Our kids live in a culture of sharing that has forever changed the concept of privacy. In a world where everyone is connected and anything created can get copied, pasted, and sent to thousands of people in a heartbeat, privacy starts to mean something different than simply guarding personal or private information. Each time your child fills out a profile without privacy controls, comments on something, posts a video, or texts a picture of themselves to friends, they potentially reveal themselves to the world.
Why privacy matters
Digital life is both public and permanent. Everything our kids do online creates digital footprints that wander and persist. Something that happens on the spur of the moment — a funny picture, a certain post — can resurface years later. And if kids aren’t careful, their reputations can get away from them. Your child may think they just sent something to a friend — but that friend can send it to a friend’s friend, who can send it to their friends’ friends, and so on. That’s how secrets become headlines and how false information spreads fast and furiously. The stakes only rise when we remember that everything takes place in front of huge invisible audiences. Kids’ deepest secrets can be shared with thousands of people they’ve never even met.
Common Sense advice
Explain that nothing is really private — no matter what kids think. Privacy settings aren’t infallible. It’s up to kids to protect themselves by thinking twice before they post something that could damage their reputation or that someone else could use to embarrass or hurt them.
Teach kids to keep personal information private. Help kids define what information is important for them to keep private when they’re online. We recommend that kids not share their addresses, phone numbers, or birth dates.