By Mieke VanderBorght, Contributor to the OutlookJuly 2, 2018
VICENZA, Italy -- You know that as a parent, you are in charge of safeguarding your children's online privacy. And you know that an important part of that is to read the privacy policies of apps and websites you and your children use.
Wait, what? You mean read those long policies with all the fine print and complicated legal language? Who can understand those things?
What information or data will be collected? What does the service want to know about you? Will the service be collecting you or your child's name, date of birth, email address, location, credit card number, Internet habits, or pictures? Why does it want to collect this data and how is it relevant to the service? Does it have to collect this information for you to be able to use the service? Is the information aggregate (as part of group data), or is it individual? Does it collect the data once or on an ongoing basis?
Are there any particular protections for handling data from children? Does the service have age limits or require parental consent? Look at the service itself. Does it allow for avatars versus pictures? Are there ways for children to unknowingly share personal information while using the service?
How will the information be used? Does the information stay within the service or does it get sent to others? If it gets shared, with whom is it shared? Marketers? Government and law enforcement? Can I opt out of anything? Will my information be used to try to sell me things?
How and for how long will the information be stored? Does my information get purged at some point? Do I have a right to request that the service deletes my information at any time?
How is the information protected? Do they have secure ways to make sure my information isn't susceptible to hackers?
How can you contact the company? If I have questions or concerns about privacy issues is there a way to contact the company? Can I request that the company correct or update my information? If so, is there a cost to doing so?
There are ways for tech companies to collect and track data on every move of today's digital natives (a.k.a., kids who are born into today's digital world), from their first breath to their every development. Our job as 21st century parents becomes ever more difficult as we need to make thoughtful and purposeful decisions about how to manage our children's digital lives.
Rather than letting digital media the power to manage your family's life, carefully reading privacy policies is yet another important step towards taking control and taking charge.
(VanderBorght is a Child Development Specialist/Media Educator and Family Advocacy Program Parent-Child Educator and Emergency Placement Coordinator for U.S. Army Garrison Italy.)