Parents. The Anti Drug Prevention program advocates espionage?

The White House urges parents to break into their kids’ emails, instant messages and MySpace accounts – but are these common drug prevention practices? If my parents had secretly installed cookies, traced my phone calls and looked at my SMS phone messages I would have lost major respect. Is “The Anti-Drug” campaign off-track? Or is monitoring adolescent communication the new best thing for preventing drug and alcohol use?

minute read

I was doing my homework on latest addiction trends, when I happened upon the official site of the White House National Drug Control Policy for parents at . Maybe you remember messages like the poster below meant to prevent addiction? Or maybe you caught my Top 10 series on anti-drug PSAs of the 1980’s?



PARENTS: The Best Anti-Drug Prevention(revised)

Well, the concept is the same as the 80’s. The message is the same. But the rules are different. Parents are the first line of defense in addiction prevention for adolescents and teens. But what shocked me about the current White House policy is that the government condones, nay encourages, parents to monitor kids’ communication. Log into their social networks. Track their cookies. Read their SMS chats. Talk about a plan made to backfire. Talk about out of touch.

Although tapping into teenage life via cellphones and computers may seem an easy and smart way to guide a kid down the straight-and-narrow, it’s simply not an effective long-term strategy for preventing substance and alcohol abuse. Teenagers require privacy in order to evolve a sense of self. In fact, Erik Erikson‘s theory of psychosocial development states that during adolescence, teens either resolve their questions of identity, or end up in role confusion. The issues of becoming a grown-up either end in devotion and fidelity OR fanaticism and repudiation.

Furthermore, adolescents who are close to their parents would openly dialogue about addiction issues…without need for espionage. This current White House plan operates on the assumption that children are objects of their parent’s domain rather than growing adults. I think it’s pretty basic. A top-down monologue is not a dialogue. When you give distrust, you get distrust. And if you take away adolescent privacy, you get a resentful teenager.

I must, however, admit exceptions to every rule. This practice is quite clever and useful in one-time instances for getting help to a kid who’s in real trouble and shows signs of addiction.

What do you think? should parents have access to kids’ accounts? What if a parent PAYS FOR a teen’s technology subscriptions? Should s/he have the right to view how that technology is being used? Where is the line between private and parental discretion required?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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