Protecting Your Journaling Privacy

Chained up laptop, book, and phone

By: Erin McGinn

Sometimes family and friends can cause people’s trauma and people need a refuge from them to process their thoughts. Journaling can help them look at their thoughts more objectively and has many benefits listed throughout this blog. If you have a nosy parent, cousin, or toxic friend who will go through your stuff without asking, here are some ways to keep your private thoughts private.

Why People Pry

People like to peek into each other’s personal items and thoughts because they want to protect them, control them, or understand them better. One parent was reading her young daughter’s journal because she wanted to encourage her, soothe her fears and redirect negativity (Darling, 2017). The problem is people can’t remove all obstacles for their children and reading their child’s journal or diary will antagonize them.

Some people read private thoughts to tear the writer down. “Many self-involved parents like it when their child is needy and they can be the center of their child’s longing. Witnessing their child’s dependency makes them feel secure and in control” (Gibson, 2015, p.175). Tearing down their friends and family can temporarily make them feel better about themselves: Gossiping is attractive for the same reason.

When someone intrudes on your privacy, the first thing to do is talk to them. “Confrontational privacy management strategies, while often being momentarily unpleasant, offer the benefits of restoring boundary ownership while also being rather definitive messages that others cannot easily misinterpret” (Hawk, et al., 2009). However, if you have had previous issues with your parents or friends not respecting your clearly stated privacy boundaries, here are some tips to help carve out a safe space for yourself.

Journal In Private Locations

  • If you can, find a quiet room with a locking door.
  • Write in a convenient cafe. No one will know you or care about your thoughts and you can borrow the free Wi-Fi.
  • Writing during after-school clubs may help in certain instances.

Digital Document Privacy

  1. Put a password on the document.
  2. Encrypt the word document to make it unreadable: Encryption requires key management, for computer geeks can find the usual locations for the key. A key is a variable for the algorithm that scrambles the text (Loshin, 2022). Online hosting services frequently encrypt their user’s documents and require them to login before users can access them. So keep your passwords and keys safe. 
  3. Name it something unassuming: This only provides a modicum of protection. It’ll buy you some time to get back to your computer. The hacker will spend more time looking at the documents for the right one. 
  4. Log out of your account on your computer or bring your phone back to the lock screen before leaving the room/table.

Paper Journal Privacy 

  • Use a journal that requires a key or a combination and keep the key with you.Locking journals can be cut open with knives, so snag a journal that has more than just a strap to keep it closed.
  • Store it in a locked chest or lock box: Again, protect the key.
  • Burn it or shred it after writing: This is the most foolproof way to keep physical documents out of reach. However, once the journal or diary entry is gone, there is no way to get it back or reflect on your writing in the future. Consider this option carefully. There are specific journals you can buy that actually encourage burning after writing.

These privacy tips are not all-encompassing and may only work for some families. It is important to note frequent searches of rooms and devices are not normal. “An important gesture of courtesy and good boundaries in relationships is not to tell partners or friends what they should feel or think. Another is respecting that others have the final say on what their motivations are” (Gibson, 2015, p.180). People should ask about your feelings and experiences to your face so you can have a sincere conversation and stronger relationship. 

If you want to discuss feelings outside your social circles for better support, you can contact a therapist or group journal with The Love Story. Your entries with The Love Story will be written with a layer of protection, where everything written is fiction based on a true story. No one is allowed to ask what is true and what is fiction so the secrets you keep can stay yours: they are as real as reality TV. 

Begin Journaling Here


Darling, N. (2017, February 16). No mom, you can’t read your daughter’s diary (or texts). Psychology Today. 

Gibson, L. C. (2015, June 1). Adult children of emotionally immature parents: How to heal from distant, rejecting, or self-involved parents. New Harbinger Publications, Inc, p. 159-190.

Hawk, S. T., Keijsers, L., Hale, W. W., & Meeus, W. (2009). Mind your own business! Longitudinal relations between perceived privacy invasion and adolescent-parent conflict. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(4), 511–520. 

Loshin, P. (2022, June). What is encryption and how does it work? TechTarget.

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