Sep 292011
 September 29, 2011  Featured News, Online, Youth & Schools

Clarinette, a lawyer and fervent privacy advocate, has a thoughtful post about keeping parents abreast of online safety issues for kids. Over on Fly a Kite, she describes her experience at a school meeting for parents about online privacy. The turnout was disappointing, the materials outdated, and Clarinette writes:

Do we know everything? Surely not. Here more than everywhere else, on online safety, we know that more we learn and more we know how much we don’t know. We need to share our bits of knowledge. We need to think together. We need to interrogate.

Our approach at Fly a Kite is to encourage parents and educators to keep on going their curiosity. We don’t discourage the use of social media. We are not at a time when it can be any appropriate for children not to enter the world of sharing anymore. The talk last night was a lot about friends lists. This is totally out-passed by the new sites. What is the value of ‘friends’ lists on Twitter or Google Plus? we are now fast going towards more open sharing and this is the direction Facebook has taken with the new design where all your posts and comments are by default open to what ever ‘subscriber’. Facebook’s privacy settings are not one time of, they need constant review. Telling parents to follow one advice and be happy, is criminal and yes, I weight my words.

Read her full commentary on Fly a Kite.

As Clarinette highlights, protecting our children’s privacy is an ongoing effort – not a once-a-year informational meeting at a school. Whether it’s online safety, which is a constantly moving target and array of new concerns, or protection of disclosure of information by schools under exemptions to education privacy laws, parents need to be informed and stay current.  Sadly, in my experience, schools are not the best source of information about these issues and it takes youth/student advocacy organizations to really get the word out.  Parent-teacher organizations can help by pointing parents to these resources, but parents need to regularly read and consult these resources.

But even that is not enough if parents do not know how their children are using online spaces and applications.  I read a terribly sad news story this morning about a teenager who committed suicide.  His parents had been well aware of past issues in bullying, but thought that he was doing better now. They knew nothing of his online postings where he had blogged about being gay and his depression and suicidal thoughts.

I do not generally endorse parents spying on their children. I firmly endorse, however, keeping your kids safe. And if that means running periodic online searches to see what your child may be saying or doing online, so be it.  Respecting your child’s privacy is important, but so is their physical safety.

Online safety starts in the home, but as Clarinette points out, it doesn’t stop there.  Talk with your kids.

Image credit: © Julie Campbell |

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