Public versus Private: Technology blurs the lines for our kids

The children of today are really no different to those of years gone by. They want to hang out with their mates, they want to be included in social groups, they want to take risks and push boundaries, and they want to explore who they are in relation to their peers and to the rest of the world.

The big difference however, is the world in which our children now live.

In the past, these experiences were gained in places that were relatively private. In bedrooms, schoolyards, in local parks and shopping centres. Places where the surroundings were known, controlled and familiar.

Today the setting is very different. They still want privacy. They still want a space to explore. They still want to be in charge of who hears what they have to say.

But privacy means having the ability to control a situation and the ability to have control over audience, context and reach. The minute we upload a photo, update a status or engage in any online communication, we have lost that control. We have lost that privacy.

Herein lies the conundrum for adolescents of today.

They are exploring their private lives in the most transparent of public settings.

It is true we can teach them technical strategies to help keep things private. We can play with privacy settings, make lists and press delete, but we should never rely on these measures when the integrity of our children’s digital reputation is at stake.

The challenge for parents therefore, is to help educate on the protection of their children’s personal information, to be safe, secure and look after their online persona, whilst all the while accepting a child’s need for a space to test their identity.

As part of this they have secrets they want to keep from others, including their parents and they want to push the boundaries.

They don’t necessarily want to do this in public, but they are.

In everyday communities and in the past, we have been more naturally private, and if we want something public then it requires effort. In the online world however, it is reversed. We are naturally public, but if we want something kept private, it requires a lot of effort.

Adults need to be clear about the role they play. We need to guide, educate and support every facet of their lives, both online and off. We need to help them recognise the blurring of the private with the public.

And online, we now have a whole new set of social skills we must teach.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Natalie

    I agree with your thoughts. For me, the best way out of this is to closely monitor the child’s activity over the net, although that means invading his privacy.

  2. Veronica @ Mixed Gems

    Great perspectives. Sometimes I automatically apply filters when using social media that I’m not always conscious of but being an adult I’ve a bit more wisdom in how to use it. The “new set of social skills” you refer to are filters we need to be more conscious of so we can make these lessons tangible.

  3. Ruth Evans

    I agree with you that we as adult play a very important role when protecting our children’s public and private life. I think the first move is to make them understand the boundaries, right? And from understanding they will also know how to set their limits. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  4. Bambi

    Yeah. That’s typically the issue with social networks right now. But I guess, if parents would talk to their children about their responsibility and limitations when it comes to posting status and pictures on the internet, it wouldn’t be that hard, at least.

  5. Misha - TheBlingBuoy

    It’s funny, but I was just talking about this with a group of mums on the weekend. For all of us, our eldest daughters are around 9 or 10 years old. We are all still aware of which websites our children are using. None of them have mobile phones… yet. A lot of their friends do though. We agreed that we were all on the cusp of needing to figure out how we will manage online privacy – including educating our daughters. We’ve started the process, but considering it’s largely unchartered territory (and constantly changing) I think we just need to be vigilant but still respectful of their privacy. A fine line to tread.

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