News of NSA spying and consumer security breaches like the recent Target hacking have exacerbated mothers’ concerns for their own privacy and for the privacy of their children online. In fact, in our latest study, “The Truth about Privacy,” we found that 71% of U.S. parents say they are more concerned for their children’s safety than their own.
In addition, bullying online has become a pervasive issue for young people. Given the permanence of texts, tweets, and status updates, the study found that teenagers are changing their behavior. For instance, focus groups of 16-17 year olds revealed that the migration from Facebook to more impermanent platforms like Snapchat is due, in part, to the threat of bullying. And more teens are taking their intimate conversations offline, where they feel “it’s safer.”
In light of this volatile world, the research found that moms feel they must take strong – often schismatic – stances when it comes to regulating their children’s online behavior. This is partly because the privacy issue begins surprisingly early for parents these days. Just consider naming a child, and the importance of how easily “Googled” a person is. Indeed, a third of young adults say they wish they had a more distinctive name so that they could be more easily searchable on Google. Having a more distinctive name arguably allows them to better control the personal information connected with their name online (as well as to promote themselves more easily).
Regardless of which stance moms take, the best parenting strategy may be one that cultivates a set of guiding principles for their children, or what we call a long-term “privacy philosophy.” Some brands acknowledge the fact that nurturing a privacy philosophy is new territory for moms and have developed novel ways to make the topics around privacy appear less daunting and more fun and interesting. One example is Digital Passport, an educational platform that uses games and activities to educate children on privacy, sharing, and even more sensitive topics like cyber-bullying.
Digital Passport is only the start of what brands can do to ease the process and help moms bring their children’s privacy philosophies to life. For instance, brands can work with online mom communities, which are known to be both strong and influential, to provide a space in which moms can discuss and share their thoughts on the best privacy philosophy for their children. With the multitude of competing opinions on everything including those about children’s privacy, brands are also well-positioned to help lead the conversation and provide guidance , allowing moms to prepare their children for a successful future in the online world.
It used to be the “sex chat” that parents planned (and dreaded) with their offspring. In truth, the “privacy chat” is fast becoming a more frequent and pertinent conversation for parents and their children. And nowadays, parents can’t afford to wait. Once they have a sonogram in hand and start to toy with different names for their unborn child, the most important question to ask each other is, “Do we want to set our child up for Google fame or Google invisibility?”