All of us — children, parents, and teachers — need to think about the security of our privacy settings. Part of learning to live in the digital world involves understanding and competently using these settings, but we also must recognize their limitations.
Once we post or share digital content, the privacy of the information depends on the good judgment of others. No matter how securely the settings, our friends, who in theory understand our expectations, can err in judgment by copying, taking screen shots, or sharing the content in another digital location. When we post data via social media, we cede control of that information to others who may not abide by our privacy preferences.
In a Wired article, Don’t Make My Mistake: Always Think Before You Tweet, Randi Zuckerman, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, describes how she shared a picture with friends, only to have one of those friends share it in a more public way and eventually widely via Twitter. The picture caused a huge media stir, with people laughing that Zuckerman, the sister of the Facebook founder, did not understand the privacy settings. But she understood perfectly — it was her friend who did not get it.
The media world was abuzz over the headline “Zuckerberg’s Sister Caught Out by Facebook’s Privacy Settings,” but it really wasn’t about that at all. I understood my privacy settings completely. This was about the gray areas of sharing, social conduct, and online etiquette.
The bottom line? We assume that we can trust the people we connect with, and usually we can. However, we need to think carefully about what we post even when we set strong privacy settings, because people who see our information may not know or even care about our expectations.
Whenever families talk about the digital world, privacy issues need to be included and revisited. We do not need to be fearful, but we do need to be sure that we understand as much about online privacy as possible, and make sure that information with our children.