Today is Data Privacy Day, an annual event designed to encourage the public to become more informed about online privacy issues. Hosted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), many organizations and communities will mark today by hosting events, doing activities in classrooms, and simply elevating the conversation about what privacy means in the 21st century and how we can all play our part to respect and protect it.
While we all have reasons to care about this day, I think the online privacy of our kids is one of the most challenging areas to tackle. Kids are still learning the basics of privacy in real life as they navigate personal interactions and relationships (Do you tell everyone you were invited to a classmate’s birthday party? Do you tell everyone what your parents spent on a large purchase? Is it ok to let people know about a relative’s health issues?). Sharing personal information online adds another level of complexity that even adults struggle to understand. If anyone, kids included, wanted to share this kind of information with a few people they trust, how do you control that online? Once you share it online, is it even private anymore?
There are tools and settings on all online services and social media apps that can help you limit who and what you are sharing information with, but it does take time to understand the features available on a specific app, and it takes more time to use them adeptly. In an ideal world, everyone you are sharing things with on that app would understand these features and use them, too. Each app and service does it differently, so it takes time to do this for each and every one you use. But they are there, some better than others, and there are guides and tips to help you further – from the apps and services themselves and from great organizations like Connectsafely, the NCSA, and more. Just do an online search and you’ll find plenty.
I am not advocating that kids should not share things online. But I do believe that they should do it with their eyes open. And I think as parents and educators, it is our job to teach them.
Perhaps it’s as easy as teaching them to ask 2 quick questions as their thumb hovers over the share or send button:
- Do I really need to share this?
- Is it ok if the whole world sees it?
Today, on Data Privacy Day, let’s start and continue a conversation with our kids about what privacy is and how to value, respect and protect it. Lawmakers, technology companies, and educational organizations should still push to create an environment where online privacy is fiercely protected. But let’s not lose sight of teaching each and every child the basics, too.