By Lynette Owens

How much does your family value privacy and how well do you protect it? As kids live more and more of their lives online, they may not think about their privacy – or the privacy of their friends – when posting, sharing, checking in, etc. On this Data Privacy Day, here are four ways to help your family be privacy defenders in 2019.

As consumers, citizens and voters, we’re all more aware than we’ve ever been of the value of data privacy and security. Big-name data breaches and leaks at Facebook, Marriott International, MyFitnessPal and many more last year remind us of the price we pay living connected lives. For every service or application we use and every product we buy online, a digital trail of our personal information is created. Much of this information we willingly give up, but some of it may be taken more covertly, allowing advertisers and other third-parties to build up worryingly accurate profiles of our digital lives.

At Trend Micro, we’re keen to raise awareness and help individuals protect their privacy in an increasingly connected world. But what about your children?  Without guidance and good examples to follow, kids may dive straight into the online world, unaware of the potential risks they may be taking with their own privacy and that of others. That’s where parents need to step in with some timely guidance. So, let’s celebrate Data Privacy Day by empowering young people to become ardent defenders of privacy on the internet.

Here are a few quick tips to get started:

1. Set-up for success

Taking privacy seriously will require a bit of effort upfront. This means checking the devices and apps your kids are using to ensure security and privacy settings are turned on in a way that best meets your family’s needs. Consider the following:

  • Turn off location tracking or the microphone on all apps/devices if it’s not needed
  • Apply a password to devices, apps or sites
  • Use strong passwords for all accounts and, if possible, a password manager
  • Check terms and conditions in apps to see what info they collect and how it’s used
  • Keep social network profiles private
  • Stay off public Wi-Fi or use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your connections safe

2. Take time to talk

Social media is all about the here and now. But its insatiable demand for content can encourage impulsive behavior, which has a tendency to backfire from time-to-time. That’s why it’s important to take some time out to engage with your kids and encourage them to ask themselves a few key questions before posting. Before hitting send, they might want to consider what the impact might be if a post goes public. Remind them that even if they have their privacy settings on, their friends may not. The bottom line is: don’t post anything you would not be OK with saying to someone in real life.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Privacy is a fundamental human right. So it’s worth reminding your kids that they should check before posting anything online, in case it includes information about others. If they’re not sure, then encourage them to check with friends first to make sure it’s ok. One useful strategy is to ask your kids: “Would you be OK with this post if you were them?” Empathy and foresight won’t just help to save potential drama down the road, they’re great life skills to learn.

4. Keep on talking

Communication is crucial to help build those strong bonds of mutual trust and respect that every parent aspires to. Talk openly every day about things you see or read about online, and always be there with friendly advice if called upon. Kids are naturally inquisitive, so use that to your advantage to teach them the importance of privacy protection. You could search together for their names online to see what’s already out there in the public domain, for example, or encourage them to regularly check privacy settings on their favorite apps. It’s all about fostering an atmosphere of healthy curiosity, mindfulness and constant communication.

The internet is a wonderful tool for socializing, learning and finding out more about the world. But we can’t rely on technology companies, governments and regulators to protect our family’s privacy. That’s why we must make sure our kids live their digital lives responsibly. That comes with practice and open communication at home. The learning never stops, but with the right set of good habits you’ll be giving them the best possible start.

Lynette Owens
Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens is the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. With 20+ years in the tech industry, Lynette speaks and blogs regularly on how to help kids become great digital citizens. She works with communities and 1:1 school districts across the U.S. and around the world to support online safety, digital and media literacy and digital citizenship education. She is a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, an advisory committee member of the Digital Wellness Lab, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.

Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens