Tips to Help Protect Your Kids’ Online Privacy

Originally published on Chelsea’s Blog and reposted on Parenting Today’s Kids.

These tips are provided by CommonSenseMedia.org: “Parent’s Guide to Protecting Kids’ Privacy Online.”

  • “Understand the privacy issues that affect your kids.”
  • “Learn the importance of privacy settings.”
  • “Limit your kids’ online footprint.”
  • “Help protect your kids’ online reputation.”

According to Common Sense Media, the two key elements of privacy that affect kids are:consumer privacy and personal privacy.

  • Consumer privacy: refers to the personal data that companies collect.
  • Personal privacy: refers to your kids’ online reputation, which involves everything they say or do online – their online activity.

It’s important that parents help their kids understand that their online activity is public and leaves a lasting mark – a digital footprint. Kids need to be aware that if they don’t properly protect their personal identifying information online, marketers or potential employers or other third-parties may easily access information that was initially believed to be private. Below are five ways that parents can better help their kids protect their online privacy.

1. Set the privacy settings on the browsers your kids use.

Whenever you or your kids visit websites, tracking “cookies” are installed on your computer – some are beneficial and can help remember passwords for future sessions while others are programmed to track every single thing you do online in order to pass the information on to third-parties. It’s important to check out the privacy settings on all your preferred browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome) to see if you have a “Do Not Track” option so that tracking cookies will not be installed.

  • Internet Explorer (IE): Internet Options > Privacy > Select a setting for cookies you wish to block.
  • Mozilla Firefox: Options > Privacy > Tracking (“Tell websites I do not want to be tracked.”)
  • Google Chrome: Settings > Show advanced settings… > Privacy > Content settings > Cookies

2. Discuss basic privacy steps with your kids to help them be on their guard when they go online.

First, explain that everything your child says or does online is public. Common Sense Media offers these nine tips for parents to share with their kids before they go online:

  • Ask permission before going online.
  • Keep passwords private.
  • Keep personal details private (e.g., name, address, phone number, and household income).
  • Think about what you’re posting.
  • Ask permission before you sign up for online accounts – read the privacy policies for websites.
  • Don’t chat with strangers – or share photos or personal identifying information.
  • Be aware of ads on websites – don’t click on them.
  • Closely examine and understand the privacy settings of every website you visit and use.
  • For teens: Be aware of what is “OK” – or appropriate – to share with your online communities.

3. Be aware of how online companies use your kids’ data or personal identifying information.

Company websites can collect data on every single form of interaction you have with their site, including any link you click and any kind of information you provide on an online form. These companies will use the information gathered to tailor the ads on their site to your specifics interests, aggregating data to “build composite profiles of people’s habits, preferences, and purchases, which is valuable information for marketers” (CSM). This is something for parents to keep in mind the next time their kids want to register for a free site.

4. Be aware of when other people are posting images or videos of your kids online.

If your friends or friends of friends are posting images online that are a bit too personal or private, you have the right – as the parent – to ask them nicely if they can either take the images down or crop your kids out of the pictures. You can also request that your friends adjust the privacy settings for the images posted so that only friends and family can view the pictures – there are privacy settings on Facebook that can allow you and your kids to approve “tags” on photos before they go live.

5. Be aware of the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

The Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits companies from collecting personal information from kids under the age of 13 – without parental consent. This means that when your kids under 13 attempt to sign up or register on websites, they will need to provide some form of parental consent (e.g., a parent’s email address) before they can proceed to the site; you would then receive an email, requesting permission for your child to access the site’s services. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy for children to lie about their age online in order to bypass the step, which requires parental consent. This is why it’s so important for parents to talk to their kids about their online activity and how they can best protect their privacy. If you do find out that your kids have signed up for something online under false pretenses, it might be best to discuss the issues with your kids and then either have them delete their accounts or contact the company to have them removed.

To read the full version of the guidelines on Common Sense Media’s website, click here.

Got any other tips for protecting their privacy online? Please, share some of your ideas in the comment section!

Photo: Ambro

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