Do Teenagers Deserve Privacy?

Teenagers have a long journey to navigate through adolescence toward adulthood. Along the way, parents also face challenges as they guide and monitor their teenager’s development and activities. Respecting a teenager’s privacy can be a difficult balancing act: Cracking down on privacy can make a teen feel stifled, and giving it in abundance may allow a teen to make bad choices.

General Guidelines

The teenage years should be a time when your child is gradually growing into an independent adult, according to Iowa State University 1. With parents to supervise, monitor and mentor them, teens should learn to be independent in a safe environment. Using this model as a guide, it’s reasonable to afford teenagers greater privacy and boundaries than younger children. For instance, child development website Kids Health advises that a teenager’s room, phone calls, text messages and emails should be free from parental intrusion.


Your ultimate goal should be to help your teenager become a happy, responsible adult, but safety should still come first. Have a frank conversation about your expectations regarding risk-taking activities and consequences, recommends the Office of National Drug Control Policy 3. Create clear house rules about conduct, provide a consequence for breaking each rule and insist that your teenager agree to these rules. Examples of important house rules for teens include avoiding drugs and alcohol, adhering to a curfew, and providing information about where they are going and with whom.


Although challenging and often scary, it’s important to trust your teenager. Explain to your teen that you trust him and his ability to conduct himself respectfully and intelligently, advises KidsHealth. Also explain that you will continue to extend this trust unless he does something to break it. If your teen engages in activities you consider risky, such as drinking, drugs or sexual conduct, then explain how your teen will need to work to rebuild your trust. Check in often to make sure he’s keeping his commitment to follow house rules, advises the Office of National Drug Control Policy 3.

Medical Confidentiality

Most physicians use individual discretion about what information about a minor they disclose to parents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Optimally, the physician will speak with both parents and the teenager about confidentiality, agreeing that the teen can confide in the physician privately unless the physician thinks the teen is in danger, either from herself or a specific situation.