Private keep out

The Dilemma of Privacy Issues Online: helping kids make a compromise

This week I had a great conversation with my son about privacy and the online world. Well OK, it started off as more of an argument and there were some tense moments….but in the end I think we reached a compromise. And we bought to the surface some interesting dilemmas faced by our kids and indeed by us as parents.

Dilemma 1: he wants me to trust him

Dilemma 2: he wants to protect the privacy of his friends

Dilemma 1 for me: It’s not necessarily him I don’t trust

Dilemma 2 for me: finding the compromise between letting him test out the responsibility I am hoping I have instilled in him… and keeping a watchful eye that this ‘guidance’ is being adhered to.  (After all….”God mum not everyone has a blogger for a mum so I think I have learnt everything I need!”)

This kid is particularly loyal. I would love to have him as a friend as he often puts others first. But our ‘conversation’ came about after I was quizzing him about his use of Kik and Instagram. I just wanted to check who he was talking to, what friends he was ‘connecting’ with….. he just wanted to protect what his friends were saying to him. He assured me there was nothing ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ with what they were saying. It was just that he assumes responsibility for keeping their conversation private. So if I am found looking at stuff  that his friends have written,  then he is somehow betraying that trust.

The point I needed to make was, that no conversation he has with any other person online can ever be completely private. He and his friends need to understand that if they want to be absolutely certain no one else will read stuff, then they need not put it up in the first place. No one can guarantee their mum wont pick up their phone and scroll through. No one can guarantee the younger brother won’t come across conversations when searching for a game to play. No one can guarantee that a confiscated phone won’t be displaying a conversation to the teacher. No one can ever guarantee that words wont be forwarded, copied or shared. It is not the responsibility of the person with the device to keep things private, it is the responsibility of the person writing things online to be aware that there will always be a chance someone else will see it.

The compromise that we reached was that I can check who he is talking to, but I need not read the conversations they are having unless there are circumstances where I think it is warranted. But should he find the conversations are making him uncomfortable or if he thinks that what his friends are saying is not appropriate for online, then he will point that out to them or let them know that it should be better said in real life.

It is a work in progress…..a learning curve for all of us….and I suspect not the last time we will face a dilemma of privacy issues and the online world.

Have you had any issues relating to privacy and the online world with your kids?

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This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. kirri

    Pertinent reading for me today Martine. My eldest daughter has just become a Moshi Monster fiend and is delighting in making friends online and messaging one another. For the first time I have found myself tip-toeing around her, asking her to only be friends with kids that she knows and to let me know if about any inappropriate messages etc….

    I discovered that she has been making friends with anyone and everyone and this has lead to anxiety on my behalf and some eye-rolling on hers! Thanks for the useful tips on how I might approach these conversations in a more mutually acceptable way.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Kirri, and yes certainly not just an issue for older kids. And I guess the earlier we can come to some compromise the better.

  2. Carli

    Great advice Martine, my eldest niece and nephews are going through this stage now. It’s all an interesting learning curve and I’m just taking it aaaaall in!

    1. Martine

      Great to at least be aware for when the time comes 🙂

  3. PlanningQueen

    Great post Martine. We have something similar going on here too. It is tricky business.

    1. Martine

      It is tricky…and I suspect will become an issue for most families.

  4. Eleise

    We have recently been talking with our teens about this. I think that your solution sounds like a good compromise. At the moment we are still using the trust system and we regularly remind them about talking to us and being safe online. It is a new world that our kids are growing up in.

    1. Martine

      Its a new world for all of us really, and yes keeping those lines of communication open is one of the best ways to keep on top of things.

  5. iSophie

    So not looking forward to this stage.
    Really great life lesson though, once you put something online it will be there forever.

    1. Martine

      and one that many adults still dont get so we can imagine how much harder it is for our kids.

  6. Laney @ Crash Test Mummy

    Some great advice there Martine. It must be hard. My two are too young to be online yet, so my issues are more about my responsibilities as a parent regarding their online profile. I don’t actually feel like it’s entirely my right to create an online imprint for them, so as a blogger I am very careful what I say about them and their identities are masked – both names and images. For as long as I have doubts about their online privacy, I will continue to err on the side of caution. It may seem a bit too cautious for some, but everyone’s comfort levels are different. I may change my mind, I may not. Either way, one day I will face the issue again when they want to go online themselves. I hope I’m ready!

  7. Twitchy

    It’s becoming more and more of an issue in general isn’t it? But luckily I’m not in that position just yet. My son is only interested in his online group of buddies on his new youtube channel. And guess what- he had a troll so I had to work out how to block an account from my son’s channel. Good news is, easy enough done. Luckily no interest whatsoever in FB or anything else so far. But his younger sister… now that’ll be another kettle of fish in years to come.

  8. Oh yes, have had plenty of similar issues! I found it most difficult from about year 6 to probably the beginning of this year, year 9. I think that’s when kids experiment most with this, exploring new worlds, meeting people online, etc. In my own experience (which I know will be different to others), I feel I can relax a little more lately. I’ve done my fair share of spying, and I will again if I feel I need to, but we have reminded her so many times about privacy and reputation, and told her to take things down, that I think – perhaps – she’s finally got it. Touching wood right now.

  9. Kyla @ Three Quarters Full

    I’m really going to struggle when we get to that stage which is thankfully a long way of and no doubt by then there will be a whole host of other issues to worry about. It’s a fine line to walk but sounds like you reached a good compromise. When we were kids there was one computer in the house and it was in the lounge room so our parents could see what was going on, parenting now that almost everyone has a computer in their pocket must be so much harder.

  10. Tracey @ Bliss Amongst Chaos

    I’m not up to that stage yet, as both of my boys are younger, but it won’t be too long, I’m sure. It’s really quite worrying! Reaching a compromise is probably the best way to handle it 🙂

  11. Becc

    My son is not yet old enough to have this dilemma, however I hope I broach it as well as you have. Your compromise is great and I love the trust you both place in each other.

  12. Kira @ divime

    Such a relevant and current issue. Definitely something that needs more awareness of it!

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