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Safety First: 

Relationships and Privacy

Digital citizens must know how to make and maintain safe and healthy online relationships. This is important because the average teen today is said to have about 300 online friends. Science tells us that the number of stable relationships the human brain can manage is only 150! 

It’s important for young digital citizens to be careful about choosing their online friends. They should definitely know when to say NO to unsafe online relationships and how to maintain some online privacy.

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Choose Your Online Friends Wisely

Remind your children how easy it is for someone to hide his or her identity online. Any stranger, or even company, can pretend to be someone or something they’re not in order to gain our trust. To keep safe from strangers online, smart digital citizens should follow these very basic “rules of the road”: 

• Never share personal information online. This includes your name, address, telephone number, birthdate, social security number, name of school, parent information, passwords, etc.

• Don’t respond to text messages or emails unless you know who they are from.

• Know who you "friend" online.

• Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone you meet online. If someone asks to meet you, tell a trusted adult immediately.

Guard Your Personal Information!

Understanding that their personal information is a valuable commodity may be one of the most important lessons for young digital citizens to learn. Be sure your children grasp the fact that nothing online is truly free. We pay for the wonderful content and services delivered by the Internet with our personal data. Understanding this exchange is important.

We teach our own students this skill in school by explaining the language of online privacy (see below) and then we ask them to review the privacy policies of the social media sites they use. They love these lessons! See for yourself… 

The Language of Online Privacy

You can help your children understand online privacy by teaching them these important terms:

  • Personal information: Includes your name, address, email address, phone number, age, etc. 

  • Cookies: Small files placed on your device by some sites you visit. Cookies enable sites to “remember” your data. 

  • Third party: “Party” is a legal term for a person or entity. A “third party” is a person or entity other than the one you may have entered into an agreement with. 

  • License: Official permission to do, use, or own something. 

  • User content: Includes words, images, videos, audio, memes, or anything else you post online. 

  • Location information: Information about where a device user is located. Apps and websites can determine location by using        cellular, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. 

  • Log file information: A log file records events that occur on a device and may include search queries, how web services were used, and information about crashes, hardware settings, browser type, and more. 

  • Monetization: The process of making money. 

So Your Child Wants to Use Snapchat (or any other social media network)? Have them to do this first!

One of our students told us that before she was allowed to download an app like Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok, her dad makes her research it thoroughly first. Then she has to make a PowerPoint presentation and use it to pitch him on the app. We loved this idea so much, we made it easy for you to do it at home.

1. So, your children (who are at least thirteen years of age) want to download Snapchat. Invite them to research the app first. This is easy to do; Snapchat’s privacy policy and terms of service are accessible via a Google search. 

2. Have your children create a presentation for you about the app. They don’t have to use Microsoft PowerPoint for this task. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to practice using one of the many free presentation tools available online. One of our favorites is Prezi. Tell your children to use the following questions as a guide when they create their presentation: 

  • What is the minimum user age for the app?

  • What personal information will the app ask for?

  • What will you receive in exchange for the personal information you provide? 

  • Will you share user content on this app? If so, who will own that content? 

  • Will the app share your information with third parties? If so, how? 

  • Will it track your location? 

  • What conduct does the app expect from users? Is there a way to report bad behavior? 

  • Will there be ads on the app? How else might the app be monetized? 

  • What kind of privacy settings does the app offer? 

If this seems like too much work for your teens, please consider the amount of work they’ll be putting into that app in the coming years. It takes time and effort to snap, curate, and post photos. Tagging, commenting, liking, and reading what others post takes time, too. If your teens don’t have time to research this app, then they surely don’t have time to use it! 

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