Teenagers and privacy

Why do children need privacy?

‘For the same reasons as adults,’ says Frank Furedi, author of Paranoid Parenting (Penguin, £7.55) and father of a nine-year-old boy. ‘There are moments in everyone’s life when you feel uncomfortable with the world and you want to be on your own. You might wish to do things that would be embarrassing in front of others, like using the loo or examining parts of your body.’

What happens if they don’t get it?

‘They can get really resentful and stop communicating with you,’ says Gael Lindenfield, psychologist and author. ‘I grew up in a series of children’s homes where there wasn’t any privacy. Now I’m an adult who needs a lot of space. Luckily, my husband understands how I feel but not everyone would.’

At what age are they entitled to privacy?

‘From as young as they tell you,’ says Frank Furedi. ‘Kids are very straight. They’ll shut the door or tell you to go away. There’s no point being hurt. You should respect this and knock on the door before going in.’

Surely you still have a right to intrude?

‘Sometimes,’ admits Frank. ‘For example, when they should be in bed sleeping instead of playing or when it’s dinnertime and they should be downstairs. But even then, call out first to warn them.’

Are you ever entitled to read their e-mails, diaries or listen in on phone calls?

‘No,’ says Gael. ‘Even if you’re worried about something serious such as drugs. You should talk to them and try finding out what might be going wrong. If they discover you’ve read their emails, they’ll be angry and won’t trust you again, which is understandable.’

‘Yes,’ says Frank. ‘But only in extreme circumstances such as if you’re worried about internet chat rooms. You have to weigh up losing their trust against any danger they may be in.’