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New Report: How to Teach Kids About Online Privacy

Talking with your kids about online privacy isn’t necessarily high on the list of back-to-school tasks, but it’s an essential part of every child’s digital literacy. I’ve advocated raising kids with privacy awareness in the past, but recent research suggests there are new, more effective approaches. Parents and teachers take note!

Over the past year, Consumer Reports has done an excellent job elevating privacy issues as part of their mission to protect and inform consumers. This month they released published a new piece titled “Warning Kids About Digital Privacy Doesn’t Work. Here’s What Does.” The findings are both encouraging and refreshing, and may well be just what you need to help foster a mutual understanding about the importance of privacy. The piece covers five key approaches:

1. Focus on what kids care about. It’s important to understand that kids see reputation management and peer opinion as key components of the privacy picture. Placing privacy in the context of their concerns (versus, say, your own), will help underscore the role online privacy plays in their life.

2. Accentuate the positive. Out: the scare tactics. In: Admitting that kids of a certain age are able to understand the complex choices they face. Your job is to empower them rather than prohibit them from participating.

3. Tie digital behavior to the real world. Kids get privacy, but they need help making the connection between what they know is right and wrong IRL to the online world. Rather than accentuating the divide between real/digital, reinforce the interconnection between the two.

4. Encourage “less than perfect” personas. Recognizing we interact in different ways with different people in person, it’s important to admit that kids are not going to adhere to the highest standards for sharing 100% of the time. Talking openly about this will help kids express themselves in the appropriate forum. (The article offers some good conversation starters on this topic.)

5. Care about sharing. This nuanced point brings to light the role we all play when we share content online. Though we may not have been the ones who originally shared questionable or private content, we can help protect people’s privacy by recognizing when it might be inappropriate for us to re-post, re-tweet, or DM certain material.

Take the time to learn a little more about the research behind the findings. Be an advocate for privacy and share it with teachers and parents in your community. If we’re going to fully enjoy the benefits of social media and networked platforms in the future, we need to raise the next privacy-engaged generation.

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