Privacy is personal, but sometimes the privacy we protect is not our own. For parents, keeping children safe and providing sound guidance to them now extends into the online world.
How does sharing photos and anecdotes about our children online have an impact on a child’s future? How should parents best safeguard their child’s digital identity? When the time comes, how do parents make kids aware of what it means to be a part of a social sharing economy, and prepare them to make privacy-savvy choices?
In this article, we’ll look at new social media features which may change the way you think about your privacy practices, as well as a collection of resources you’ll find helpful for raising privacy-conscious kids in a generation “shared from before birth.”
The Scrapbook Goes Social
We may think what we share impacts our lives alone, but surprisingly few parents have reservations documenting and sharing the lives of their children on social media. Facebook has recently launched a new feature specifically for parents who want to gather and tag their child’s media. Facebook Product Manager Dan Barak introduced the idea after discovering the Facebook platform had no way to tag children under the age of 13. (Facebook users must be at least 13 before joining.)
Eventually, kids can “inherit” their identity and tags. Given that a recent study in the UK by print site Posterista revealed 64 percent of parents upload images of their children to social media sites at least three times per week, one can imagine the rather stunning archive of digital material kids will face “in their name.”
Critics rightfully raise a number of concerns. Should such a comprehensive archive of potentially embarrassing material be archived in the social cloud? Can adults reasonably educate their kids on the value of selective sharing when they themselves had little-to-no restraint as parents?
“Essentially, this means that with each photo upload, Kate’s parents are, unwittingly, helping Facebook to merge her digital and real worlds. Algorithms will analyze the people around Kate, the references made to them in posts, and over time will determine Kate’s most likely inner circle. The problem is that Facebook is only one site. With every status update, YouTube video, and birthday blog post, Kate’s parents are preventing her from any hope of future anonymity.”
If the right to privacy is a basic human right, are parents unwittingly compromising their child’s future privacy by embracing these sorts of sharing features?
“The Talk” About Privacy
In many ways, we are not so unlike awkward pubescents when it comes to privacy. Given the explosion of social media in the past ten years and the ubiquity of robust mobile devices for documenting our lives, our society is in a widespread adolescence about privacy issues.
Preparing the next generation means increasing our awareness and learning how to effectively teach kids about privacy and online safety. Fortunately, there are good resources available to help “have the talk” about privacy:
1. Common Sense Media on Privacy & Internet Safety: This company is dedicated to “helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.” In terms of privacy and Internet safety, they offer “to help kids maximize the Internet’s benefits — while minimizing the risks — we offer the latest research, tips, and tools on what really keeps kids safe. Which privacy settings should you use? What are the ins and outs of parental controls? Get tips on everything from the basics, such as smart usernames, to the big stuff, such as appropriate sharing.”
2. OnGuardOnline.gov: OnGuardOnline.gov is the federal government’s website to help users be safe, secure and responsible online. OnGuardOnline.gov is a partner in the Stop Think Connect campaign. The website suggests you can reduce online safety and privacy risks “by talking to your kids about how they communicate – online and off – and encouraging them to engage in conduct they can be proud of.”
3. FTC portal for Kids’ Online Safety: The Federal Trade Commission offers a portal with useful information and notes that “the opportunities kids have to socialize online come with benefits and risks. Adults can help reduce the risks by talking to kids about making safe and responsible decisions.”
4. GetNetWise: Hosts the “Kids Guide for Privacy Online” as well as age-appropriate safety guidelines and the types of risks kids may encounter online.
Minding the Tech/Life Balance
Social tech and apps have given us unprecedented insight into our own lives and the lives of others. But as we aggregate data points and trade likes over “baby’s first moments,” we should be mindful of what it means to be present in our lives versus engaging with “quantified experience.” (Anna Prushinskaya writes insightfully about this in her essay “The Quantified Baby” for The Atlantic.)
Protecting our privacy can also help us protect experiences which are personal, sacred, and immediate.
This, too is what privacy is for.