by Eduard Goodman
As parents, we do everything in our power to protect our kids and teach them to respect themselves and others. It starts early with warnings of “Hot! Don’t touch.” Then discussions evolve to cover the more challenging topics of sex, drugs and alcohol use.
My parents set a good example about what to do—and what not to do. But they only had to cover the sex talks and requisite Nancy Reagan, “Say No to Drugs” lecture. Privacy issues weren’t on their radar.
Raising kids today is a world apart from 20 to 30 years ago. I struggle with how to teach my two small children the importance of privacy in a digital world. How do we explain that a respect for privacy is essential to preserving their dignity and that of others? How do we convey that privacy is an American value?
The daily news offers examples of why teaching kids about privacy is important. Take the tragic case of Rutgers University freshman , whose roommate broadcast his romantic encounter with another man over the Internet. This violation of Tyler’s privacy and public outing led to his suicide on Sept. 22, 2010. (His suicide note was reduced to a status update on Facebook that read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”)
When I was in college, the concept of someone secretly filming and broadcasting my activities “live” to the world was something out of James Bond. Now everyone carries pocket-sized cell phones with a GPS, camera and Internet connection.
Problems with sexting and online bullying among teens should underscore the need to have conversations with our children about the pitfalls of oversharing. As kids get older, these conversations will naturally spill over into talks about respect for others, respect for privacy, as well as the concept of discretion. It’s never too early to start the conversation though.
But how early? How do you start this conversation with a kid who isn’t even in kindergarten? I’m trying to figure that out myself. Maybe it starts with imparting upon them the importance of keeping a secret for a friend when they confide in you or why we don’t pick our noses (in public). Establishing the boundaries between public and private, and teaching about the risks of “oversharing” information can start before age 5, you just need to know how to frame it.
If you have any ideas, let me know.
An internationally trained attorney and privacy expert, Eduard has more than a decade of experience in privacy law, fraud and identity management. He is a member of the state bar of Arizona and served as the 2008-2009 section chair of the bar’s Internet, E-Commerce & Technology Law Practice Section.