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Privacy Education for Young People: Putting the Activities to the Test

February 6, 2023 - Nicole Protz, Analyst

Social media is constantly evolving and changing, with information being readily available on our mobile devices – if you can think of it, there is likely an app for that. In this digital age, our personal habits are extremely valuable for companies wanting to increase revenue. Individuals and businesses use our personal information to create and develop their brands.

Taking this a step further, young people are accessing the internet to play games, do homework assignments, chat through social media apps, listen to music, etc. They too are impacted by this everchanging landscape. Young people, however, are often unaware of the consequences of sharing personal information online. Raising awareness about privacy issues, especially with young people, is a key component of reducing a users’ risk to privacy while using the internet.

On September 27, 2021, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan, Ron Kruzeniski posted a blog with a link to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner’s resource for children called, Privacy Pursuit!  Privacy Pursuit is an activity book with tips, games, puzzles, and word searches with all things related to staying safe online.

While it has been a couple years since this resource was posted, I wanted to highlight the value of keeping an open dialog about all things privacy with young people. Navigating these waters can be difficult for parents (and children), but raising awareness and keeping the discussion going can increase knowledge and understanding in this vast area.

Putting Privacy Pursuit to the test: Education is Key

I thought I would put Privacy Pursuit to the test with my own seven and ten-year-old. After going through the age-appropriate activities, I did a Q and A with them asking the following:

What is personal information?

7 – Opinion, name, where you live, if you take the bus, what the inside of your house looks like and where you go to school. Stuff that you do not want strangers to know.

10 – Passwords, birthdate, name including middle and last name, pictures of yourself.  Its important to protect it because people could hack into your computer and threaten you.

What does privacy mean to you?

7 – Privacy means stuff that you don’t want other people to know.

10 – It means when you are in your room by yourself, that is privacy.  Nobody is listening or watching you.

What are cookies?

7 –  I think they are yummy treats.  What about related to the internet?  I am not sure.

10 – Cookies keep track of the things you like looking at on the internet.

Should we download new apps and games without asking your parents?

7 – No because the apps could cost $50 and ask for personal information. Some stuff could be for older children like 13 years and older.

10 – No, because they might not be good for your age group and contain violent stuff. You need to read the ratings and ask your parents.

What was something you learned from Privacy Pursuit?

7 – I learned if a stranger disguised as a friend on the internet gets your personal information, they can use it.

10 – I learned that it is important to protect my private information and that of my friends and family, so we don’t get hacked.

A few tips for parents and young people about privacy and the internet:

  1. Talk to your children about privacy; teach your children not to share or post personal information online including name, birth date, address, place of birth or names of friends.
  2. Use available parental controls to block harmful content.
  3. Encourage your children to discuss any questionable content they come across and ask where they accessed it; go to the site and do your own research.
  4. Stay current on new social media apps that young people are using, do your research to determine if they are within your accepted boundaries for social media use.
  5. Tell your children not to download or click on unknown links or files.
  6. Disable location sharing on devices and do not share passwords.
  7. Tell them that things you post online can stay there forever, even though you have deleted the post or picture.

One final thought…after going through Privacy Pursuit with my family, we have some more work to do but we are better prepared to stay safe online. I encourage adults/parents to try the activity book with the young people in your life.  You might learn a thing or two and – they may as well about all things privacy!

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