Teaching your children about online privacy

Recently we had an incident - nothing serious, just something that made us want to discuss online privacy with our kids. You see BP has been on Facebook for some time now and while he doesn't really use it to post photos often he does sometimes. When I was scrolling through Facebook and happened to see a post by BP showing a photo of LP I knew it was time to discuss things.

It's not that I don't want to see photos of LP, I do, but the photo prompted us to discuss choices made by LP, by BP, and the differences in them. We sat them both down and talked about our thoughts and opinions on online photos and why we do not share photos of them online.

How to begin?

For us the sharing of the photo prompted us to take steps and discuss, but to be honest I'm sure it would've come up in conversation at some point. I have often mentioned that I don't share photos on the blog and LP has asked me why a couple of times.

In order to ensure we had their attention the entire time we all sat in the lounge with the TV off. We sat on the sofa and raised the issue of BP posting the photo of LP. He told us that LP had said he could, so we explained that LP didn't really understand what he was agreeing to.

Once you've lost your privacy you realise you've lost an extremely valuable thing.

Billy Graham

Younger children

The younger the child the less they understand what they're submitting themselves to when they get older. We explained that while LP thought it was okay to post photos of him running around or making silly faces now, in a few years - when he's a teen - he might not want those photos online, but by then it is too late. Younger children do not have the foresight to see that those photos do not go away, they're there forever and no amount of complaining or deleting the photos will get rid of them. It was difficult for LP to understand, he didn't think there was a problem - but of course he's young and cannot see any issues with it. BP on the other hand did understand.

Older children/Teens

Teens and older children are on social media by the time they're 13, some even before that. They share photos of themselves, they share photos of their food. They're forever sharing something - putting it out there into the world - much like bloggers. But even at their age they're not thinking about the future. The photos they post of their friends being silly or doing something stupid could come back to haunt them come University or job interview time. Anything posted onto social media will always be there - anyone can search through your history and see it.

A teenage boy wearing red trainers with white laces does a skateboard jump. The photo is just of his legs and skateboard. The boy holds the skateboard in the air with one foot on it, the other is hovering just above the concrete of the car park. Blurred cars parked in a line in the background. The sun is setting, shining down and leaving long shadows on the ground. Image for "Teaching your children about online privacy"

When we discussed this with BP I think he began to understand what we were saying. We gave him the example of photos of him in Orlando hugging Mickey Mouse. We said that while he absolutely loved that photo when he was 8 years old and would've been happy for us to share it, these days there is no way he would let us share it - he'd be far too embarrassed. We had an example that relates to him and so it was easier for him to understand what we were trying to say. Whether he agrees with us is another matter.

Growing up in a different time

I was born in 1981 - the internet was in its infancy, just a networking protocol between universities, and it wasn't until 1989 that the World Wide Web came about thanks to the research of Tim Berners-Lee. The first time I encountered anything like the internet of today was when I was in college, I was 18 years old and could go online in the library to search for information for coursework. By the time I was working and had my own flat at 21 I had internet at home and used it daily.

An old photo, from the 1980s, of a young girl about 5 years old. She is sitting on the grass, rows of red and white flowers behind her. She is looking into the camera and smiling. She has short hair, in a pixie cut, and is wearing a green pinafore dress over a white long sleeved shirt. She is sitting with her legs stretched out, her hands tucked under her knees. She is wearing red patent dolly shoes. Image for "Teaching your children about online privacy"
Me back in the '80s, I was about 5 years old so it's probably 1986.

As a person who grew up in an age when the internet didn't really exist I've seen the beginnings and the explosion of information since it took off. Not only did I live a childhood completely free of social media but I have had the experience of seeing it arrive and grow and been able to understand (for the most part) what it is all about and the risks involved.

It used to be that dating someone you'd met on a dating website was seen as dodgy - I know that when I was a teen it was seen as something only strange people did. Yet these days it is something every single person (as opposed to coupled/married/dating) does using their mobile phone.

I understand that because I grew up at a time when the internet was new I'm acutely aware of the risks, it was a scary new thing that could connect you to someone you'd never met who was half way around the world. In a way this might influence my opinion of it, but it also gives me knowledge of what can happen. There are hundreds of stories of children being groomed or taken because someone has seen photos of them online.

I need my children to understand it is not as innocent as they think, without scaring them of course!

No more privacy?

For me it's not just about the safety of my children, it's also about their privacy. Like I said, I grew up in a time when I didn't have to think about that stuff but my boys do and they need to know what it means when they post things online.

Privacy is important - no matter what any social media or internet company tells you, everyone needs privacy. Just because you want privacy does NOT mean you're trying to hide something, but that's what they want everyone to think.

It's dangerous when people are willing to give up their privacy.

Noam Chomsky

Sharing every part of your life online is great, if you choose to do that with your eyes wide open. But children can't  do that. They have no idea what they're opening themselves up to and cannot comprehend the changes it may make to their lives at a later date.

The Hubby and I don't share photos of our boys online anymore. We did, at one time, until we actually thought about what we were doing. We don't use cloud photo storage, we don't post photos of our boys on Facebook, and I don't share photos of them on the blog. It is a choice we made to protect their privacy and as their parents I believe that is our absolute responsibility. I want my children to make their own decisions on privacy when they are old enough to understand what they're doing - or at least when they're old enough that they don't want to listen to me anymore!

Tech attack?

I know it sounds like I hate technology but I don't. I have embraced the flood of information given to us every day, it has allowed me to blog at home while taking care of my boys. It has given me the opportunity to create a business I might have otherwise not known. I communicate with people everyday while sitting at my computer in my lounge and I share things online on a more than daily basis. I LOVE technology.

A flatlay photo of a Macbook Air, a cup of tea, and an organiser. The Macbook Air is on the left of the photo, positioned diagonally, the cup of tea is in the centre of the photo, steam rising from the cup. A pink "passion planner" is on the right of the photo with birds engraved into its leather cover. Three pens sit on top of the planner, one blue, one black, and one red. Everything sits on top of a white wooden tabletop. Image for "Teaching your children about online privacy".

Just because the technology is there and can be used doesn't mean we should. Giving Snapchat as an example - I do not use it. I have hundreds of friends who use it all the time and I see their photos with the "skins" and think how nice it would be to use it. But there's something fundamental about it that I don't like. And that's exactly why I don't let BP use it either - the idea that he could share a photo with friends thinking it would get deleted immediately, only to have them screenshot the photo and share it with others fills me with dread. There's also the map issues and the complications of having BP use it ALL THE TIME like Stressy Mummy's eldest son.

As an adult and a parent I make decisions and choices based on the information and knowledge I have.

My kids and social media

My boys don't really know much about social media at the moment. At 8 years old LP seems to have paid more attention and I guess that's because he sees me using my phone all the time and wonders what I'm doing. He often sits with me while I scroll through Twitter and interact with followers, or looks at photos on Instagram with me. He knows about social media but I don't think he thinks of it as something he would use - not yet anyway.

At 13 years old BP is more aware of social media, he uses WhatsApp to chat to his friends and he scrolls through Facebook and shares videos he likes. A couple of times he has asked for Snapchat, and he even tried to download it when he wasn't home once but we have the parental controls set so that he can't do that. I know the time is coming when he'll decide that we shouldn't tell him what he can and can't do, I know that at some point we will just have to relinquish control and allow him to make the mistakes. But while he is still young I am taking control and I will do everything I can to educate him enough that he either doesn't make the mistakes, or if he does, he can deal with them.

Have you taught your children about online privacy? What do they know? It's becoming more important so maybe it's time to tackle it? Image for "Teaching your children about online privacy"

Have you discussed your kids' online privacy?

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