Internet Parenting, Parental Controls, & Online Safety Blog - WebCurfew

Digital Loitering Blog

Privacy vs. Safety, Which Prevails When it Comes to Teens Online?

Posted on 6/1/2015 by Rod da Silva in WebCurfew Online Safety Online Privacy

By Amy Kristine Williams -- I love privacy. It’s one of the foundations of our society - and when our lives are kept private, it’s so much easier to be who we want to be, without worrying so much about what others think. Maybe that’s why teens are so enamored with the internet - many of them still haven’t discovered who they are, and the chance to cut loose and feel like they belong must be amazing.


Except, of course, for a few of the teeny, tiny problems that they face these days. Worldwide usage of the internet continues to grow, and with those connections come new dangers that may not have been an issue even three or four years ago. Here are some of the big things stopping teens from being safe online.


  • Permanency: Once something is posted online, it’s probably not going to go away. This isn’t an accident - most websites (especially social media sites) actively want as much information about people as possible, and they have a vested financial interest in keeping that information around. The problem, of course, is when the information being kept is damaging - few things are less enjoyable than getting reminders of an old embarrassment year after year as new people find and share it.

  • Cyberbullying: Forget about pushing kids around on the playground - bullying’s new form is digital, and the equalizing power of the internet means anyone can start hurting others. Quite a few of them have noticed, too, given that more than half of all kids have engaged in cyberbullying.

  • Sexting: No, not doing it in the first place - that’s actually normal, albeit worth keeping tabs on to be sure your kid isn’t doing something risky. No, the problem is when their sexts and selfies start getting shared without their consent and spread to their peers, since that will probably result in severe mockery and derision.

    • Notably, children who are the victims here tend to get blamed for the event by their peers, usually because of reasoning like “You shouldn’t have shared such a slutty picture”. The teens saying this are the same ones who agree that spreading information without consent is wrong. No, it doesn’t make sense - welcome to the world of teens.

  • Inadvertent Sharing: You know how I mentioned that social media sites want information? Here’s a fun one - sites that share your information even when you told them not to. I know, that sounds like it should be illegal, but it all tends to be described on the terms of service page - and users technically did agree to that when they signed up for the service. Social networks want information shared, and they’ll go to great lengths to make that happen.


I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. The internet is not a safe place for kids to be - neither forums nor social networks are completely without risk, and that’s where privacy comes back into the picture. Teens do not like sharing information about their online activities, but at the same time, they’re not prepared for the risks and challenges of today’s digital world.


I’ll be honest with you - I don’t think the privacy of our children is worth more than their safety. They have no intrinsic right to be plugged in 24/7 without any kind of supervision, and it’s time to retake control of their digital lives. Solutions like WebCurfew are a free easy way to do that, even for non tech-savvy parents.   They may not like it, but they’ll have to learn to deal with it - and many of the bad feelings will go away if you come up with a development plan that links specific demonstrations of maturity to specific rewards.


Have they done all of their chores for three months without being asked? Turn the internet off an hour later. Have they held down a part-time job for a whole summer? Stop using GPS tracking. Linking offline actions to online rewards can help keep teens focused on the rest of the world… and ensure that you only lift your supervision when you’re certain that they’re ready to be independent.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.  Reach her on Twitter at @AmyKWilliams1: