In the Blog

Taking a “Shakedown” mentality with Teens

October 19th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

Okay, so I watch Oprah. Occasionally. I go to the gym around 4:00 PM, it’s on, and I watch it. There, I said it.

Yesterday Bill Cosby was on Oprah talking about his new book, Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors. Over the past year Cosby traveled the country to spread the word about the violence and lack of education faced by minority youth in the United States. The campaign in principle is a noble one (although he has faced criticism,) but for me it was something that Cosby said at the end of the show that I found particularily worrisome:


(Cosby) says he has a friend who thinks parents can keep track of their kids by adopting the “shake down” philosophy used by prison guards. “He talks to his congregation, telling parents why they don’t have to knock on a door…a bedroom door…of a child, and say, ‘May I come in?’” Bill says. “Why? Because you don’t pay any rent. This is not your place.” Parents need to know all about what their children are doing–they should look under beds, monitor Internet usage, know who their friends are, Bill says.

While I completely agree that parents should be aware of their children’s lives, there is something to be said for privacy and respect, and how vital those two things are in the raising of a child. I’ve written before about how raising children in a pseudo-police state can be problematic if not demoralizing for some. And I certainly don’t believe the solution to teen violence and drug abuse is rummaging through your kid’s stuff and saying “you have no rights because you don’t pay rent.” Maybe I’m naive, I believe that many teens understand that when their parents respect their privacy they do so out of trust, and the mutual respect that comes from that goes a long way in “keeping kids out of trouble.”

Cosby’s justification for a “shakedown?” “This is part of love, and this is what we have to do.”

(I’m not alone in thinking Cosby’s theories have their faults; AlterNet is calling him out on his perpetuation of racial stereotypes.)

I wonder what our readers think. Is it right to strip teens of their privacy for “their own good?” Or do you think that can simply exacerbate the problem?

Tags: in my opinion..., news flash

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