A Parents Role in Shaping Their Kids Digital Identity

As #InternetSafetyMonth has wrapped up, it is essential to continue the dialogue and awareness of this topic going forward. The more technology becomes ingrained in all that we do, the more critical it becomes to understand the intricacies and ways that it impacts our lives. 

The fluidity of technology has allowed it to expand its domain to encompass more people and activities. From interactive toys to smartphones, and home assistants, the world is becoming increasingly digitized. 

In this digital society, kids have a clear advantage over their parents. As a result of growing up during a time when the expansion and presence of technology is the norm, kids are being introduced to it a younger age, and their knowledge only increases as they grow. In a race against time, parents are trying to stay up to date on the latest apps and devices, so they not only benefit from them but also ensure their children are safe. 

A proven double-edged sword, the digitization of the world has both enriched and threatened our way of life. Technology undeniably provides benefits such as entertainment and convenience. Nonetheless, these perks come at a cost that is often overlooked. 

When considering how to uphold a safe digital identity, children are often deemed as the one who needs the most guidance and protection. However, as highlighted in a podcast episode on The Bistro earlier this month, Senior Staff Attorney of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, Katie Goldstein explained how the actions of parents “have consequences as much as [their] children’s do.” 

Both in the podcast and an article she wrote in Parents Magazine, this mother and privacy lawyer shared important tips and methods on how parents can balance enjoying the opportunities technology provides while also keeping their kids safe.  

In this new layer to the discourse surrounding online safety, Goldstein discusses how just because kids may often be more knowledgeable about devices and apps, that does not mean parents are helpless in protecting their children online. She also takes her advice one step further than merely telling parents what practices they should or should not put in place for their kids. She directly addresses how parental actions online can also post a risk to their little ones. 

Goldstein advises parents to know their rights and to make sure their family devices are secure. She stresses the importance of only buying from “reputable companies that are serious about security.” Parents must do their research about the apps and platforms that their children use. They want to be acquainted with the data collected. 

If you are like most people, you only say you read the terms and services of the many sites and apps you agree to. The website Terms of Service; Didn’t Read is a useful tool that breaks down what you consent to when submitting yes. It includes the terms of a lot of popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and is a great starting place for research.  

Katie also discusses the importance of parents knowing their rights, both legally and within the family. From understanding laws such as the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)” to asserting control over family device usage, there are plenty of methods parents can follow to help their kids practice safe digital behavior.

Moreover, children learn from example. Even when parents can monitor their young ones’ online practices, their safety is still at risk if the parents themselves are not mindful of their digital behavior. A child’s digital identity is shaped by their actions as well as their parents’. 

When parents choose to post about their kids on social media, Katie stated that it is vital they recognize that “Once that information is out there, you [the parents] can’t get it back.” Many parents imprint their child’s digital footprint before they’re even born. An ultrasound is a picture that begins a baby’s first online steps. 

The use of hashtags, sharing locations, and respecting their youngsters’ wishes about how much they want to be shared by mom and dad are all powerful aspects impacting online safety.  With that power comes great responsibility, which starts with parents being aware of the impression their actions have.

There is no denying how beneficial technology is. It makes staying connected simple, provides faster access to information, and so much more. Nevertheless, parents and kids alike are encouraged to consider the impact of every online action they take.