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Privacy Savvy Children and Youth

December 4, 2023 - Rick Yachiw, Director of Compliance

Various studies on how Canadian children and youth use technology have concluded similar findings. One study found that about 90% of young people aged nine to 11 have at least one social media account. The same study found that about 80% of young people aged nine to 17 have their own smartphone, with many having received their first phone by age 11. Other studies have found that young people spend up to two hours or more online every day.

As children and youth become more tech savvy, though, are they also becoming more privacy savvy? Social media or other internet activity may appear free, but participating almost always comes at a cost to personal privacy.

Any online presence comes with its own set of privacy concerns or risks, regardless of age. For children and youth, however, the risks can be greater. Besides the fact that they may access harmful or inappropriate content, children and youth may also be at risk to their privacy and safety. They may share more online than they intend to or should. They may also use apps that reveal their location, which can lead anyone to knowing exactly where they are. This can make them easy targets for predators or others who mean them harm.

There is also the fact that once you put something online, it is very difficult – sometimes impossible – to remove it or to take it back. This can lead to reputational harm and, if the information you put out is used against you, to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression.

Being privacy savvy means having the practical knowledge needed to make good decisions or judgements about your online privacy. Online privacy means protecting your personal information and knowing what trail of personal information you leave behind. Personal information is anything directly related to your personal life, such as your name, date of birth, home address, telephone number, list of contacts, where you go to school, etc.

Parents can start helping their kids become privacy savvy online by teaching them the fundamentals of internet privacy and what happens to their personal information when they go online. Many online resources for this exist, including the following:

Don’t let your kids just be tech savvy – to keep them and their personal information safe, also teach them to be privacy savvy.

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