Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Ages & Stages

Information for Teens: What You Need to Know About Privacy

Click here to insert a picture from SharePoint. Click here to insert a picture from SharePoint.

Who do you talk with when you need advice about your health and personal life?

While it's best to talk with your parents (or guardians), they might not be your first choice.

If you are too embarrassed or worry about how your parents will react, it's important that you talk with an adult who can give you trusted advice, like your doctor.

Your doctor…

  • Respects your privacy.

  • Has answered all kinds of questions from other teens.

  • Is an expert in health and well-being, so will want to ask you private questions to help you make healthy decisions for yourself.

  • Can help you find a way to talk with your parents or other trusted adult(s) in your life.

The following are some questions teens have asked about providing privacy and their health concerns:

Common questions you may have about privacy

How do I talk with my doctor in private?

Just ask. Time can be set aside by your doctor to talk privately during almost every visit.

What can I talk about with my doctor?

You can and should talk with your doctor (or the office nurse) about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

Sometimes your doctor will ask questions about school, your friends and family members. Sometimes they will ask you personal things like how you're feeling or what you like to do in your free time.

The more your doctor knows about you, the better they are able to answer your questions or concerns.

Will my doctor tell my parents what we talked about?

Your doctor will keep the details of what you talk about private, or confidential. The only time your doctor cannot honor your privacy is when they believe there is an immediate threat to your safety or someone else's. Ask your pediatrician about this directly so you can fully understand.

You can also talk with your doctor about how to share any information necessary to keep everybody safe.

At your next visit be sure to…

  • Ask your doctor about what things can be kept confidential where you live.

  • Tell your doctor if some of the things you talk about can be shared with your parents.

  • Ask your doctor who has access to your medical records (paper and electronic) and if your records are secure.

  • Discuss any privacy concerns if you communicate with your doctor by e-mail, through the patient portal or on the phone.

If I see my doctor on my own, won't my parents find out when they get the bill?

You should ask your doctor, as it depends on the type of insurance that your family has.

Ask your doctor what steps are taken to protect your information when records need to be shared with insurance companies and other health care professionals outside your doctor's office.

Questions about sex and sexuality

Why do I need to tell my doctor if I'm having sex?

It's helpful for your doctor to know that you are having sex, or plan to have sex, so they can help you make safe and healthy decisions that are best for you.

Your doctor can make sure you have reliable information about condoms and other forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV. If you have an infection, they can let you and your partner get treatment. Your pediatrician can also discuss ways to recognize and build positive, safe and healthy relationships.

Can I get tested for an STI without my parents knowing?

In most cases, you can be tested and treated for STIs without your parents knowing. Sometimes, though, it depends on age and other factors. Talk with your doctor for more information and how to receive this type of care.

Can I get the pill (or other types of birth control) on my own?

In many states, you can get family planning services, including birth control and emergency contraception without permission from your parents. If you feel you can't talk with your doctor, there are public clinics such as STI clinics, sometimes referred to as family planning clinics, in many communities.

At these clinics teens can get tested for STIs and get birth control on their own. School health clinics might also be able to provide family planning services without parents' permission. Talk with your doctor to make sure this is true where you live.

Will my doctor tell my parents if I'm gay, lesbian or bisexual?

No, your doctor will not share this information with your parents unless there are serious concerns about your safetylike if you were feeling so sad that you were thinking of hurting yourself.

Even then, your doctor would tell your parents that you were depressed and need help, but would not reveal your sexual orientation. Your doctor may be able to help you decide if and how to tell others.

What if I was forced to have sex?

Sexual assault is very traumatic. If you are forced to have sex by anyone, even someone you're in a relationship with or someone you know, you deserve care and support that is safe and focused on your needs and comfort.

You can have all care related to this issue delivered in a confidential manner. Specifically, you have the right to have evidence collected and to call the police to press charges.

You also have the right to receive or refuse STI testing and treatment, including emergency contraception (the "morning after" pill) to prevent pregnancy, and rape crisis counseling.

Remember that your doctor is available to help you get through this difficult event.

Questions about alcohol and drugs

Do I have to take a drug test if my school or parents ask me to?

You can decline drug testing, but it is best to discuss the reasons for testing with your doctor how refusing or accepting a test may affect what happens.

I have a drinking (or drug) problem and I want to stop before my parents find out. Where can I get help?

While it's best to talk honestly with your parents, you can talk with your pediatrician about it without parental consent. Your doctor can help you find a counselor or program. In most cases, parents may be disappointed about alcohol or drug use, but when their teen has asked for help, most are relieved and support treatment.

Your doctor can also help you tell your parents. It's important that they are part of your treatment.

Other questions

What if I don't have parents caring for me and I am in foster care?

In general, foster care systems protect confidentiality, but there are different programs and different rules. In general, Ask your doctor for more information.

How do I tell my parents I'm failing some classes in school?

Your doctor can help you think through a plan so that you, or you and your doctor together, can tell your parents. They are likely to hear the news from the school, so hearing it from you first is usually better.

If it's not possible to talk with your parents about this, confide in another trusted adult such as a school counselor, a relative, a friend or caring adults in your community. Help is available.

Sometimes I can't stop feeling sad or worried and I think about hurting myself. Who can help me?

If you are thinking of hurting yourself or your life is in danger, your doctor will have to tell your parents. Your doctor also may refer you for an emergency evaluation to keep you safe.

Tell your doctor or school counselor if you are feeling worried, very upset, or depressed. There are many ways to try to help you feel better. Your doctor or counselor will be able to help find the right treatment for you.

5 way to take charge of your health

  • Be honest. The more you can share with your doctor the better they can help you. This includes if you are on any special diets, are taking any medicines, or have any health problems.

  • Ask questions. It's important that you understand the health information and advice you are receiving and that you can trust the source. Sometimes medical terms can be confusing, so don't be afraid to ask questions. No question is stupid!

  • Talk with your parents. If it's possible, try talking with your parents. Your doctor may have suggestions on what you can say. Keep in touch with your doctor.

  • Check in with your doctor once a year, not only when you are sick. Make sure your doctor has your current address and phone number. Keep your doctor's contact information too.

  • Be responsible. Seek help and advice when you need it. Don't miss your appointments, reschedule visits when needed, and follow up with your doctor when you have questions.

An important message for parents

Now that your child is a teenager, their body and feelings are changing. It's important to keep a close relationship with your teen, but this also means encouraging the ability to make healthy decisions and allowing your teen to talk alone with the doctor at each visit. This will help your teen learn about themself, develop a trusting relationship and make healthy decisions.

The doctor will encourage your teen to share information with you. Bbut there may be some things they would rather talk about first with the doctor, and that's OK. The most important thing is that your teen is talking with a responsible adult about their health concerns.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us