What You Can Do to Protect Your Kids’ Online Privacy
In a world where sharing is the norm, everything kids say or do online can affect how others view their character. Here's how to teach your kids to guard their own online privacy.
Screen time can be unavoidable, especially at times when kids are stuck at home. As kids spend more time online (with the outdoors having largely been ruled out by the authorities), it’s important to keep them safe—and not just from the obvious suspects.
By now, you’ve probably put in all sorts of parental controls on your child’s devices, such as age restrictions on videos, turning off comments on gaming, and giving them boundaries when it comes to how much screen time they can get, or who they can play with online.
But are these efforts enough?
When kids go against the rules
Imposing reasonable device use rules is one thing; following them is quite another, especially with particularly smart kids.
If your child is already into gaming, they might be savvy enough to figure out how to turn on comments, or turn off restricted mode or passcodes. They might be pushed to do so because of peer pressure, because their other friends “are allowed to” by their parents.
On the other hand, if you have rules and restrictions for device use in your household, your child will most likely follow them if they know the “why” behind them.
Explain each restriction carefully and directly, using age-appropriate terms. For example, if you’re explaining why the comments section in their Instagram account or the chat section in their online game is off, you can say that there are people out there who would say hurtful things about you just because they can.
What to reveal, and what to keep
With kids exposed to vloggers who live their whole lives on-stream (from pranks to first dates), it gives kids the impression that everything is fair game to be shared with the public.
It helps to remind your kids that privacy is still a thing. Help them draw the line between what they want to share and what they must keep to themselves. There’s no need to reveal everything for the sake of authenticity.
What your child puts out there creates a public “character” of sorts, which will start to form the basis of their online reputation. Guide them to bring out only the side of them in which she’s comfortable in revealing to others.
Authenticity and respect
Kids being kids, they are terrible judges of whether their online face is wholesome or toxic. While driven by the logic of “keeping it real”, they often don’t realize their antics can hurt others in the process—until it’s too late.
Lead by example: if you’re doing a video at home, demonstrate that you should ask if it’s okay to be on camera, or blur them out if they don't want to or if you don’t know them.
Pause before posting
Most people automatically take pictures of anything, from food to scenery, and have you stopped to think about why you do it?
The same goes for your child. Teach them to pause before posting, to give them time to ask themselves what the reason behind the post or TikTok is. Is it to remember the day? Is it helpful to others? Is it to express their current emotions? Is there a possibility that it may be offensive or hurtful to others?
Each post, story, comment, or video brought out into the public eye is subject to interpretation to whoever is viewing it—is it a risk your child is ready to take at their age?
Be their filter
What others say can bother your child. Yes, you can block commenting and such, but as they get older, they will need to know how to handle and process negativity from the public. Taking the good with the bad is how it is.
A mindless comment about their looks, their need to be “educated” in an issue, or any sort of negativity can surprise your kid online—how can your child deal?
Remind your child constantly that these are strangers on the internet who know nothing about them. If such negativity comes from someone who does know them, ask them point-blank, “Do you think that’s true about you?”
Help them process their answer. Maybe they’re simply upset over what they read about them. Maybe what was said was insecurity of theirs that they’ve desperately wanted to hide from the public, and so when it was pointed out, hit too close for comfort. Maybe they feel that even though they didn’t deserve the hate, the post or TikTok was misunderstood or misinterpreted by others.
In any case, help guide your child through the turbulent thoughts and emotions. Help keep communication lines out by talking to them with no judgment or anger over them or the public.
Try and keep your cool. Blowing up and getting mad might frighten your child, leading them into hesitating from sharing with you the next time it rolls around and making them keep it to themselves instead—which is worse, because would you want your tween or teen handling this on your own?
Help them understand that being online makes others feel brave enough to be and say what they would normally not do so to your face. Reassure your child of who they are. Are they that online persona that they bring out to the world? Is that comment true? Remind them that they know themselves best, and that’s what matters.
About The Writer
MAITA DE JESUS
A mom of one 6-year-old girl, Maita started her writing career as an intern for a popular local women’s magazine back in 2004. Her career has seen her assume leadership positions in several wide-reaching publications: she’s served as managing editor for Good Housekeeping and Total Girl Magazine, and as editor-in-chief for Disney Princess Magazine.
She became a full-time freelancer in 2015, to help focus on raising her daughter as a single mom. In the course of her freelance career, she’s published parenting, lifestyle, and personal finance content for a variety of online portals.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.