Safer Internet Day 

Safer Internet Day. What a marvellous cause to educate younglings (and their parents and trusted teachers) about how to be safer online.

Yes, of course we should be encouraging ‘good’ behaviours in all walks of life and that now of course includes our digital lives as well. We teach children please and thank you; not to push or be nasty; not to bully; and, to share and be kind. That’s even before we start preparing them for adulthood and the weighty responsibilities that has to offer.

So this morning I had the TV on with a lady talking about how parents and children should be aware of the privacy settings available to them. Of course, everyone should go straight to this once signed up to govern what is ‘publicly’ seen. But how many have read the Privacy Policy of the service? Do you know where your data is stored and how it is used by the company?

Would you be happy to allow your child’s data to be stored by a company forever and not have the right to retract it? Say that you allow your child to have a Facebook account under the legal age so that they can play Farmville, perhaps. Now, Facebook has a ‘real name‘ policy and so your child is already very publicly on the biggest social network in the world. And although you might sit with them to tighten the privacy settings so that nothing can be seen by anyone who isn’t a friend, no matter what your son or daughter puts onto the platform, that data is owned by Facebook and you can’t delete it. As a user you may delete a picture or post from view of yourself and others, but it that doesn’t mean it has gone forever, no-no, Facebook allows you to get a ‘copy’ of your data, but will not delete any of it from their servers.

So every post and every moment your child makes on the platform is being recorded, calculated and sold. And one of the data brokers it sells to is Experian, checking your child’s credit score. Do you want their social status (and their affiliations on the network) affecting their chances of getting a mortgage years down the line?

We all make mistakes, right? And children often makes lots of them. That’s how we learn. So a few mistakes made online will not simply ‘go away’. The internet doesn’t forget. So yes, let’s teach the youth about how to behave online safely, but let’s also be transparent about the other implications of being in digital spaces.

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