Prof. Dr. Ahmet AKIN
İstanbul Medeniyet University Family Counseling Chair
Privacy defines a private area that protects human dignity and honour. Unlike all other creatures, the privacy of the body and the privacy of the home is a natural feeling inherent in every human being, including primitive tribes. Privacy is not such a simple concept that it can only be reduced to male-female relationships; word and even thought have privacy. The act which is called “spying” in the Qur’an that means searching and inquiring about people’s private lives is a violation of privacy. Privacy is the private space of one person that is forbidden and restricted to another. Being careful about each other’s privacy areas increases social trust, establishes community peace and helps common sense to prevail. The concept of privacy, which develops from infancy and requires fulfilling different developmental tasks in each developmental period and gaining awareness for different responsibilities, emerges in a wide spectrum in human life.
Privacy is a phenomenon that is likely to be violated at every moment of life in architecture, art, education, family, the individual’s inner world, media, television, newspaper, social media, clothing, and fashion. And in case of violation, it brings problems with the self-esteem, honour and dignity of human beings. The perception of privacy, which has lost its importance, especially with the effect of social media, is the basis for the protection and strengthening of marriage, family life and individual rights and freedoms. Now, the perception of privacy within the home and family is gradually losing its power, people can easily share their private lives of their family and can present the most special images of their children to people. In our ancient culture, it is known that women and men use different knockers at the entrance doors of houses, according to the sound of the knocker, the household inside the house understands whether the person is a woman or a man and prepares accordingly. We should all question how we have become a society that does not hesitate to disclose such a sensitive understanding of privacy, and we should take the necessary measures by examining the reasons for this. Otherwise, a person may humiliate himself by easily exceeding the limits, by going under the control of animal and sensual desires, and by moving away from the qualities of being human.
We Don’t Protect Privacy, Privacy Protects Us
Human beings protect themselves to the extent that they take care to protect their privacy. The opposite of privacy is exhibitionism. There are certain living spaces that are special only to one’s family and children, and there are also areas that should be special to his children. First of all, the concept of privacy within the family must be clearly embedded in the minds. When we care about privacy;
– We can become aware of our own and other people’s private space,
– We can protect our own private space in daily life and social relations,
– We respect other people’s private lives,
– We can set healthy boundaries between ourselves and our environment,
– We gain awareness of our own and other people’s private areas and we take care to protect these areas.
Thus, we can both learn to respect people and make people respect us. We can prevent a series of moral, religious, social and cultural problems.
Privacy gives us information about people’s private areas that are forbidden or illicit to be looked at, touched, talked about and listened to. For this reason, it is extremely important for parents to provide privacy education to their children in the family. When we develop the consciousness of privacy in our children and ourselves;
– We feel ourselves as a more valuable being,
– We can form a positive personality,
– We can develop awareness of social duties and roles belonging to ourselves and individuals of the opposite sex,
– We can establish a relationship with people based on trust and respect,
– We can stay away from abnormal and pathological thoughts, attitudes and behaviors,
– We can prevent diseases such as prostitution, adultery and exhibitionism that destroy the family and society.
In other words, privacy not only protects and strengthens the honor and dignity of the individual, but also constitutes the cement and leaven of the family and society.
How should privacy education be?
In each development period, different duties and responsibilities related to privacy come into play. First of all, we should be aware that with the perception and education of privacy, we bring dignity and consciousness to our children, not a feeling of shame or shyness. What we want is not to raise generations that cannot express themselves, defend their rights and are ashamed of themselves. On the contrary, it is raising people who can regard themselves and others as ‘the most honorable of creations’ and establish relationships befitting their dignity, as a vicegerent of Allah on earth, as well as their family and other people. Unfortunately in our society, for the last 200 years, using the terms that are Islamic and ‘fitri’ (suitable for creation) has caused an ‘inferiority complex’, when you say ‘privacy education’, many people perceive it as an education that takes the individual back and pacifies the society. On the other hand, when it comes to ‘sexual education’, which is imposed by the West and which corrupts generations and individuals, destroys the perception of morality and honour, and legitimizes the sexual intercourse of adolescent children under the name of recognizing the opposite sex, it is perceived as a very modern education.
Privacy education helps our children to develop a sublime sense of satisfaction, which is primarily caused by behaving in accordance with the commands of their Lord and the dignity and consciousness of a believer. In addition, we give our children the sense and power of self-management and the value of being human. Privacy education does not mean to supervise and control our children, but to give them the power to check and control themselves. Privacy education helps to raise individuals with internal control rather than external control. The important thing here is to create an insight and a privacy awareness in our children, not to interfere with their every behavior.
Privacy Education for Children
The most important point we should pay attention to while giving privacy education to our children is not to harm their emotional development. Using words such as shame and sin, which are frequently used in our society, cause our children to experience emotional tension and anxiety instead of creating consciousness, and to throw these feelings into their subconscious. The important thing is to raise awareness. For this reason, we must explain to our children why something is not appropriate, why it is against privacy, or why it should not be done, in a language that they can understand. While doing this, the best method is to be a model; in this way, privacy education is naturally given to the child.
Until the age of two, children tend to act on their impulses (id), they want to try everything, and they don’t quite understand what will hurt them. After the age of two, as the ego begins to develop, they can begin to logically and consciously distinguish what is beneficial to them. After the age of 5, they can become aware of social rules and begin to act in accordance with moral values. Because the development of conscience accelerates and the super ego develops. For this reason, if we explain the situations that should not be done from this age and that are not suitable for privacy, we can find a suitable response from them if we explain the reasons.
Even if we are parents, when we try to kiss, touch, and love our children forcibly in an undesirable situation, they will develop a perception of “not being able to protect themselves no matter what they do”, so they generalize this to foreign adults whom they do not know and cannot develop a reflex of self-protection. Therefore, when our children do not want us to kiss them, not to hug them and not to make physical contact, it will be to their benefit not to do so. From the age of two, our children should be told that their genital/private areas should be hidden and that it is not appropriate to show them to others. These areas should not be touched by anyone other than the mother. The mother should only touch these areas during the care and cleaning process, and should not touch the genitals of the children in any way, for the purpose of playing or joking.
Our children should be taught to clean their bodies as early as possible, and they should be brought to a position where they can fulfill their self-care skills, and thus should be brought to a level where they will not need the care of others. We should not make jokes about our genitals with our children, it is a huge mistake to ask them to expose their genitals while we love them. We should not send our children naked outside the house, and we, as adults, should comply with this both inside and outside the home. There is a great relationship between dressing and privacy; with systematic desensitization, the generation gradually gets used to nudity. The logic “It doesn’t matter if they’re naked when they’re young, it changes when they grow up”, has made us this way. If the children get used to nudity, that is, not dressing appropriately, at a young age, it is a futile effort to try to change them in the future.
Both ourselves and their siblings should get permission, albeit as a game, from our children’s rooms, and thus lay the basis for the development of the perception of privacy. In the selection of clothes and accessories, we should not highlight the private areas of our children. The dresses we buy must be appropriate for their age and gender. Especially today, some clothes worn by young children contain exhibitionist aspects. Young children should never be put on make-up. This is a form of child abuse.
We must be extremely careful about the books our children read, the programs they watch, and the websites and social media platforms they follow, as much as their clothing. Especially in virtual environments, all kinds of dangerous content can be easily accessed. As parents, let’s not share pictures and videos of our children in the social media environments. Since they are underage, their consent will not be obtained, and if they have a problem in the future for this reason, we will be responsible both legally and morally. Exposing children on social media is one of the biggest problems of this age.
Privacy Education for Adolescents
Adolescence, which is seen as the transition period from childhood to youth, is a period of intense confusion and struggle. The adolescent individual questions himself in every aspect, and although these questionings often cause the individual to be shaken, it ultimately contributes to the development of the person in terms of philosophy and existence. Adolescence is a period when crises are especially experienced, but this is necessary and important for a healthy identity development. The individual asks the question “Who am I?” in terms of religion, philosophy, politics, and ideology. He often asks the question and, accordingly, wants to position himself on the ground of life. In this period, when existential pains are experienced intensely, the person analyzes the purpose and meaning of his life, what he wants to do, and the direction of his life. In addition, when the difficulties caused by physical changes and developments are added to these, this process can be seen as a stormy but critical period for the individual.
Another feature of this period is the “identification” need of adolescents. The individual identifies himself with the people he deems important for him, adopts their behaviors, lifestyle and attitudes and applies them to his own life. In this case, the individual almost lives a second life. These idols, who can be parents, teachers, one of their peers, a football player, a politician and a movie star, play a critical role in the identity acquisition process. Again, at the age of 14-16, which coincides with the middle of adolescence, a process called adolescent egocentrism is experienced. In this process, it is quite common for the individual to feel as if the world revolves around him. He argues that what he says and thinks is the most correct. He thinks that his feelings are difficult for others to understand and that these feelings are unique to him. An adolescents may have the perception that everyone around him is interested in him, either positively or negatively.
During adolescence, if parents cannot develop a healthy communication with their children and cannot enter their world and look at events from their perspective, the risk of losing their children increases. In this period, it is necessary to adopt an attitude that we call “managing in the background”, without adopting a directly dominant and authoritarian attitude, but in a way that is aware of what the child is doing at all times. Privacy education should also be given with a very meticulous attitude during this period. It is important to follow the middle path by being respectful to the child’s existence without acting like a nanny or a governess, but also by being consistent in terms of the importance and necessity of this education.
If our child has a sibling during adolescence, their beds should be separated with him, and naked bathing should not be allowed together. Otherwise, there may be negative rapprochement arising from pure curiosity and sometimes in the form of a game, and these may lead to traumatic feelings and psychological traumas that will last for a long time. When they start primary school, the rooms of sisters and brothers should be separated, if it is not possible, a screen should be put between the beds. This is extremely important; because while children are dressing and taking off their clothes in the same environment, they see each other’s private areas, thus paving the way for a privacy violation. Adolescent boys and girls cannot act comfortably in the same room while sleeping and cleaning at night. In addition, it is very important for our children to set up a special locker in their room where they can put their underwear and personal belongings, in the development of their sense of privacy. These special cabinets should not be mixed without their permission.
We must take care of our children’s privacy outside home as well as inside home. No matter how much our children sweat, they should not play outside without clothes and with their tops open. Again, our children should not be alone in the same environment with an adult. A traumatic event can be learned sometimes months or years later, but the effects of these negative events and abuses can appear instantly in our children. For this reason, we should ask them from time to time if there is an event that they are afraid to tell us or if someone says, “Don’t tell this to anyone”. However, when our children share something with us, they should be sure that they will not receive a negative reaction from us so that they can share their problems with us.
Especially today, there are many channels where adolescents can easily learn negative words and behaviors. In this age where female adolescents are increasingly more masculine and male adolescents increasingly more feminine, we must always be aware of what sources our children feed on. We should make an effort to stay away from environments where they can learn swearing, slang and rude actions. Ourselves too as parents and adults, we should set positive role models and praise our children, both within the family and in front of others, when they demonstrate behaviors and words that suit privacy.
If our child needs to be left alone at home or if he comes home before us, we should advise him not to open the door to anyone and ask him to call the police or a relative immediately if there are people who insist on opening the door. Since negative situations such as theft, extortion, organ trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, and taking children hostage are common nowadays, we should not think that it will happen to us and we should not leave our children alone at home as much as possible. When our child encounters situations that he does not like, he should know how to object, shout and run. When we visit other people’s houses, we should make sure that the doors of the rooms are not completely closed, and we should check the children while playing. Remember, minor negligence can lead to major trauma.
Struggle for Privacy in Social Media
10 years ago, our privacy would have ensured when we just protected the inside of our house from foreigners. Unfortunately, nowadays, the inside of our house can be on everyone’s phone, not only inside our house, but also our close moments with our spouse, the images of what we eat and drink, our housedress, everything. In the past, we used to close the tulle curtain during the day and the sunshade in the evening, so that our house would not be visible from the outside, we would take care not to leave as much open space as a needle width, we made an effort for it. Hanging roller blinds and day night blinds on our windows dealt the first blow to our perception of privacy, as if we had nothing to hide from anyone anymore.
It’s almost as if there are no limits left for sharing and likes on social media. Even if you only share it on the platforms where your relatives are present, an image or sound that falls on social media can spread all over the world in a short time. For this reason, it is necessary to be extremely careful in sharing and likes in order not to be a tool for abuses and the intentions of malicious people.