Dutchess12's avatar

@laureth Please read what I wrote in the extra. The main thing is…how a parent handles what they learn.

eager_to_know's avatar

No. I don’t. But I do think generating a good sense of trust and an open line of communicated is definitely important. If your child trusts you completely then they won’t care if you read their diary because they will have already talked to you about the juicy stuff.

DrBill's avatar

There is one point that has not been considered (yes, I read the responses), and that is the fact that “kids lie” even in their own diary. The diary is their own private world and sometimes they write what they dream of happening, and even the facts, are told from their point of view.

If her secret crush looks at her for a ½ second as they pass in the hall between classes, it may be relayed as a romantic date in her diary. By the same token, if the class clown asked her out for dinner and a dance, it may be relayed to her dairy as ‘that creep tried to talk to me’

Bottom line, if you pay attention, your kids will tell you by words and actions, more than their diary ever will. And if they come to you about something, don’t tell them who’s at fault, tell them how to fix their problem. Then they will come to you again when they have another problem.

laureth's avatar

@Dutchess12 – I read that, yeah. Freaking out is very much the wrong thing for a parent to do, true, but think of it this way: would a calm discussion, like, “Honey, I was just reading your diary the other day, and I was curious about what you wrote…” go over well? No, it would not. The kid would still feel violated. And even if a parent didn’t admit to reading the diary and just “casually” kept bringing up whatever issues the kid wrote about that week, the kid would figure it out, and the unspoken “I read your diary” is even creepier and less honest. I just can’t see it ending well.

casheroo's avatar

I can’t imagine ever reading my child’s diary, if he had one.

The only circumstance I’d read it, is if he completely shut down, and I was concerned. I have a history of major depression and I’d fear my son wouldn’t want to tell me if he was suffering. I can’t imagine not seeing other signs and symptoms though.
People need their privacy, they need to vent, they need to just pour their heart out.

My parents read mine, when I was 16. I wrote in it about kissing guys, but apparently the way I wrote it was as if I was having sex with them…I’m not sure exactly what I wrote, but my mother beat the crap out of me for it. It was awful, and it took me a long time to begin to write my feelings down again.I wish they had never done that, it broke my relationship with my parents for a couple years. We’ve since mended our relationship. But, my mother still doesn’t think what she did was wrong, and that bothers me.

aviona's avatar

@casheroo that’s awful, especially because diaries are supposed to be a safe sanctuary—a place outside of our minds where we can write down our feelings get everything out. I’m sorry that happened to you and that it hindered your writing afterward.

It must be strange for you to imagine your son writing, he’s an infant, right?

boffin's avatar

No need to read the actual diary.
Click on the kids “My Space” page and read between the lines…
This should give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on inside the mind .…

Dutchess12's avatar

@laureth I hear you….being a parent involves a LOT of acting and a LOT of restraint and keeping your mouth closed. And trying to “casually” bring an issue up “over and over” is just as big a flag as saying, “I already know about this!!” It’s very, very tricky—and can be very very important.

casheroo's avatar

@aviona lol yeah, he’s a toddler. so it is hard to imagine it, but it’ll happen one day!

aviona's avatar

kissin girls!

or boys

Dutchess12's avatar

@aviona O have fun!! Great time ahead! Srsly!! :)

RedPowerLady's avatar

To be completely honest I think I would read my child’s journal. Now I want to say I wouldn’t do it for fun. Only out of concern. And only after open communication has been tried. Also I am a very open person when it comes to these things. I would tell my children that if I come across their diary I would read it. I would also tell them after I read it.

I work with teens and I know how hard their lives can be. And how unsafe their lives can be. Also I know that even the best kids lie to their parents. Sometimes dangerously so. This venue of reading a child’s journal might be an active way to prevent tragedy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think it’s crazy to NOT read it as I’m not a 12 year old who wants to read other people’s, including my children’s, thoughts…I also believe that it is very important for a developing child/teenager to have a space to pour their private thoughts/ideas into, to feel they have their own space to do that and it is their right to not have that space invalidated which is what you’d be doing by reading it…besides if you do read it and there’s something in there that bothers you, you can’t really discuss it because then you’d be called a horrible person and also because it might not be true, in reality, or it just might be their perception of a situation you shouldn’t poke around in as they didn’t tell you about it in the first place

Zaku's avatar

No. Reading diaries without permission should be a severely punishable offense. Just having my mom be honest with me that she or my dad might read my diary, when I was a kid, showed me that humans won’t allow even their children the right to write down their own private thoughts, and that sucks, and impacted my life.

funky_princess's avatar

NO!! A parent should never read their childs diary! Imagine how you would feel if you found out your mother read your diary! Everyone needs their privacy. And if you did read something bad how could you possibly ask your child about it without confessing you have been reading their diary, and if you child found out then i think they would lose all trust in you, which you do not want, if you child needs help you have to trust that he/she would come to you for advice :) xxx

Amoebic's avatar

When my family members read my (rather tame, but rather private) journal as a child, I immediately stopped using it. In fact, I reacted by quietly going into the bathroom, tearing out all of the pages, setting them on fire, and flushing them down the toilet. Dramatic, but not too terribly unlike how my sense of privacy felt as an emotionally vulnerable kid.

From that point on abhorred the idea of keeping my personal thoughts anywhere that can be discovered. I learned that I needed to be more secretive and better at hiding things if I wanted to retain any semblance of privacy. Do you really want to encourage that?

mzgator's avatar

I will do what ever is necessary to protect my daughter. That is my job. I am totally upfront and honest about it with her. She knows and has been told that if I see or suspect any behavior which causes me concern for her safety and health I will intervene in any way I feel appropriate as long as I am responsible for her and as long as she lives with me. She is fifteen and is a great kid. I have no suspicions. I would notcread a diary, although age doesn’t have one, for my entertainment. I do monitor her computer usage. She has a very nice laptop which was given to her by me. It was a brand new one which she picked out. She knew when we bought it, that it could be taken by me or her dad and checked. Anytime we felt like it was appropriate to do so. That was the price she had to pay to have it. She has a car, which she will be able to drive within the year. The car is mine. She will be able to use it as she likes unless I suspect she is abusing the privelage by drinking, speeding etc. The car can and will be searched if I feel it needs to be. She has all of the privacy she needs until her actions show she needs some help. We are very close and open with each other. She likes to say that I am one of her best friends, and that is great, but in the end I am her parent. I take my job seriously.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I agree with the above comment. My children are very important to me and if that means I need to take a peek in a diary to see if there’s anything dangerous going on, then so be it. I will not just come out and say “hey, I saw where you wrote about blah blah in your diary…” No. But I will find a way to approach and hopefully resolve any issues. A good parent would feel it was their duty to watch over their babies. Even if it means a little invasion of privacy.

tinyfaery's avatar

In my experience, if you pry into your child’s life they just become better at hiding things.

filmfann's avatar

I think this proves that people with no children have all the answers about child-rearing, because their answers were never tested.
After raising 3 kids, I have to say I know less about raising kids than I did when I started.

tinyfaery's avatar

Except I worked for 6 years with adolescents whose parents had no fucking idea what they were doing. Just because I didn’t reproduce DOES NOT mean I don’t know what it takes to raise a child.

laureth's avatar

@filmfann – Some people may not have kids, but I bet all of us were kids at one point.

mzgator's avatar

I was the most intelligent, informed and perfect parent BEFORE I actually became one. When they put my daughter in my arms, I realized I knew nothing at all. I was eager to learn and grow as a mother. I knew and still know I have a lot to learn, and I am not perfect. I try my best, and I love her. She is my priority. In the end, I only hope she thinks I did a good job.

adreamofautumn's avatar

I’m not a parent, but I hope when I am I am like my mum. My mother has a firmly implemented “do not violate the trust” policy unless it is absolutely necessary. The one time my dad’s girlfriend had the nerve to read my journal my mother banned her from our property and made her pick us up on the street if she was picking us up because my mother could not agree with her blatant disregard for my personal space and privacy as well as her complete and total lack of faith and trust in me. The only time I can recall my mother every actively “snooping” it wasn’t snooping. It was my sister’s myspace, which she left open to the public online, and even then my mother talked to her about it calmly and rationally and told her she bothered to look for her myspace because she was concerned about some rumors she had heard. Had it not be free for all to read online she would have not read it. My mother trusts that she raised good children who can make good decisions and who trust her enough to go and speak to her when we are struggling to make the “right” choice. I honestly hope I can remember that someday when I have kids of my own.

Dutchess12's avatar

@RedPowerLady I understand you thoughts about ‘fessing up to your kids but my thoughts are….do NOT tell your children that you read their diary. I mean, think about it…what would YOUR reaction be? You get far more secretive and go further underground, not to mention the feelings of betrayal. Not everything needs to be known.

Dutchess12's avatar

@adreamofautumn Your dad’s GF read your diary?? As your mother, I would have flipped out too. It’s one thing to read your kid’s diary just to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s really going on in their lives…it’s another to read it to be snooping, or maybe just to dig up dirt. I’da shot her!

Dutchess12's avatar

@funky_princess In response to how could you start a discussion with your child about something you’ve read in their diary…please read the more. If you listen to your kids and are in the habit of talking to them the chance to discuss whatever WILL come up eventually and naturally. Chances are, if it’s something important on their minds, or something they’re thinking about doing or ARE doing, it’s probably at the forefront of their minds anyway and they may make oblique comments relating to it, not even realizing what they’re saying. If you’re listening carefully to your kids you’ll pick up on it and might be able to start a conversation with it….it’s tricky.

Dutchess12's avatar

@filmfann Oh—the regrets, too. The things I wish I’d done or not done….

Dutchess12's avatar

@tinyfaery IF they know what you’re doing…...why would they have to know?

Dutchess12's avatar

@mzgator You go!! I agree…..one should not pry into the child’s life unless you feel like something is going on, then it’d be no holds barred for me. Like someone said, you know your kid. You know better than anyone if they’re in a quandary or confusion even if they haven’t told you.

Dutchess12's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Precisely my thoughts. So many people here seem to be assuming that it would somehow be obvious that you were checking things out. It doesn’t have to be.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Amoebic I don’t blame you. I also learned right early not to put ANYTHING in writing that I wouldn’t want other people to read—that includes here, anywhere.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ooh, lying to your child, even better.

filmfann's avatar

I know this isn’t an easy concept, but it is important to remember that as a parent, you are their provider, guidence, teacher, and protector. You are not their friend. You love your kids with all your heart, but you need to avoid being an enabler. Lying to your children is sometimes necessary. It’s not easy, and it’s not what anyone wants to do, but you have to lie sometimes to guide them. It’s the dirty work of proper parenting.

tinyfaery's avatar

@filmfann Except that I have seen what this type of behavior does to a child. Every single kid that came through our facility had no trust in their parents. Why? One of the common factors were that their parents lied to them, violated their privacy, etc.

When I was kid, I was not much different than the kids I counseled. I didn’t end up in facility because I learned early not to trust my parents. I kept EVERYTHING from them, and I still do. Just sayin’.

ShauneP82's avatar

Only if you are suspicious of something that could endanger them.

MissAusten's avatar

@Dutchess12 I don’t understand why you’d have to read a teen’s diary in order to talk to the teen about subjects when they bring those subjects up in a casual kind of way. Can’t you still discuss those things without the invasion of privacy in the first place? Unless I’m misunderstanding you, you are suggesting that parents read the diary, find out what the kid is up to/dealing with, and then patiently wait for an opportune moment when the kid mentions it so the kid doesn’t know you read the diary. Why is reading the diary necessary?

Also, what should parents do if their child doesn’t even keep a diary or journal? Not all teens do. In that case, isn’t it better to start setting good communication habits when the child is young just in case you can’t read his or her diary later on?

I kept a diary, but when writing in it I was always aware of the possibility that someone might read it (I did have a nosy younger brother). Sometimes I wrote about things in a way I wished they would have happened or in a way to make myself seem cooler than I was. Sometimes I left things out because they were embarassing and I wouldn’t want anyone to know. If my brother or parents read it, they would have been reading more of what I wished was going on than what was really going on (I had a rather boring life). How would that have helped?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@tinyfaery I am not arguing with what you are saying at all. In fact I understand where you are coming from.

But something is striking me as a bit here.
And that is trust comes in many forms.
If your parents violate your trust on behalf of your safety that is quite different than violating your trust to cause you harm.
And teenagers, by definition, don’t trust authority figures. It is a way of testing boundaries and establishing self-identity.
The question isn’t if these kids trust their parents but it is if they feel safe with their parents. Of course trust is always great but it is simply a bonus especially when working with a population for whom trust is constantly being redefined.

tinyfaery's avatar

How can you feel safe with someone you do not trust?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@tinyfaery I am just suggesting that there are different forms of trust. I know many authority figures that I don’t instinctively trust but I do feel safe around them. For example think of a boss. You may not trust your boss but you do not feel any danger either. I think safety is the top priority for parents. Even if your kids hate you, which seems inevitable for many teenagers at some point, you keep them safe. And they know and feel they are safe with you (even if they totally don’t trust you with their diary or their secrets). I’ve seen many teens who don’t instinctively trust their parents, like I said most teens don’t, but when the going gets tough half of these teens turn to their parents for help and half turn elsewhere. You want to create that atmosphere of safety so that they can turn to you for help.

filmfann's avatar

I trusted my father, and I believe my kids trust me. I knew my father would be who he was. He was a harsh critic, but I knew I could count on him for an honest opinion. My kids know I will tell them what I think, not what they want to hear.
My daughter felt safe with me, but she knew I would occasionally check her room for drugs. She trusted me to be what I am.

tinyfaery's avatar

I give up. Once kids reach a certain age, a parent doesn’t really have much influence on their child anymore. If a parent cannot trust their kids by the time they reach high school, I suspect that busting the kid with pot in their room isn’t really going to make much of a difference.

filmfann's avatar

LOL! When a child reaches high school is exactly the time NOT to trust kids! At that point, you need to hope you instilled that basic morality and ethics, yet you need to remember this is the time they will be tempted and tested.
You need to keep them on the right track!

tinyfaery's avatar

Whose right track? Yours? Yikes!

filmfann's avatar

You are assuming you know what my morals and ethics are. I am very proud of how my kids turned out, and I bet they are weirder than you are.
Seriously, I’d put money on it.

Dutchess12's avatar

@MissAusten Again, and again I say….the child does not need to know that you read their diary. Yes, if a parent consistently violates a child’s trust, lies to them all the time, etc. I can imagine the kid would have trust issues! That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about checking out things that—they may not want to tell you about. Say a kid of 13 writes about how they went to a party and drank wine for the first time….they probably aren’t going to tell you. But you find out, so at some point in the near future you can bring up the the dangers that can be caused by drinking, drinking responsibly etc…and it can be “prompted” by say, a Bud Lite commercial! There’s the opportunity, right there. Or…a news release about some drunk driver killing someone. There are opportunities all around that aren’t a flag that you’ve been looking at their stuff. So many people are talking about a “betrayal of trust…” well, yes, if the kid finds out.

Dutchess12's avatar

@tinyfaery Busting a high schooler with pot in their room CAN make a difference. I never felt the need to search for drugs in my kid’s rooms, but they knew that if I ever found anything I’d call the cops.

Dutchess12's avatar

@tinyfaery Who’s lying to their child? Not sure what you’re referring to.

Dutchess12's avatar

@MissAusten You said, “I don’t understand why you’d have to read a teen’s diary in order to talk to the teen about subjects when they bring those subjects up in a casual kind of way.”—the thing is, if you know in advance that there might be an issue here, you know how seriously to address whatever they casually bring up. So many things that they say can slip right by without a parent realizing that—it needs to be discussed.

MissAusten's avatar

@Dutchess, if you are the parent of a teen, you already know in advance that there will be issues to bring up, like sex, drugs, and drinking. Those are the scariest, but for a teen issues like fitting in, teasing, weight, outgrowing friendships, and crushes are just as huge. It’s a whole different world.

I, personally, don’t feel the need to read a diary and waiting for a “cue” to discuss something. I can do that when a Bud Light commercial comes out without having resorted to an invasion of privacy. Teens need that privacy. I also firmly believe that my children are too smart to trick. My daughter has two younger brothers who love to go through her things—she’s 10 and already a pro at hiding these she considers private. I know where she keeps her diaries, but I respect that privacy. She has made it clear she doesn’t want the diaries read, so I leave them alone. It doesn’t stop me from talking to her about how the Bratz girls dress, or how super-skinny models don’t look healthy, or how her body is hers alone and no one should even hug her if she doesn’t want to be hugged. It doesn’t stop me from talking to her about the health risks of smoking, the dangers of drinking, or even just listening to her long, long stories about who said this or that on the playground and how it made her feel.

If you chose to read a teen’s diary and it worked for you, that’s great. It’s just not the choice I would make (unless circumstances were completely drastic). I’m not saying you are wrong, just trying to explain why I see things differently.

hearkat's avatar

I have always told my son that until he is 18, I am responsible for him; and as such, he has no rights to privacy. I believe in setting a hard line from the start, and then allowing the child to earn privileges as they demonstrate they are capable of handling the responsibility that goes along with it. This allows them to develop and learn progressively and naturally, and gives them a sense of structure and security that most kids need (and want although they can’t really verbalize it).

I came to this conclusion later in the parenting process, and wish I had started it from toddlerhood; therefore, I had some bad habits and behaviors on both our parts to undo—and that was a major challenge. We had a really tough time from about 9–13, and we each were in therapy and on an antidepressants for part of that time, and he had threatened to harm himself more than once.

So I did go through his journal back then. When we first got internet access, he was allowed on it supervised (he was about 10). As he got older, I’d supervise less; but I had some parental controls activated, and I logged his AIM conversations as well as monitored his emails – with his full knowledge. So he could choose what to discuss knowing that I could come across it at some point.

The emails I mostly just scan for spam and garbage to protect the email account and computer. But also for contact from strangers and dysfunctional/toxic family members. The AIM logs I only went through a few times, but a couple times there was some information I was not happy about. Rather than “freaking out”, I addressed it with him calmly, and expressed my concerns, and discussed what I would prefer he do in certain situations and why. He saw that my intentions were of genuine concern for his well-being, rather than a control issue; and in time he began to come to me to talk about things on his own.

Because we have developed an open dialogue, I no longer go through his stuff. In fact, I think I’ve come to trust him a little too much, because the first night of Easter break he stayed out until 2 a.m. (he’s only 17, and not allowed to drive after midnight in NJ). So again, I had to remind him that I am responsible for him. And I also added that even after he’s 18, as long as I am providing the majority of his support, he is accountable to me, and should be courteous of others (I still have to get up for work at 5:30).

Perhaps if our circumstances had been different, and there hadn’t been so many challenges in our lives, I wouldn’t have had to monitor as closely as I did. But then again, I wonder about the other parents… such as the 13 and 14 year old girls whose conversations with and photos that they sent to my son when he was that age showed that they needed supervision, and had way to much exposure to explicit sexual information. So under any circumstances, I think parents need to be really involved with their kids and know who their friends are and what they’re doing in their spare time.

filmfann's avatar

Maybe this is the forum where I should explain my theory on dogs and cats.
When you come home from work, the dog greets you at the door, excited you’re home.
A dog comes when it is called.
A dog plays with you when you want to play.
Feed a dog, it will eat.
Dogs think you are the smartest, most wonderful person, and they love to show you their affection.

When you come home from work, the cat doesn’t care.
Call a cat, the cat ignores you.
Try to play with a cat, and it ignores you, till it gets angry and snaps at you.
Try to feed a cat, and it may or may not eat. It often just ignores you.
Cats think you don’t know anything. They think it’s best if they pretend you aren’t there.
Cats figure you are at best an incovenience. If they choose to show you any affection, it is probably only for their own personal gain.

Children are born dogs. When they turn 13 or 14, they suddenly turn into cats. They stay cats for 5 or so years, then fade into a middle ground between dog and cat behavior. They never fully become dogs again.

Dutchess12's avatar

@filmfann that makes me wanna cry!! You know, Charles Schultz, who suffered from depression, said that when your kids hit teen years it’s like…your children have died. You’ll never again see the cute little kids…. :(

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

As a teen, if my mom would read my journal (I don’t really keep one, but still), I would be horrified; I probably wouldn’t talk to her for a while, or if I did, it would be me screaming. I would be furious! Our relationship probably would never be the same. She would have completely killed any trust I had. She wouldn’t even find anything. I do nothing bad. 0:-)

Dutchess12's avatar

@toomuchcoffee911 Again, you’re assuming you would know she had read it. The most important aspect of this is to NOT LET THE CHILD KNOW…..

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

@Dutchess12 But she may have approached me about something, but as I said, there wouldn’t be anything there.

Dutchess12's avatar

@toomuchcoffee911 Well, in the more I stressed that it’s important that you don’t let the kid know that you have some inside information and above all where you got it from!

Zaku's avatar

@filmfannInteresting. That’s not my experience of cats. Cats look at me with keen interest, seek and receive my love and affection, like to play with me, and form mutually supportive relationships with me. I can also communicate pretty well with many teenagers.

filmfann's avatar

@Zaku Perhaps you smell of fish.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Zaku Perhaps you are delusional??!! LOL!!

Zaku's avatar

Well, it’s my perception and seems to be my usual experience. If it’s a delusion of mine, I suppose I wouldn’t know. ;-)

arnbev959's avatar

There used to be a neighborhood cat who would bring dead fish and leave them outside the rabbit hutch. I think the cat was in love with my pet rabbit. In my experience, it’s cats that are delusional.

Zaku's avatar

What sweeter madness than love?

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i’m really trying to avoid a completely biased answer, as i am a teenager. however, i just really can’t condone betraying the trust the teenager has in 1) their parents, and 2) what is possibly their only outlet that has no content restriction. being able to express yourself is really important, regardless of age, even if it’s something only you will see (especially if it’s something only you see). unless you have reason to believe that your child is suicidal, or dealing with some other severe issue, i don’t think it’s really justifiable.

in the example – and i know this is only one single example, but i’ll use it to accentuate what i think here – what would the parent be able to do upon learning that their kid is having sex? would they have waited until they finally found out ‘for sure’ to advocate safe methods, etc? i don’t see any clear advantages of this information.

i think that most of the kids who keep journals, probably really really value privacy, especially during an age that almost all information is so open. parents now have the ability to check up on their kids on a million different social networking sites that were never available before. i think journal digging is just a bit of a breech of trust.

personally, i don’t really express any of my deeper thoughts whatsoever beyond the confines of my mind, because i’m kind of paranoid about snooping. i don’t have anything to hide, but i absolutely don’t want my personal thoughts written on paper for someone else to find. i feel like i’d be a bit more self actualized if i could get everything in my head out for my own evaluation, but what with the advocacy of snooping, i just can’t help but censor even ‘privately written’ things. on the rare occasion that i do write something for my own eyes, i use a strong filter without even fully realizing it – i feel like i’m still writing for an audience, just in case. and when i feel like my own journal has gotten too personal, i’ll rip up the pages that i wouldn’t want someone else to see.

so um. that’s my 2 10 cents.

Jeruba's avatar

@filmfann, I like your theory a lot! Not sure I agree, but I like your formulation for its creative use of analogy. It’s also possible, is it not, that dogs are simply perennial children and cats are born teenagers? I don’t agree with that either, quite, but it might work just as well.

Dutchess12's avatar

@tiffyandthewall I certainly appreciate your input, and in general, I agree. However, it’s only a breech of trust if the kid finds out…which is rather convoluted, I agree, but I think it’s a parents duty to know what their kid is really doing. If they read that their child is having sex, then they can find a way, in the really, really near future, to address the issue of teenage sex, the consequences and responsibilities and all of that, and it can be done in a way that doesn’t flag the kid that you’ve been checking on them…especially if you’re in the habit of talking to them about this stuff anyway. If a parent reads in the journal that the kids are having sex…why would they “wait” until they know “for sure”? I mean…they DO know for sure now! I just would rather know in advance, and take proactive action, rather than be blindsided with a “Mom…I’m pregnant.”

Zaku's avatar

@tiffyandthewall – I’m with you all the way. I found some third-party journalling software that has privacy encryption, which I’m pretty satisfied with. Though, an evil parent might go nuts and resort to a keylogger or other spying techniques out of their misguided attempt to love you with safety and controlling.

@Dutchess12 – “However, it’s only a [breach] of trust if the kid finds out…” – Gee, does that also apply to theft, adultery, and any crime it’s convenient for me to apply it to? Rather, it seems to me that if a parent thinks their “duty [is] to know what their kid is really doing” even by denying them the right to have a private place to record their innermost thoughts, and is even considering doing so and not telling the child, then the parent has decided that safety outweighs their child’s right to privacy, and to me, that also means they have given up on trusting their child. If I were the child, I would be retaliating, for example by writing about horrifying secrets that were not true, to expose the parent’s lack of trust and hopefully teach them a lesson. Or I might just run away from home, disappoint them in other ways I thought they cared about, or retaliate in other ways.

Dutchess12's avatar

@Zaku There are lots and lots and lots of things that I don’t tell my kids about….the REAL reason their Dad and I got a divorce, for example. I understand your point, and agree to a certain extent, but you know, if they’re getting into something dangerous, there IS no more “privacy”....sorry—if my kids had been thinking of getting into drugs or something, and I didn’t do a thing to find out about it when I could….and they die or end up in jail or something—well, the “privacy” issue, in my mind, is moot. It’s all about protecting these kids that we brought into the world. It’s our job to know as much about them as we can.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Oh yes. By all means. You should read it to us.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Not if the parents are interested in teaching the child about the importance of trust.

MerMaidBlu's avatar

The only times I would think its okay to read your teenager’s diary would be if you were worried about something in their life and they weren’t opening up about it. Even then I wouldn’t confront them about the new found information…just try to subtly work it into a conversation so you can try to better understand the severity of the situation. Then let them know you were only worried and trying to help…not invading them.

If you’re just being nosy and trying to invade privacy without them knowing, i think that says bad parenting all around. Your kid might pick up on it and if you lose their trust you could be in a world of hurt

justus2's avatar

@Dorkgirl I don’t mind you taking away the porn. But there is NOTHING wrong with smoking pot and if I find my kid is smoking pot I will say at least you are not doing meth or drinking, I mainly hope they wont do meth, only drug is mj and I hope they don’t drink

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