Advances in information technology are changing our lives. Online activities have become indispensable especially to the youth, but are they able to identify online privacy risks? The misuse of personal data may lead to identity fraud, cyber-bullying or doxxing. It may also infringe the privacy of the friends or family members of the users.
Parents have a role of guidance in personal data protection. Here are 10 tips for parents to instil in their children the concept of personal data protection and respect for others’ privacy.
Be a good role model in personal data protection
Parents should understand the basic principles of personal data protection and practise them. It is parents’ responsibility to remind their children not to upload photos or leave comments recklessly. Children's privacy should be respected by not having their videos or photos posted on the Internet without their consent.
Chatting with children helps parents learn more about popular online activities and computer products, from which they can know whether sharing of personal data is involved.
For details of the Six Data Protection Principles, please refer to https://www.pcpd.org.hk/childrenprivacy/dpp.html.
Remind children to manage passwords properly
Different passwords should be used for logging on to different email accounts or websites. Children should be reminded to use safe passwords, e.g. a combination of eight or more alphabets, numerals and punctuation marks, and avoid using consecutive numbers, student numbers, telephone numbers and dates of birth, which can be easily guessed. Passwords should be changed regularly and should not be disclosed to anyone, including teachers and classmates.
Learn how to accept or reject cookies
Cookies are computer files that store website browsing records. They contain information about user preferences, items in online shopping carts and even browsing history. There are different kinds of cookies. Some are necessary for website browsing, while others are simply made for tracking users' online behaviour. You may give your children basic knowledge of cookies so that they can choose to accept or reject them.
Avoid sharing computers/smartphones with children
Parents should avoid sharing computers or smartphones with their children. If sharing is needed, you should have a complex password to lock the screen and prevent personal data leaks as a result of the use by your unattended children.
Be careful when making online registration and downloading software
When making online registration, downloading software, signing up for an online game or a lucky draw, you are generally required to provide your personal data for verification or record. Parents should remind their children to beware of excessive collection of personal data and to check the credibility of the requesters. Children should also be warned against giving sensitive personal data, such as passwords, addresses, telephone numbers, on online chat rooms or when having live chats to minimise the risk of data leakage.
Experience children's online world
From time to time, you may visit the websites your children love to browse, e.g. chat rooms, social networking sites and online games, or use the smartphone apps your children love to use. That gives you common topics to talk about with your children as well as a chance to look at any potential privacy risks. For example, the collection of names, mobile phone numbers or dates of birth by the game developer in exchange for game upgrades may compromise one's data privacy.
Read privacy policies
Young children are not able to read the privacy policies of websites or smartphone apps. Parents should read them to ascertain that their children’s personal data is safeguarded. Teenagers should be taught to read such information before deciding to continue browsing a website or to download a smartphone app.
Use mobile location services carefully
It has been popular among young people to look up locations or "check-in" on social networking sites with a smartphone, but this will unnecessarily disclose the whereabouts of you or your children. Make sure you are not one of those suffering from property loss in a home burglary after "checking-in" on social networking sites when travelling abroad.
Manage privacy settings for social networking activities
Very often you are not able to confirm identities on the Internet. A private chat with friends may become public. You are advised to help your children configure privacy settings for social networking sites. Such settings are likely re-set after software updates. Therefore, you should always check privacy settings and keep them updated to prevent oversharing of personal data.
Understand that privacy settings do not give absolute protection
Even though you have configured privacy settings for social networking sites to restrict who can read your information, data leakage could still happen. Actually all online activities are traceable even the deletion of an uploaded file is recorded. They may be saved, printed or shared. It is difficult to completely remove such information from the Internet. Therefore, think twice before uploading any photos or leaving any comments.