Parent-Child Dynamic of Online Privacy: How Much is Too Much?
Local teen shares his view
As this nation falls head over heels into the age of technology, and more and more people gain access to social media, one of the biggest points of debate concerns online privacy. Online privacy is an umbrella term that can include a number of concepts: password protection, location tracking and offering personal information for certain functions, for example. But one question that hits home for a lot of people is: How much privacy should parents give their children? Social media undoubtedly offers us good things like connections to far away people, a daily dose of humor, and career options, but its dangers are nonetheless quite evident.
I was actually on the way to school one morning and had the radio on for background noise when something came up related to this. The host of the show said someone she knew had a daughter who had some social media accounts, and the parent wanted to know how much space she should give her daughter, or if she should let her have social media access at all. This host posed the question to listeners who could call in and it seemed like every caller had a little bit of a different spin to their answer. Some said she should be allowed to do as she pleases, some said the parent should be very in tune and checking in on her daughter’s social media, and some even said she shouldn’t have it at all based on her age. Every caller had various reasons for their answers. This got me wondering about what I personally would do if I were a parent in this situation, and I began to look at all the pieces to the equation.
Taking these two viewpoints into account I decided, as I often do, that it is best to take a moderate approach, maybe leaning towards parents being more involved. By doing this a parent can still protect the child from the dangers of the internet, while at the same time maintain the respect of the child and allow him or her to enjoy the good things social media has to offer.
The next question I asked myself is, “What steps it would take to exercise this approach well and get the most out of it?” One thing would be for parents to follow or friend their child’s page and instill the important principle of “If you aren’t comfortable with me seeing it, it’s not a good idea to post it.” That is an important principle in all aspects of life beyond social media, and will prevent your child from making decisions that could really hurt him or her in the long run.
Another thing a parent could do is to simply check in every week or two and ask who their child has been communicating with. I believe asking is much more effective than taking the device and looking through all the messages, because a child wants to know that his or her parent can at least trust him or her, and believe that when asked he or she will give an honest answer. It is very important to ask because leaving your child completely unchecked could lead to him or her communicating with someone who seems harmless at first, but ends up becoming very dangerous.
One last thing I believe to be important is to have a talk with your child before they open social media accounts, and talk to your child about avoiding the dangers associated with those accounts. If your child knows not to answer random messages and avoid pages that ask for personal information beforehand, he or she will be much more prepared to defend himself or herself.
I believe actions that go beyond these steps are too controlling and cause a child to lose respect or fight back against his or her parent, which could ruin the good things social media has to offer. Now, every child is different, but I truly believe that by standing by your child, not away from or hovering over him or her, you can help protect your child while also offering him or her the freedom every child desires as he or she begins to age.
Alex Baker is a senior at Apex High School. He plays basketball and lacrosse, and is also a member of the school's Academy of Information Technology.