Trish, I feel like my parents always invade my privacy on my phone. I just want space but they don’t give it to me! What do I do?
Hi there, Ask Trish community and Happy June! I hope this blog post finds you all safe and enjoying the start to summer. I also hope you’re taking care of yourself, amidst some very difficult news out in the world, particularly the gun violence we’ve seen over the last few weeks. These tragedies can be difficult to comprehend, much less to make peace with, so do take the time to care for yourself as you process.
And thank you to the author of this week’s question, which I’m sure is one that resonates with many of you – what do you do when a parent or other adult is “invading” your phone privacy? In the Internet age, this complaint has become pretty common: your guardians – scared for your safety and well-being online – may read your texts at night, or monitor your social media, or even perform surprise “checks” on devices. For many parents, it’s a way to achieve peace of mind – after all they care about you, and they know the Internet can be a messy place; they just want you to be okay. But for youth, it can feel frustrating. Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t necessarily want your parents reading your texts to your crush, for instance! #rip With that said, let me start by validating how you’re feeling. Wanting space is normal and justified.
With that said, your parents do have a point in that even if you’re not doing anything wrong per se, your phone – whether it’s social media or your screen time – can affect you, sometimes negatively. And that’s not something either one of you can ignore…so what to do? How do you make a case for more “phone independence” to your parents? Well, while I’m not a parent, I’ve talked to a lot of them. And what I’ve heard is this: making an effective case often means demonstrating to your parents that you are actually ready for that independence. Ever heard the phrase “trust has to be earned”? It’s the same principle here. While different guardians will need to see different things to believe that you are actually ready, here are some general tips on how you can get them there (and actually be ready yourself):
First and foremost, you should take initiative to help set your phone rules (after all, if you’re going to have them, wouldn’t you much rather have a say in shaping them?) and stick to those rules. (For our OG Ask Trish readers, you may remember that we talked a little about this back in February). When you come to them with an ask for “phone independence,” acknowledge that that will still mean some rules, and work with them to figure out what they should be. If you feel strongly about a rule (either for or against), try and come with some research, or with some prepared thoughts about why you feel that way. You can even propose rules to help you – maybe certain lines your parents aren’t allowed to cross. By taking initiative to set the rules, you will almost certainly demonstrate maturity to your parents – and they’ll feel pleased that you’re being transparent and open. Before it comes time to then “follow the rules,” have a conversation with your guardians about what “success” in sticking to the rules actually looks like, and what it might mean. This way, there’s no chance for “miscommunication,” and more importantly, you can advocate, for instance, for rewards for success – e.g. if you follow the rules, maybe one of those rules drops off. Then, make it all happen by sticking to those rules.
Next up, be transparent about any challenges you face on social media. I know what you’re thinking – Trish, if I’m trying to get them to give me phone independence, I shouldn’t tell them if I’m in a mess! My response? Well, that mess might not be your fault, and let’s be real: parents always, always, always find out. If you’re proactive, and work with them to navigate and troubleshoot challenges you’re having online, while you may get dinged, especially if you made a mistake, you will absolutely get brownie points for being open and honest. One of parents’ biggest fears – and thus one of their biggest reasons for monitoring their child’s device – is that their kids might run into a sticky situation, and they won’t be there to help them. If you can demonstrate that you’ll be honest about the challenges when they come, that will definitely help assuage this concern.
Finally, through routine “tech talks,” try to demonstrate that your relationship with social media is healthy. The best way to be able to do this is…to actually reflect on and hone a healthy, smart relationship with social media! Your parents might, for instance, set limits for your phone use – don’t just stick to the limit, but if possible, some weeks, take a full-on “social media cleanse.” When you chat with your guardians about what you see on social media, express that you’re aware that a lot of what you’re seeing is digitally manipulated or at times false. Try to convey, through your behavior online and in-person, that your self-worth is rooted in who you are and how the people you care about see you, not random people on the Internet. If that’s true – which is likely the only way your parents will believe it! – I’m almost certain that they will be less worried about giving you some space online.
Thank you so much for reading this post, which I hope you found helpful and enlightening. Help keep this conversation going – or pivot to another topic or issue – by sharing any Internet-related questions or thoughts here. Your question just might be featured in an upcoming Ask Trish TikTok/blog post! By submitting a question, not only will you get some valuable advice, you’ll also be doing a huge service to our collective Ask Trish community: it’s almost certain that there are other readers wondering the same thing (and perhaps a little too scared to ask). By sharing your perspective, you just might encourage them to do the same. Thank you in advance for being a role model in our community!
Talk to you all next Tuesday! Until then, enjoy the start of summer,