Parental Authority and Children’s Right to Privacy: Where Is the Line Drawn?
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Parental Authority and Children’s Right to Privacy: Where Is the Line Drawn?

Posted on in Family Law
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Technology has changed the relationship that kids have with electronic devices and the relationship that parents have with their children’s electronic devices. As technology made surveillance easier and easier, nanny cam’s became part and parcel of a child’s bedroom and playroom. As children get older, cell phones that are given to children are boosted to include apps that provide a child-tracker to ensure that parents know where their children are every minute of every day. Whilesafety is the apparent reason, it seems that more likely than not it is the control provided over children that many parents enjoy.

With nanny cams now set up throughout the children’s environment, increased security and cameras in preschools and K-12 education facilities, and with every child equipped with his/her own cell phone attached with GPS, the question is: what type of privacy rights (if any) do children have?

Children and Their Expectation of Privacy

Generally speaking, children as persons have a certain level of expectation of privacy. However, due to their ages and immaturity, parents have a certain level of authority to decide the basic upbringing for their children because as minors they may not understand the implications of choices that need to be made for their benefit. Parents, as their parental responsibility, must make decisions that are in the best interest of the child, and willfully disobeying that responsibility could lead to the termination of their parental rights in favor of a parent or custodian who can.

Children and the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment, which protects persons from unreasonable searches and seizures from government interference, provides that children have a legitimate expectation of privacy in areas in which society deems as reasonable. In this case, it would be reasonable that children’s bedrooms are their domain and they have a certain level of expectation of privacy in their bedrooms when it comes to government interference. Without a warrant or exigent circumstances, children have the right to deny entry to government officials of the home, bedroom, or any personal effects that are contained within. However, a parent who enters the child’s bedroom and finds contraband may enter that contraband into evidence because the child can only use the Fourth Amendment to exclude the evidence if seized by the government, not a parent.

Parental Authority’s Interference with Child Privacy Rights

The parent-child relationship and how it relates to privacy rights is further complicated because the government in the past has stated that property interest in the space taken over by a person is not limited to those who actually pay rent. A guest in a house (or a child) has an expectation of privacy in the space that they possess (temporarily or otherwise) without having to pay rent; the Fourth Amendment rights are broader than that. In other words, children’s privacy rights are present, but the parents’ parental authority determines the extent to which the child may enforce these rights when it comes to the parents violating the child’s privacy.

Parental Authority Is Fundamental . . . With Limits

The reasoning why parental authority is held as fundamental is because parents have a duty and a right to control their children. Parents are liable for any action taken by their children that interferes with others’ fundamental rights. The Illinois Supreme Court, for example, found that parents have common authority to consent to a search of a child’s bedroom by police officials because of the doctrine of parental authority.

The Presumption of Parents Acting in the Best Interest of Their Children

Overall, the courts have founds that parental authority is expansive given the presumption that a parent knows what’s best for his or her child, especially in competition with minors’ rights to privacy, but the scope of this authority is limited when the actions of the parents harm the child. Also, the capacity and maturity of the child may also be taken into consideration; a four-year-old minor is more likely to need the parental authority compared to a minor of 16.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Parental rights are fundamental and should be protected as such. If your parental rights are being threatened, it is important to speak with the experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

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