Five Books for Parents to Teach Their Children Online Privacy

Child with smartphone

Worried about how much information your children are sharing in today’s connected world? There’s no question parenting has hit a steep learning curve over the past few years. Parents now face a problem their predecessors never did: protecting, educating and learning to trust children as they grow up within the digital age. There’s a huge difference between keeping tabs on your child's television habits and what information they give away once once they log in online. Between social media, online bullying, connected toys and a growing list of home devices set to record when you walk in and out the door, having a good understanding of current privacy challenges can be daunting for an adult, let alone a child. Yet privacy organizations agree: this is one challenge you can’s afford to ignore.

It has long been accepted that youth are a vulnerable group when it comes to online privacy. Personal information of children is sensitive and misuse can cause real risk, exposing children to predators, manipulative information sources and even crafty digital marketing. While laws are in effect to specifically protect children’s privacy, most notably the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the GDPR-K (specific articles of the GDPR that relate to the privacy of children), the law doesn’t set up household rules, or educate on what can be done to protect children at home. Against a world where personal information is often collected and shared, what can you do as a parent to support your child’s online interactions?  How do you let them explore, while trying to keep them safe? How can you talk to your kids about privacy so that they themselves can understand the value of their personal information, before an app or service decides for them?

Thankfully, this is one problem you’re not alone facing. If you want to talk to your child about online privacy, or just know more about how the connected world can impact today’s youth, here are five books worth reading.


1. Eyes and Spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and Belle Wuthrich

Intended for middle grade readers, I frequently recommend Eyes and Spies to friends as a good way to grasp the privacy environment youth are facing. Featuring rich illustrations, pop-ups of interesting privacy facts, and case studies that include digital tracking in schools, Eyes and Spies is easy to read and flip through, giving a good grasp of the basics while touching on more nuanced privacy issues in a way school children might see in their daily lives. The book offers excellent food for thought, accepting that we do live in a connected world and that there are benefits to such connectivity, however the benefits aren’t for everyone, and we need to look seriously into how we’re implementing digital devices: are we giving enough voices to those being tracked? A valuable book on the shelf, both for privacy enthusiasts and one every parent should consider reading.


2. Lightwebdarkweb by Raffi Cavoukian

Raffi Couvkain, better known as ‘Raffi’ is a Canadian singer-lyricist best known for his music, and is founder of the Centre for Child Honouring. In Lightwebdarkweb, he looks at the benefits and dangers of social media, asking the critical question: do we need to reform how we use social media, before it reforms us? This book is of value to anyone interested in privacy or the effects of the online world, and pays particular attention to the effects of social media on children who we need to realize are now growing up with it in ways anyone over the age of twenty never did. From safety, intelligence to sustainability, Raffi includes both the online environments and the problems behind the tech, offering principles for solutions and considerations going forward. As the writer himself admits, all of this has placed child development experts into a new problem and they try to learn the technology and new social changes that have resulted.


3. Screenwise  by Devorah Heitner

Worried your child is addicted, detached or distracted by the digital world? How do kids view privacy, and what can parents do to support them? With interacting in the digital world no longer a choice for any generation, Heitner’s book addresses concerns while encouraging parents to get comfortable with their new reality, rather than trying to hide from it. From family life, to friends, school and growing up, the books offers insight and advice on how to be a tech-positive parent, and see their children thrive. Accepting that we are now raising children as Digital Natives as digital natives, Heitner regularly speaks at schools and in the media: her writing has been featured on PBS, TIME Magazine, the Wall street Journal and other popular publications.


4. Social Media: Your Child's Digital Tattoo: Understanding & Managing Your Child's Digital Footprint by Stephen Smith

The reality is, if your child has been online many social media services and data collectors know about your child; potentially even more than you do. Smith’s book is intended to help parents become aware of the digital footprints their children have been creating, and how to manage that footprint to minimize potential problems down the road. Author Stephen Smith, himself a longtime educator, also publishes A Wired Family Magazine along with his wife Mary Beth, which offers current trends in family social media, privacy and connectivity.


5. Chicken clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

One of the best ways to get your child to learn about privacy is to get them interested in learning about it themselves. Chicken clicking, with it’s cute illustrations is an easy-to-read children’s book that tells the tale of what happens when someone from the farm starts exploring online without knowing what they’re getting into. The storybook is about staying safe online, with colourful pictures that allows children to read alone, parents to read to their kids, or have their children read out loud to parents. A must for any child’s growing bookshelf.

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