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  • Writer's pictureVaidehi Pant

Where does my data go: Data Privacy for Children

We often click the “accept Terms and Conditions” button a bit too early, without even reading the Terms and Conditions! Even if we do actually read the Terms, we tend to skim through them with an air of nonchalance. But, no matter how boring these terms are, reading them and knowing where your email ID, name or your password details are going will help you stay out of trouble online.

In this article, I explore The Children’s Data and Privacy Online Report and share how students interact with the vast universe of the internet.


Data privacy generally means the ability of a person to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent personal information about them is shared with or communicated to others.”


In other words, data privacy is about having control over one’s own data or information.


The report on Children’s Data and Privacy tells us about children’s views on data privacy and how they behave online. The report is authored by Rishita Nandagiri, Mariya Stoilova and Sonia Livingstone. To write this report, the authors reached out to schools in England, Scotland and Wales. They used focus group research with 150 children between 5-17 years, their parents and educators.


It also highlights that children are actually mindful of where their data is collected and where it can possibly travel. Most adults have this image in their minds that kids don’t know how to be careful on the web. This is mostly not true, and this report shows it!


Children care about their privacy online. They are clear too that not all personal information should be online. Even if a child has a public social media profile, they still think about privacy and might protect it by making careful decisions about what they post.


Here is what a boy from a school in Scotland says-

“Your information is specifically yours. Like your full name, mental health, that’s to do with you. So you should be able to choose who knows and who doesn’t.”


The report also states that children insist that growing up online is a learning process and they want to have the freedom to experiment and learn by trial and error without being judged too harshly for the mistakes they might make along the way. Children often understand ‘privacy’ as being able to keep their online activities to themselves without others finding out. In cases when they want to share, they want to be able to decide what information is shared and with whom.


When talking about privacy online, children raise issues related to being tracked by strangers when sharing personal information that is too detailed, receiving unwanted messages if their accounts are not private, being exposed to phishing, hacking or spam mail, or being bullied if they share embarrassing material.

“Somebody could be, like, pretending to be somebody you know, but aren’t actually them”, says a girl in Year 9, from Wales.


The report also points out that children are highly moral – they talk of what’s fair and what’s right – and they protest at business practices that use their personal data in unaccountable ways. Children anticipate good intentions and generally trust companies and institutions with their data.

"They’re my school, they’re going to keep my data safe.”, says a boy from year 7 in Midlands, UK.


However, apart from sharing the good side of children’s awareness online, it also shows the bad-


Children sense – or are working out – that everything they do online may be tracked and recorded for whatever purpose.

However, they struggle to put the puzzle pieces together and to understand how the different pieces might fit together to create a growing digital footprint.

“So even if it is a big company, you can’t always trust them.” says a girl from year 7 in London.


While children understand how their data is recorded on some platforms, other concepts are harder to grasp.

How their data moves online, who uses it and to what ends, and why their data is valuable are some of the most recurring questions that children have.

“I’ve never actually known… when I use Wi-Fi at restaurants and stuff, why does it ask for where you live?”, says a girl from year 11.


Children often take the online environment at face value and can be misled when things are not what they appear to be.

When they are asked to provide personal information, for example, when signing up for a service, they are not always able to tell which information is mandatory and which is optional. “You can’t get any further without giving your information. Like you don’t really get a choice.”, says a boy from year 9.


So, in conclusion, data privacy is a complex, yet important topic, which has to be understood before being implemented. This report proves that-

  • Children understand data privacy, but not in the sense that the researchers have defined.

  • Children spend time online, and they are aware of dangers online.

  • However, there are dangers they don't fully understand, or dangers that they're unaware of.

However, this lack of knowledge is not the fault of children and adolescents— they are simply not taught about this in schools! This is the evident result of some lack of understanding of data privacy. Students are also sometimes unable to understand that their information is important to other people.

Aadya, a student in Grade 5 says, “I don't think our data is important to other people because they don't have anything to do with our information!”

This brings up a very important point- if we teach students data privacy, they can and will understand the topic, hence we should take more steps to ensure that every child has some awareness about data privacy. And to start this, the report also has a fun toolkit that answers your questions about privacy and protecting your information online, such as who has my data, who is tracking me, what rights do I have and what can go wrong!


So, what did we learn from this article? Did we learn about the responses and insights that students have about where data goes? Or did we learn about the Data Privacy report and toolkit that researchers created? Well, I learned that when I’m online and on a website, I should make sure to read the terms and conditions!


Written by Vaidehi Pant

Vaidehi is an enthusiastic study-lover by day, and an author/reader by night. She loves to dance, draw, write, swim and do internships :). She lives in Greater Noida with her family.

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