Do you see what I see? Kids, data and privacy in 2019

On January 28 Data Privacy Day was celebrated globally with its focus on raising the awareness of individuals to consider best practices in this field, their rights and how to exercise them. This year, Prof. Sonia Livingstone and her colleagues at the London School of Economics launched the first report from their project, ‘Children’s Data and Privacy Online’ which addresses growing concerns about children’s understanding of online privacy, their rights and their capacity to give informed consent.

The commercial exploitation of their data is driving the need for children to understand more fully the digital environments they are immersed in, the skills and capabilities they require to navigate these online spaces safely and their capacity to provide consent. While many children are becoming increasingly aware of how their data is used they often lack the digital literacies to protect themselves from the lucrative commercial exploitation that is occurring.

The digital privacy of adults has been a contentious issue for some time with differing views about what is appropriate to share within particular contexts and relationships.

Now the same issues are impacting on children and young people who may not have the experience, knowledge and judgement to make those informed decisions about their own personal privacy.

To them, privacy is centred around their relationships with friends both online on social media platforms and offline.

In fact, appreciating the impact of commercial interests, organisations and other people on privacy is as much a challenge for parents as it is for their children.

The insights from a 2016 study found that 4 in every 10 children will remove privacy settings to attract more followers on social media highlighting their dismissal of the importance of these settings to protect them. The concept of ‘data’ being a combination of privacy and personal information is complex and they need guidance and information to help them grapple with it.

While parents may believe teens’ willingness to share in public spaces such as social media shows a lack of concern for privacy, many teens report caring deeply about what they share with friends and family. What they do struggle to conceive, however, is why their personal data is so attractive to corporations such as Instagram or Facebook or trusted institutions such as schools.

In the article, ‘Conceptualising privacy online: what do and what should children understand’ the authors identify the challenge confronting parents, commercial interests and schools is how much, when and how children can be taught about privacy in ways that protect their right to it.

In 2018 The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy stated:

“I share the concern that children require increased protection against the collection and use of their personal data by private corporations, as well as strong guidelines for parents sharing videos and photos of their children on social media… above all children,  need to be heard on their needs and views on their right to privacy.”

Key Family Discussion Opportunities

  • What does privacy mean to you? Do you think parents have different ideas about privacy?

  • Does this become a source of conflict?

  • Is oversharing an issue for teens? What about parents?

  • How important is trust between parents and their children when it comes to social media use and privacy?

  • What information do you believe should be private and why?

For more information visit:

London School of Economics

January 2019 Children’s Personal Privacy online-It’s Neither Personal or Private

September 2018 Conceptualising privacy online: what do and what should children understand’


Family Insights

How Child Identity Theft Happens and What Can Parents Do

The Importance of Digital Privacy For Families

Does Your Family Need a Privacy Health Check

Related Articles