Respecting children's privacy - the golden rules

publication date: Apr 25, 2007
  • Never read a child’s diary. However tempting this may be, a diary is very personal and some children and teenagers love putting their private thoughts  which we wouldn’t have access to anyway - into words. If you do happen to read something by accident - don’t jump to conclusions, many diary entries are pure fantasy.
  • As soon as a child can open an envelope, give him any post that’s addressed to him - even if he can’t read it. Children love receiving letters and younger ones will probably hand them over for you to read anyway.
  • If you have friends round with children, don’t automatically allow them into your kid’s bedroom. That’s their territory and they should be allowed to issue the invitations. Ask your child to bring out a few toys and games they could play with and don’t press the point if your child doesn’t want them in his room.
  • Don’t barge into loos when your child is in there. It might seem only yesterday that you were called in to wipe bottoms but respect closed doors. This also applies to bathrooms. Older children have a right to shower and bath in private - although you may have to impose a time limit with some teenagers if everyone else in the family is to get their turn!
  • Always knock on a bedroom door before going in. If you start this early on it will allow your child to feel they have some control in their daily life and also encourage them to show you equal courtesy.
  • As children get older they need to feel their room is their private space and will probably resent you going into tidy or clean. Get round this by asking them to bring out clothes to be washed - or saying you will be going in to clean at a certain time. That gives them the opportunity to clear the decks and not have private things lying around - or do the cleaning themselves. 
  • Don’t listen in on phone calls.
  • Don't read your child's text messages or emails unless invited to.
  • One way to make your child cringe and guarantee he won’t confide in you again is to betray his confidences or talk about personal matters in front of other people especially when he is there. So don’t discuss his physical development  or make fun of anything he has confided in you with others.
  • If you suspect your child is in any danger or may be involved in anything illegal you may have to disregard his or her right to privacy - your role as a protector always comes first.