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Talking with Your Teen -- David Elkind, PhD


Kids are exposed to this all the time, but despite the sexuality, they're still naive about sexuality and it's mostly show. It should be regulated because sometimes girls can, by dressing too provocatively, can create responses that they are not ready to deal with. But you must accept the needs of the young person wanting to be accepted by peers.

Member question: Where do we draw the privacy line? Do you think it is OK to check our teen's email? To check which sites he goes to on the computer? See what files he's downloaded?

Elkind: Important question. Freedom is not an absolute; it's relative. Children get freedom when they show they are responsible with that. If children have a magic marker and they mark on the walls, they don't get to use the marker anymore. The same is true with drugs. If young people are responsible, we don't go into their rooms. If they give us evidence that they are using drugs, they give that up.

Children should have the freedom of privacy with computers as long as they are being responsible. We make that statement that freedom and privacy is not an absolute. It's very important if we do check out their web sites and so on that we have some reason to feel that they are abusing the right. If we have no reason, it is an intrusion to privacy. Freedom on the Internet is like any other freedom; it is dependent on responsible use.

Member question: What are some of the biggest mistakes parents of teenagers make?

Elkind: Making rules that you can't enforce. I think criticizing young people in front of others, and not recognizing that even though they may be big, they still need a hug -- In private, of course.

Respect them as growing adults, and set limits at the same time. Balancing freedom and responsibility is a big one. Allowing them freedom but demanding responsibility is a delicate thing. Have a willingness to listen and say, "You may not be willing to talk right now, but I'll be here when you want to talk." And be there when they want to talk.

Moderator: Thanks to David Elkind, PhD, for sharing his expertise with us. For more information please read The Hurried Child, Reinventing Childhood, All Grown Up and No Place to Go, and Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance, all by David Elkind, PhD.

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