Tablets, Teens, and Privacy

There are a lot of different challenges I see between teens and their parents in my office.  Arguments around  dating, marijuana use, curfews, and chores are often topics that come up.  But surprisingly, these are often dealt with relatively easily. However, the issue of privacy on a cell phone or tablet, or whatever electronic device happens to be popular at the time tends to be a very sensitive topic.

Regardless some common statements in my office: “I can’t believe she looked at my Snap Chat account!” (Or whatever social media is the flavour of the day); “I can’t believe he went through my text messages!” The teenage rant always ends with:”I deserve my privacy! They have no right!” The teen berates their parent in my office, sincerely believing that I will support them and scold their parents for this act of egregious betrayal.  It is after all a shameless act of voyeurism that has been exposed by the poor teenage victim.

I disappoint the poor teen every time. “But they read my profile update where I shared my undying love” or “they found the pictures I sent my boyfriend, it was so embarrassing, they had no right” the teen complains.

The message I have for all the teenagers (and anyone else) that will listen is simple:  if you make it electronic, you make it public. It doesn’t matter if you sent it in a private chat or if you sent it anonymously on a dating app of some form.  It doesn’t even matter if it is only in a journal on your own tablet or recorded it just for private viewing. With automatic backups to the cloud happening almost unaware in the background and uploads and sharing features, anything you make electronic is public.

So.  If you don’t want you’re parents to see it, go old school and write a journal.  If you think it’s bad that your parents found it, just wait until your ex-BFF gets a hold of it, or your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend gets it, or your boyfriend’s hockey team gets to see it while he brags a little. Even better, wait until you’re applying for that school scholarship or new job and find out that companies and schools google potential candidates.

Once it’s electronic, not only is it public, but it is also there forever.  You’re problem is not that your parents saw it.  Your problem is who else will see it.