How do I protect my kid's privacy online?
First, there are two kinds of online privacy. Personal privacy refers to your kid's online reputation, and consumer privacy (also known as customer privacy) refers to the data companies can collect about your kid during an online interaction or transaction. Both are important, and a few simple steps can help parents and kids keep their private information private.
The first step is using strict privacy settings in apps and on websites. When you or your kid gets a new device or signs up for a new website or app, establish your privacy preferences. Follow the directions during initial set-up, or go to the section marked "privacy" or "settings" and opt out of things such as location sharing and the ability for the app or website to post to social media sites such as Facebook on your behalf. Encourage kids to read the fine print before checking a box or entering an email address. Although it might not be practical to read through every Terms of Service contract, it's good to remind kids to be aware of what information they're agreeing to share before they start using an app, a website, or a device.
Next, teach your kids always to consider the information they're potentially giving away when engaging online. For younger kids, define that information as address, phone number, and birth date. Make sure they understand the basics of good online behavior, too, including thinking about the impact of posting a photo or comment. Remind them that it's not always easy to take back something once it's online and that texts and photos can be forwarded to anyone.
Finally, there are some legal restrictions in place to help protect your kids' consumer privacy and insure they're using age-appropriate websites and apps. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents kid-targeted websites and apps from collecting data from kids younger than 13 without parental consent.