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The Privacy Talk
By: Jessica Cherok
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It seems a little counter-intuitive to be the one teaching your child about how to behave online when you're just learning the rules ourselves. But we’ve been doing that throughout human history — from the first caveman to warn his cave children about fire to teaching little Timmy about pedestrian safety after the invention of the Model T. Sometimes the technology is just as new to us as it is to those we’re teaching it to.

Because of how rapidly things change in the world of social media, it’s incredibly hard to keep abreast of all the different applications, let alone all of their different dos and don’ts. And let’s face it, the kids are going to be more hip to the technology than we are in a lot of ways. How can you teach them to safely use technology you may be largely unfamiliar with?

You will probably need to accept that the way you view sharing information online is antiquated as far as they're concerned. It’s not that these kids today don’t think online privacy is important, they just think different aspects are important. So taking the stance of "no sharing anything, with anyone, ever" isn’t going to be a realistic approach. After all, social media isn’t exactly a fad; they’re going to need to know how to use it.

Start with your comfort level, and share with your kids why you’ve chosen to share only this amount of information. Try to explain what aspects would make you share more or less information online. Kids are notorious for not being able to grasp long-term consequences, so try to keep your timelines relatable. Pictures college kids post online could potentially damage their job searches, but that makes little sense to a 13-year-old.

Think of the privacy talk as a lesson to learn together. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, so start with the ones you know your child is using. Have them show you where all of the privacy settings are within the application, or explain what the TOS is saying about where their information can go. This will help you both understand what is actually being done with the information and where it can potentially end up going.

For more information check out sites like SafeKids, the FBI’s Kids Safety, and the Federal Trade Commission’s Privacy & Security Facts for Consumers.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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