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I am a 14-year-old Egyptian Muslim currently living with my parents.

When I try to keep my room's door closed, my parents are always like "Why close it?" and when I reply "I want some privacy" they reply "You are doing something bad that you want to hide." I normally open music and surf the web like seeing the Stack Exchange sites' questions.

How can I convince my parents to respect my privacy?

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    The related question included (at some point) the wonderful analogy with going to the bathroom. So, a not entirely serious comment would be to start pooping with the door open. And if your parents ask you to shut the door, just tell them "Why? I've got nothing to hide." – Erik Aug 25 '17 at 20:43
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    Humans may be apex predators nowadays, but we weren't for most of the history of the species. So the issue is possibly less of wanting "privacy" as not wanting to feel exposed/stalked. I suspect the way your room is currently arranged, you're back is to the doorway when using the computer. While I'm not suggesting it as a resolution, it may be an interesting experiment to see how you feel about the door being open if you rearrange your room so that the doorway is easily visible when you were using the computer. – Derek Elkins Aug 25 '17 at 22:38
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    Sometimes, maybe you can't. I remember wanting to close the door to my bedroom. My father found it incredibly anti-social. Years later, we re-arranged the rooming arrangement, and he used that same room as a work area where he authored a book. I remember hearing him say how nice it was to just have the door shut in that room. It was something he didn't understand until he spent many hours there himself, and I don't think I could have said anything to convince him before he had that experience. So, in summary, sometimes convincing (even of the truth) might not be possible. – TOOGAM Aug 27 '17 at 4:56
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Show them that you have nothing to hide.

This seems like it might be an issue of trust - or a lack thereof - between your parents and you. To be honest, their feelings are understandable. Families try to be open with one another, especially in the case of parents and children. When someone does something in what appears to be an attempt to shut themselves off from those they love, a little backlash is not unreasonable. (I recommend looking at Too much computer? on Parenting Stack Exchange to see how your parents might be thinking.)

First and foremost, acknowledge that their concerns aren't fully unreasonable. I think I've said this here before, but in most disputes, the other party will be more agreeable if you let them know that you're not blindly disagreeing with them - because it appears that you are, in fact, disagreeing with them. I've had fights with my parents that probably could have been avoided if it was clear that each of us understood to a certain degree what the other was saying - we just disagreed.

Second, be open with them about what you were doing. I was a bit secretive of my activities when I first participated in Stack Exchange, in part because I had never even used social media before, let alone a question and answer site like this! I wasn't sure how much my parents would approve of my use of it. So I made the decision to hide it - not lying, but not keeping them informed.

Then the tsunami broke when my mom looked over my shoulder, and immediately got suspicious. Fortunately, I made what I think is your best choice: I was open about what I was doing. In particular, I did the following:

  • I explained what Stack Exchange was and how it worked.
  • I explained why I used it, and the benefits it had for me.
  • I reassured her that it was not interfering with other aspects of my life (such as homework).

I was honest, sincere, and completely open with my parents. I didn't hide anything, and they quickly understood that it made sense.

You have a similar case, and frankly, I think that's a good thing. You're not doing anything wrong; all you have to do is show them. Don't be afraid of doing so. You'll build trust, and in the long run, I think they'll respect your privacy quite a bit more.

The conversation itself

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the typical conversation goes like this:

Parents: Why close your door?

You: I want some privacy.

Parents: You are doing something bad that you want to hide.

Here's the point at which you quite literally prove them wrong. Here's a possible extension:

You: I know that what I'm doing looks suspicious, and I understand your concerns.

Parents: It looks incredibly suspicious.

You: Well, here's what I'm doing. There this site called Stack Exchange. It's a question and answer site that covers a range of different topics. By participating, I'm helping people around the world.

[Continue conversation as you wish.]

As NVZ pointed out, there's still the possibility of your parents further pushing the issue, i.e. saying "Why were you closing the door if you're doing something helpful?"

At this point, talking about privacy is a much better tactic. Bringing it up early in the discussion seems like a shield; it doesn't give that great a reason for you to have essentially hidden from your parents. They had no good reason to believe that you weren't doing something wrong, and that's probably why things have gone as poorly as they have.

However, you've now demonstrated what you've been doing, and talking about privacy no longer seems like just an excuse. It's a very reasonable justification, and I think they'll be more receptive to it.


There is one other thing I forgot: You're 14.

I know you've probably heard this all before, but you're in a phase where you're growing up. At the same time, you're still your parents' son; they are still (legally and morally) responsible for your safety and well-being. To fully care for you and guide you down the weird and challenging road of life, they do need to know what you're doing most of the time.

You're a young adult, not a full adult, and you're working your way towards independence. That doesn't mean that you can hide everything from them, and it doesn't mean that they get to know everything you're doing. There's a middle ground to be struck, and everyone in the situation has to understand that. For the sake of resolving this issue and future ones, I hope you'll bear this in mind.

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    You might add that a parents responsibility (often legal) for their children is different from other situations between adults. So they have some additional rights in that respect. Management of electronic communications is a contentious issue. – user3169 Aug 25 '17 at 20:50
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    That's an excellent point, @user3169. Thank you. I've made an edit accordingly. – HDE 226868 Aug 25 '17 at 20:55
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    I strongly disagree with the underlying premise in this answer that closing one's door "looks suspicious" or is "hiding" something. Wanting privacy is a perfectly normal thing that people do throughout their lives, rarely because they are doing "something bad". Why even have doors in homes if their only purpose is for "suspicious" people to "hide" doing "something bad"? I do agree that there seems to be a trust issue if the parents feel they need to constantly surveil the OP to feel confident the OP isn't doing "something bad", but this may be an irrationality on the parents' part. – Derek Elkins Aug 25 '17 at 23:17
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    @DerekElkins That assumption is something that the OP's parents made; it's the reason he's in this situation in the first place. – HDE 226868 Aug 25 '17 at 23:20
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    @Thomas I would say someone doing something that everyone does can hardly be viewed as suspicious behavior. I explicitly acknowledged that the parents are (possibly irrationally) taking this perspective. What I'm complaining about is the answer does and suggests buying into the parents' framing. First, I just think that framing is wrong. Second, this eliminates leverage from the OP: "I agree this is suspicious, but you should let me do suspicious things anyway" is not a strong argument. Third, this sets a bad precedent. I admit rejecting the framing in a non-combative way is difficult. – Derek Elkins Aug 25 '17 at 23:53
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I think getting to why you want such privacy could help. Everyone likes their privacy but many don't feel the need to always have their door shut and have the intimate privacy you're looking for.

Personally, I like my me time as in just me, myself, and I with no one else around or near me. Going into my room and closing the door cuts off everyone else in the household and gives me the that intimate privacy I seek.

Note: this is not secretive privacy which is what your parents are assuming it is.

I get the sense this could be a similar feeling for you and explaining it this way may help your parent's shift perspective.

I'm sure they value their alone time as well. When they have their door closed and expect privacy, do you respect their need for privacy as well? (You gave no indication that you don't, just make sure you keep this in mind. You must show respect for the same thing you want respect for).

If they do this, use it as an example.

You go into your room and close the door. I respect that you need time away from the the family, that's all I'm doing too.

Mind you, they are your parents and a number of teens get into things online they shouldn't. I'm sure they're concerned for your safety which is why HDE 226868's response will help you build trust with them.

Edit: added some verbiage to use and also a tidbit to help understand where your parents are possibly coming from.

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I would tell them that everyone has a right to respect reasonable privacy. Curtains and fences might "hide" people and their actions, but we don't demand that people tear them down because we are afraid they are doing something wrong. You can use this analogy to explain to them how boundaries and privacy, when appropriately executed, build, rather than destroy, trust.

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    I understood that but that didn't answer the question title – Omar Abdelhafiz Aug 25 '17 at 19:14
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    An implied response from this answer could be "are you saying everyone who has a fence is doing something illegal?" – user3316 Aug 25 '17 at 19:25
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    Hi, David, welcome to Interpersonal Skills. This doesn't seem to be a possible response so much as a justification for the OP's behavior. I know the question is a bit unclear right now, but can you try to edit your answer to make it a usable response? Thanks. – HDE 226868 Aug 25 '17 at 19:28
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I found enlightenment and humor in the previous responses, keeping in mind those responses are to a a minor. I laughed out loud about wearing pants, and leaving the bathroom door open, or closing bedroom curtains. However, any of these are disrespectful if used by an offspring to their parent(s).

The question of going through someone's phone, could also apply to any computing device, a wallet, purse, briefcase, closet, desk drawers, dresser drawers, or kitchen cabinets too. Let's not forget the car glove compartment or trunk either.

All of these are a matter of context. Why does someone care what I have, where I have it, or what I am doing if/when they cannot see it or me in plain sight? Are they being protective, curious about participating/sharing, suspicious with or without probable cause, or just snoopy? What gives them any right to judge me or my activities without intimate knowledge of the context of my situation?

With or without curtains, doors, walls, or fences, (or pants) we all have our private space, personal space, and public space. Public space is or should also be further subdivided by work/school, home, friends/relatives. The point of privacy is being able to choose what or when you share, and with whom. Most privacy debates are initiated by some level of distrust or suspicion of [legally, socially, or morally] unacceptable activity.

Some activities demand and require more privacy than others. To some, prayer is private. To others, it is public. In some cases, it may be both. There are also times and places which frown upon any form of prayer.

Our privacy really has nothing to do with hiding anything. It has to do with trusting those around us to accept who we are and what we are doing. And in some cases when or why we do it. Our privacy, as adults, is not up to someone else to decide or choose if it should be applied, deserved, or stripped away. Unless of course we are in jail/prison. But that is another story.

The above are only opinions and observations of the author and do not reflect the web pages or site they are posted on...

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So, the thing is. It's not unusual for parents to be weirded out by their kids wanting privacy. But... It's unhealthy. It's not sustainable. If they want you to grow up, they can't wait until you turn 18, then suddenly treat you like you're a fully developed adult. They have to start treating you more and more like an adult over time.

If an adult houseguest were with them, would they even ask about a closed door? Probably not. Privacy is a normal thing humans want and arguably a psychological need. And it's normal and healthy for you to want privacy without needing any reason beyond "I experience this desire".

I don't like the advice to agree that their concerns are reasonable, because I don't think it's true. But it may be tactically useful to at least try to acknowledge the thing, and build an awareness of the distinction between "I want to keep a thing secret" and "I don't want the additional awareness of people looking at me."

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Show them that privacy isn't about secrecy

The fundamental misunderstanding here is that the reason you want privacy, is because you want secrecy, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is the famous exploitation of this fallacy, the idea that everything should be public by default, simply because privacy allows secrecy is essentially an excuse used by powers that be to ignore boundaries and restrict freedoms.

Your parents need to understand that having your door shut is, as well as a symbol of trust between you, a practical and useful tool outside of it's use to conceal. Having your door shut, as well as being a simple fire safety precaution, makes it easier to concentrate without distractions from your work, it allows you to make your room into an ambient space, watching videos and playing music out loud and the like, you can do many things in a room with the door closed that you can't do as easily without.

Start here if you don't care about context
So my advice is simply to shut the door and do something that's clearly not secret, but requires concentration or begets privacy, make something, paint something, do a jigsaw puzzle, whatever, and have music playing, and when they open the door, greet them and ask them to shut the door behind them as you're trying to concentrate or don't want to bother anyone with your music. Be civil, what you're doing here is making it seem like a courtesy that you've shut your door. And if they are simply blind to this kind of communication, then your parents have a problem with paranoia that isn't going to be fixed by you right now. This is not an issue worth ruining a relationship for.

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