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You Have No Right?
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You think your child is heading for trouble, but you are not sure. His behavior has been strange lately. Or she is spending a lot of time on the Internet, blanking screen when you enter her room. Something is wrong, but what? You hate to pry. After all, don’t they have a right to privacy?

Well, no. The fourth and fifth Amendments apply to the governments, not parents.

You are their parent. Being a parent carries special responsibility. Until your children are adults you are legally responsible for their actions. If they do drugs in your house, or anything else illegal, you can be held criminally liable.

Beyond legal responsibility, parents have moral responsibilities. Your job is to see your children grow into responsible adults. When their behaviors threaten to wreck their lives, your duty as a parent is to do your best to stop that from happening.

If your children live in your house, at your expense, you set the rules. Even once they are adults. My wife and I set these rules for our children:

1. Their room and possessions (including computers and cell phones) were subject to parental inspection at any time.
2. We had access to any locked doors, chests, or drawers.
3. Any computer passwords they used had to be known by us.
4. E-mail accounts were subject to parental inspection. So were cell phone voice and text messages.
5. They could not clear the computer cache or Internet browsing history without parental permission.

Our children knew these rules. We told them they had to live with these rules, until they moved out, and lived on their own.


So our kids had no privacy, right?

Well, not exactly. You can check everything they do, but you don't have to. You check when you need to.

We wanted our children to grow into responsible adults. As they grew we kept an eye on them, especially when they first started doing new things. We watched their use of computers, and monitored their use of them. When demonstrated they were trustworthy by following our rules and behaving themselves, we left them alone. Privacy was earned through demonstrated responsibility.

It was like using the family car. When they first started driving, we drove with them. Once they proved they could be safely trusted to drive to someplace local, we let them take the car by themselves. Had they misused their car privileges, no car for them for a while.

Similarly, if their behavior demonstrated a need for parental scrutiny, we were on them. Otherwise, their privacy increased.

Maybe we got lucky. Maybe because our children knew our eyes were on them my wife and I never had serious problems with our kids. They avoided drugs or risky behavior.

Our sons are all adults now. Two are on their own, with their own homes and careers. The youngest, who is finishing college soon, lives with us during the summers. And yes, he still lives by our rules when he does.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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