Good Digital Parenting
Blog | June 26, 2014

Going Public With Privacy

Founder, CyberWise and Cyber Civics

“We are the last generation to know privacy as it was. It is now something that requires education.” – Brian Solis, The Erosion of Privacy and the Rise of Publicness…and why it’s a good thing.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the first Going Public with Privacy roundtable at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. Part of the National Association of Media Literacy Education’s Privacy Initiative, this event gathered stakeholders in K-12 and higher education, entertainment, media literacy, media production, and law. The purpose of these roundtables is to spark a national conversation surrounding the important issue of privacy – and, most importantly – to figure out how to teach this important topic to young people.

Privacy is indisputably one of today’s hot topics. Each and every one of us, adults and kids alike, trades a little bit (or sometimes a lot!) of our privacy and personal information whenever we engage online. Every phrase we google, every piece of information we post, and each photo we “like” has value to some company or entity. Understanding this economic exchange is a vital element of being fully “digitally literate” in the 21st century.

Yet how many of us have had an actual lesson on “privacy”? How many of our kids have had a lesson? While privacy and what it means today might seem obvious to those of us who read blogs like this one, that’s not the case for most adults, and certainly not the case for kids. Understanding the benefits and hazards of the “privacy exchange” can be complex and tricky business, because sometimes that exchange isn’t entirely transparent. Additionally, knowing how to be in control of the trade-off between privacy and sharing is empowering, especially when what you receive in return for your privacy investment is worth the personal information you had to exchange for it.

In "Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live” author Jeff Jarvis writes, “becoming too obsessed with privacy causes us to lose opportunities to make connections in this age of “links,” because links don’t just connect us to web, they connect us people and valuable information.” Additionally, he argues, "When, out of fear of the unknown, we shut ourselves off from links to one another, we lose as individuals, as companies, and as institutions. When we open up, we gain new chance to learn, connect, and collaborate. Through tools ranging from TripAdvisor to Wikipedia, from Google search to Facebook, we gain access to the wisdom of the crowd – that is, our wisdom. When we gather together, we can create new public entities – our public spheres. We must keep in mind that what’s public is a public good, a necessity for an open and free society."

CyberwiseThese are issues we think about a lot at CyberWise. We are deeply committed to teaching kids about privacy during our in-school Cyber Civics lessons. However, we know that these lessons fall flat when they are not supported at home or throughout the rest of their education. So teaching parents and teachers about issues like privacy is also an important part of our mission.

Because, as we like to say, “no grownup should ever be left behind.

That’s why we’ve just launched the “How To Protect Your Online Privacy” course. In a couple of hours this self-paced online course provides a basic understanding of this complex topic. We invite you to try it this summer. 

Cover image courtesy of Flickr