Why your kids need to know the importance of online privacy
On the grounds of the Mississauga, Ont., school where she teaches Grades 6, 7 and 8, Christine* has heard many tales of kids getting into compromising situations online.
"They put themselves out there. They 'friend' friends of friends on Facebook. They do open online gaming where they have no idea who they're playing with," she says.
So when her 11-year-old daughter, Katie*, wanted her own email address, Christine set some strict rules: no online access for Katie's iPod, no unsupervised time on the family computer and access to Katie's email account for routine checks. "I wouldn't allow her to give a stranger on the street her name or address, so why would I do that online?"
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and reality TV, it seems the default setting of social interaction is "tell-all." But that can have real consequences for kids, both now and in the future, such as when prospective employers discover your son's boozy party photos.
And it certainly isn't getting easier to protect privacy as companies further exploit the value of personal information (case in point: Facebook's mandatory Timeline feature, which puts posts from as far back as 2004 into public view).
So, as a parent, what can you do? First, you need to understand the value and power of personal information and the importance of keeping it safe.
Whether it's Google selling your search terms to advertisers or Facebook getting rich off your demographics, "personal information is the currency of the Internet," says Debbie Gordon, the director of Kidsmediacentre at Centennial College in Toronto. (Gordon has also been a digital literacy consultant in schools for the past 11 years through her company, Medicacs.)
And, of course, there's the even more disconcerting danger of predators who access identifying details through social media and gaming sites. Gordon recalls a student whose parents were notified that a passport application was made in her name using photos and details gleaned from a social network.