Privacy vs. secrecy for teens

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Privacy vs. secrecy for teens

Stephen Wallace: Many parents struggle with the question of how much privacy do I allow my teenager to have. As young people mature, they need and want more privacy than they had when they were younger children. That’s developmentally appropriate. Young people are principally involved in the task in forming their identities. Their personal identities, their social identity, their sexual identities, their vocational identities. And they need time and space to do that. Where our worries when privacy crosses the line into secrecy. That’s when parents want to stand up and pay attention. When kids become secretive, as opposed to just having some privacy, that might be a red flag that something’s going on that they should be concerned about. When it comes to the element of privacy, I certainly think that having your own rooms is important. Closed doors are fine. I’m not really okay with locked doors with lack of access or entry for parents. I think parents need to have access and entry. I had a mom of a camper who when they redesigned their house and their son was turning 13, they decided that she was going to put a couch in his room. So there was an easy space for her to go into and sit down and wasn’t awkward, trying to balance on the bed or whatever. And that served as a great way, a great entry point for her to have meaningful conversations with her son. While privacy is critically important, I do believe that internet access, however it is accessed needs to be done in a public place in the home. Not behind the clothes door of the room.

See Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed's video on Privacy vs. secrecy for teens...


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Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed

School Psychologist & Author

Stephen Gray Wallace, M.S. Ed., is president and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE), a national collaborative of institutions and organizations committed to increasing favorable youth outcomes and reducing risk. He is a consultant to summer camps on staff training and teen leadership programming and has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent/family counselor. Stephen is a member of the professional development faculty at the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Camp Association and a parenting expert at, NBC News Learn and WebMD. He is also an expert partner at RANE (Risk Assistance Network & Exchange) and was national chairman and chief executive officer at SADD for more than 15 years. Additional information about Stephen’s work can be found at

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