Online Privacy for Kids and Teens

The online world presents a challenge to the privacy of today’s generation of kids and teens .  An online safety survey revealed that of the different generations – teens, parents and older adults – teens are viewed as the most vulnerable demographic group on the Internet.  The same survey found that parents and teens in the same household have different ideas about how much parents know about what their teen is doing online.  52% of parents say they sit alongside their teenager whenever they are online to monitor activity; but only 33% of teens in those same households confirm that.

So what does this mean for teens’ privacy online?  With social networking sites, instant chat and other internet technologies, teens are more likely than ever to interact online and find friends online.  While the Internet is a great place with many educational and recreational benefits, the challenge is that teens have a different perception when it comes to privacy online.  According to the survey, twice as many teens as parents (28% vs. 14%) are very likely to “Post a photograph of yourself and personal information or opinions, to share with your friends”.  One aspect of online privacy for kids and teens is helping them to understand what information is private, and how they should treat that  private information online.

Here are some things for teens to keep in mind as they interact on the Internet:

  • When posting information about yourself online, use this one rule: less is more.  The less personal information about yourself that you post online, the better.
  • Avoid posting information online that shares personal identifying information such as your last name, your home address, your phone number, date of birth, school or team name, travel plans, social security numbers, family financial information, bank or credit card number
  • Be cautious about posting photographs of yourself that include personal identifiable information, such as your house number in the background, your high school football team on your sweatshirt, etc.
  • Be careful about sharing information with people you don’t know.  If there’s someone online who you don’t really know, don’t accept them an Internet “friend.”
  • What goes online, stays online.  Once you put information, photographs, out on the Internet, they can be forwarded and stored, making it difficult if not impossible to determine who has access to your personal information and photos – and also making it difficult to delete your “digital records.”
  • Make sure you set privacy protections on social networking sites, so that only the people you approve can see your information.  Think twice before befriending someone you just met, perhaps at that party last week.  If you don’t know someone that well, do you really want them to have access to all the photos of you and your friends that you post on a social networking site?
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