This blog has never made a secret of the fact that we care about having balance in life – but finding that balance isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be. This is especially true when we think about the competing needs of privacy and safety.
I mean, let’s face it – as a society, we like both of those. If you talk to any random person on the street about this issue, you’re probably going to hear that they want as much safety as possible while still retaining the maximum amount of privacy. That’s just normal human behavior, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, if we can’t have everything, then we have to decide where one ends and the other begins – and that’s especially true when our children are involved.
Privacy and Safety in the Teenage World
First off, what is privacy these days? I know, I know, that sounds like a weird question – but the truth is that our children have a very different idea of what privacy means. The ideas and morals we take for granted aren’t always a part of their life, and that’s a huge obstacle for keeping them safe.
Imagine what would happen if you could take out a camera, scan a room, and pull up the social profiles of everyone you saw. Little details like, say, their emotional and relationship statuses. That sounds far-fetched now, but we already have facial-recognition software, the ability to tag pictures, and several massive databases of personal information that are amusingly referred to as ‘social networks’.
In other words, if you wouldn’t want a total stranger seeing the information, you shouldn’t let your child post it online.
The problem, of course, is that very few teens are interested in asking permission before they do something. As far as they’re concerned, they know what’s going on, and there’s no reason to trouble the rest of us with something they consider perfectly normal.
You can see the problem here, right? The teenage desire for safety tends to result in the total abandonment of safety, and many of them never even notice until it’s too late. The very best example of this may be the way social networks sometimes share information even when specifically told not to. (Tip: Share this article with your kid. Chances are that will encourage them to seriously re-evaluate their posting habits and truly take control of their digital lives.)
How To Keep Kids Safe
If our kids are abandoning safety because of their urge for privacy – a privacy we’ve just demonstrated is threadbare at best – then it’s our responsibility as moms to close the gaps and give them the security they’re missing. Here are a few things you can do.
- Educate Them: Knowledge is power – and protection. The more your child understands the potential dangers of a particular course of action, the more likely they are to make a smarter decision about what to do. Each time your child joins a specific social network, try to research its problems and talk to your kid about them.
- Believe it or not, most teens are actually interested in this discussions. They hate having their privacy compromised, so as long as the talk focuses on helping them stay in control, they’ll listen.
- Limit Access: Most teens aren’t going to like this one, but it’s the smart thing to do. The more they integrate the digital world into their offline lives, the more they’ll start to rely on it for everything… and it probably won’t be long before they start sharing more information than they ever expected to. Reasonable limits on internet access – such as staying offline after dinner, not posting everything they do to social media, and generally focusing on the rest of their lives – can solve many problems before they even begin.
- Keep Things Public: Kids shouldn’t have phones or computers in their rooms anyway (they’ll sleep better), so keeping all of their devices out in the family room can encourage them to avoid posting things they shouldn’t.
- Keep Searches Private: Simple Malware Free online tools like SearchLock use patent-pending technology to detect when your search query is about to be tracked, re-routes it so that it isn't, then delivers your search results via an encrypted privacy-friendly results page. Download SearchLock today so you can keep your privacy safe.
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.