No, friendship is NOT about “supporting your friends even when you know they’re wrong.”
That’s not friendship. That’s being an enabler. That’s being an accomplice.
Friendship is loving someone enough to tell them to stop being a goddamn idiot before they ruin their lives.
Earlier today, I served as the “young woman’s voice” in a panel of local experts at a Girl Scouts speaking event. One question for the panel was something to the effect of, "Should parents read their daughter’s texts or monitor her online activity for bad language and inappropriate content?"
I was surprised when the first panelist answered the question as if it were about cyberbullying. The adult audience nodded sagely as she spoke about the importance of protecting children online.
I reached for the microphone next. I said, “As far as reading your child’s texts or logging into their social media profiles, I would say 99.9% of the time, do not do that.”
Looks of total shock answered me. I actually saw heads jerk back in surprise. Even some of my fellow panelists blinked.
Everyone stared as I explained that going behind a child’s back in such a way severs the bond of trust with the parent. When I said, “This is the most effective way to ensure that your child never tells you anything,” it was like I’d delivered a revelation.
It’s easy to talk about the disconnect between the old and the young, but I don’t think I’d ever been so slapped in the face by the reality of it. It was clear that for most of the parents I spoke to, the idea of such actions as a violation had never occurred to them at all.
It alarms me how quickly adults forget that children are people.
Apparently people are rediscovering this post somehow and I think that’s pretty cool! Having experienced similar violations of trust in my youth, this is an important issue to me, so I want to add my personal story:
Around age 13, I tried to express to my mother that I thought I might have clinical depression, and she snapped at me “not to joke about things like that.” I stopped telling my mother when I felt depressed.
Around age 15, I caught my mother reading my diary. She confessed that any time she saw me write in my diary, she would sneak into my room and read it, because I only wrote when I was upset. I stopped keeping a diary.
Around age 18, I had an emotional breakdown while on vacation because I didn’t want to go to college. I ended up seeing a therapist for - surprise surprise - depression.
Around age 21, I spoke on this panel with my mother in the audience, and afterwards I mentioned the diary incident to her with respect to this particular Q&A. Her eyes welled up, and she said, “You know I read those because I was worried you were depressed and going to hurt yourself, right?”
TL;DR: When you invade your child’s privacy, you communicate three things:
- You do not respect their rights as an individual.
- You do not trust them to navigate problems or seek help on their own.
- You probably haven’t been listening to them.
Information about almost every issue that you think you have to snoop for can probably be obtained by communicating with and listening to your child.
Part of me is really excited to see that the original post got 200 notes because holy crap 200 notes, and part of me is really saddened that something so negative has resonated with so many people.
I know many of us on Black tumblr joke about Black parents and how it is tradition that “kids don’t have any privacy” but this post resonated a lot with me. I stopped writing in a diary after I found my mom reading it and worse she later wanted to talk about what she read. I’ve barely opened up to her since about major stuff, and that happened years ago.
My mother did the same to me. Not only did she read my diary which contained many a rant about her, but she yelled at me and made me write an apology in my diary to her. I hated her from that day to this. Of course she demanded honesty from me only to use it against me as grist for her emotional abuse mill. I learned never to tell her anything, and for the most part she was fine with it.
Black parents who want to perpetuate “kids don’t have any privacy” want the kind of relationship I have with my mother—non-existant.
This is really important. My father had to stop my mother from reading my diaries. Ever since, I’ve been wary of my mother, and with good reason: she has no respect for my privacy. This is to the point where there are private parts of my life that I really SHOULD let her know about - but I don’t want to because I’m worried that if I allow her access, she’s not going to understand or accept what’s going on… because she doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t know me because I would rather close myself off to her than to have her rummaging around my private life. It’s like a never-ending circle of fuckery that could have been avoided if she hadn’t been so nosy and prying in the first place.
My dad used to go through my stuff all the time and would read my diaries. It was terrifying, and then he left me alone at Heathrow because I was so angry I didn’t want to move.
Let me reiterate. My father abandoned me - a BARELY teenaged girl - at an international airport in a country thousands of miles away from my home without my passport, money, or any clue as to where he had gone, because I was upset he had violated my privacy and read my diary. He had NO intention of coming back to get me. Thankfully the staff at Heathrow helped me call ALL THE HOTELS IN LONDON until we found him. I then had to make my way there, with my luggage, at night, by myself. If you think he was worried about me or sorry, you would be very very wrong.
I am completely incapable of keeping a diary, journal, or any sort of personal records without panicking about it.
Don’t do this to your kids.