Online Privacy: Who's Teaching Who?

Last week, an interesting study about teens detailed that 70% of teens in the US have asked for advice on managing their privacy online. The study went on to show that parents are one of the key sources of advice, demonstrating the expanding role of parenthood. Moms are now expected to wear yet another hat, and guide their children through the unchartered, and ever changing, waters of online privacy. 

Managing your online privacy is a concern that is shared by all; indeed our Truth about Privacy revealed that 74% of US moms are worried about the erosion of personal privacy. In fact when probed, 64% of US moms would choose to wipe all of their personal information off the Internet if they could. While on the one hand mothers are now required to advise their children on privacy issues, unsurprisingly, such drastic action such as erasing all information is of no interest to teens. So where does this leave mothers in this very modern challenge?



Despite such concerns, the need to share is an innately human desire, and moms are only human. To share their life and children’s lives on sites like Facebook is part of today’s social norms. It’s an expected, and often much needed, means of communication. However, the need to broadcast is directly at odds with the desire to protect their children’s privacy. The varied strategies for dealing with this tension are as interesting as the dichotomy itself. As one mother revealed in our Truth about Privacy, she created an entirely different profile that was only accessible to a select few. On this newly created identity, she posted pictures of her baby and growing family, safe in the knowledge that she could satisfy both needs. 

This may be an extreme example, but mothers are united in their belief that we over-share. 91% of US mothers believe people share far too much personal information online these days. In this context, it is no wonder that 73% of US moms are more worried about their children’s privacy than their own. The lack of control and reduced ability to protect their children in the online space fuels their maternal instinct tenfold.

Moms can act as guardians of what is appropriate and what is not; however, the moral aspect is on only one side of the equation. Our Truth about Moms study revealed that mothers rely on their children when it comes to the practical side of managing their technology. One in four US moms admits their children show them how to use technology. In this sense we see mother and child working as a team to master controlling their online privacy: the child leading the practical and the mom the moral.  This is a brave new world of sharing and it’s encouraging that generations are navigating it together.

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