Privacy Issues Don't Apply at 12

By Dr. Robert Wallace

May 28, 2021 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I bought my 12-year-old daughter her own cellphone, and I've never checked it in the five months she's had it.

I did give her specific rules when she first got her phone. For example, I instructed her not to share personal information with anyone and not to go online and talk to strangers in chatrooms of any kind.

My daughter is always with me, so I never felt the need to worry too much about this issue.

Then a funny thing happened the other night that gave me pause. I asked to use her phone for a minute to call my sister (her aunt) because I left my phone in my car. Well, my daughter turned a bit pale and panicked a bit, so naturally, this got me worried.

She did hand over the phone, and I didn't immediately notice anything out of sorts, so I made my call and gave it back to her.

This experience now has me wondering if I should start checking her cellphone messages and texts regularly? And if I do, should we do this together, or should I just check it by myself when she's asleep? — Concerned Mother, via email

CONCERNED MOTHER: At your daughter's age, it is indeed appropriate to go through your daughter's phone with her. Let her know what's considered appropriate, and also explain if there are things you notice that you don't like. Then explain fully why you don't like them. By doing this regularly with her, she'll fully understand where you are coming from and why. It's a teaching opportunity for you and a learning experience for her.

A parent's role is to protect, nurture and educate a child. At this young of an age, a cellphone can be dangerous if left unmonitored. Each child develops his or her level of maturity over time, so there eventually comes an age when close monitoring of a cellphone is no longer appropriate.

A 12-year-old needs to be protected and monitored very carefully. Immediately make up for the time you've already lost in this regard.


DR. WALLACE: My teenage son just told me after he graduates high school, he doesn't want to go to college or get a job. I have a full-time job, and so does my husband. We've worked very hard to earn enough to support our family in the home we live in.

I always thought my son would go to college after high school and then find a field of work he enjoyed that would lead him to get a good job. Now I'm not sure what happened to that expectation, and I feel confused. I'm not sure what to do with his comments or how to guide him toward his ultimate destiny when it comes to future employment. — Puzzled Mom, via email

PUZZLED MOM: Since you didn't mention your son's age, it's possible that he's young enough to not have given any serious thought yet to the topic. Trust me; at some point, this will likely kick in pretty fast, usually once his peers start working and begin to enjoy the disposable income that comes as the fruits of their labors.

If your son is over 18 and is not going to college or does not have a paying job, how long will you and your husband continue to support him financially?

This is a discussion you need to have with your husband and then your son. Give him some realistic expectations, along with a timeline.

I usually recommend parents to offer support for adult children for a finite, mutually discussed period of time in cases where adult children are not furthering their education or working.

As with most topics, communication and encouragement are the keys here. Try to be supportive and encouraging, but set guidelines and expectations, too.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: JESHOOTS-com at Pixabay

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