Dear Parents of Teenagers,
I love students.
I have known tens of thousands of them, perhaps I know yours.
I have worked with them for a decade and a half, across all demographics.
I have traveled with them, laughed with them, grieved with them, served alongside them, and prayed with them.
I have walked their hallways and sat in their classrooms.
I like to think I know well, them and the world they live in.
And Moms and Dads, I’m here to tell you that you need to take away their privacy—now.
I imagine that you (and certainly the teens reading this), hear that and think, “Well, that’s a pretty terrible thing to say!”
OK, then I will be terrible and right.
There was a time, when teenagers could have privacy, and by that I mean, they could have one room where we could get away from the world, where they could shut the door, put on some music, open-up a notebook, and write the things that were on their hearts—a piece of themselves that was theirs alone.
But that time and that place is long gone.
Now, when teenagers walk into that room and close the door, they are no longer alone (in fact, many of them aren’t capable of solitary existence.) Now, when they walk into their rooms, they are not getting away from the world, they are walking into it and to the most dangerous, threatening, frightening parts of it. They are inviting that world into their sacred, personal space.
Thanks to their phones, teenagers can in seconds reach the kinds of people and places that our parents could have only had nightmares about.
They can reveal their most intimate secrets to total strangers.
They can get drugs and guns, and find sex and term papers.
They can threaten suicide to thousands.
They can bully and be bullied.
They can gamble using your credit cards.
They can buy and sell everything imaginable.
They can give out photos of their bodies that can be shared, and never returned.
They can see the most vile, violent and damaging images on the planet.
And all of it is password-protected.
You see, the world has changed and so have the rules.
Technology is simply moving too fast for students to be left in it alone.
They can’t handle it.
(Heck, neither can most adults but that’s another topic for another day.)
You need to be out in that dangerous water with them, as if they were newborns in a raging ocean, teeming with sharks.
“But my kids are trustworthy”, I hear you saying.
That really isn’t the issue, is it?
Trusting their kids, was never, ever the full story for parents, was it?
I know it wasn’t for my parents.
As a teenager, when I used to hang out with friends, my mom and dad knew them, knew where they lived, who their parents were, and what those parents believed. They knew where we were going, how we would get there ,and when we would get back. (Sure, it was privacy, but it was informed privacy.)
On social media platforms, your kids probably have a few hundred “Friends” that they don’t even really know, who have regular, ’round the clock access to them. Do you really want to give them private time with that many strangers?
Moms and Dads, simply put: If you are a parent of a preteen or teen and you do not have access to every text, every device, every password and every site that your kids do, you are being negligent at best. You are a willing accomplice to everything they do and see and experience.
OK, so maybe it isn’t privacy that teenagers shouldn’t have or can’t handle, but technology privacy.
Do teenagers need and deserve a place all their own? Absolutely.
Let them get away from the world. Let them go into their rooms, let them close the door, turn-up the music, and grab a notebook to write the things on their hearts, for only their eyes to see.
But if the notebook of choice is not spiral-bound, but battery-powered—get the password.
ABOUT JOHN PAVLOVITZ
John is a 20-year ministry veteran living in Raleigh, NC. You can find him blogging at JohnPavlovitz.com.
John’s first full-length book is coming October 6, 2017 on WJK Books. A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community shares a bit of John’s story and a vision for spiritual community that allows everyone a place