Children's understanding of online data privacy: a study on Scottish Primary 6 and Primary 7 pupils
There is growing concern over online privacy in today’s digital worlds, in part due to the nature of social media, which encourages the disclosure of personal information. Such concerns have resulted in a significant amount of research;; so far focused on adults’ and teenagers’ perceptions of privacy and privacy management. This study aims to explore how children perceive online privacy. It addresses three research questions: RQ 1: What are children’s views of online privacy? RQ 2: What are parents’ views of online privacy? Do their views on privacy influence how they deal with their children’s privacy? RQ 3: What are the benefits and disadvantages of different Internet parental mediation strategies for children’s online privacy? Twenty-six semi-structured one-to-one interviews and ten focus group sessions were conducted with fifty-seven pupils aged 9 to 11 years old (Primary 6 and Primary 7), from one school in Scotland. Additionally, 8 parents were interviewed to understand how their perceptions of privacy influenced their Internet parenting strategies. This study has three overarching findings. The first overarching finding is related to children’s and parents’ views about the Internet as an unsafe place, occasionally leading parents to deploy restrictive and monitoring Internet parental mediation strategies. Second, children view privacy as more difficult to achieve online than offline for two main reasons: (1) the Internet is a ‘bigger space’ populated by a massive number of ‘people’, most of whom they do not know nor have they ever seen (‘strangers’), and (2) there are certain difficulties in managing the privacy settings of social networking sites. The third finding is that trust, autonomy and privacy are interrelated. Trust reduce privacy concerns, encouraged for two-way information sharing between children and parents, with an expectation that parents will be able to help identify potential and also unexpected online issues, and necessary advice and safety precautions can be taught to children. As a result, children will potentially be able to manage their online activities in an increasingly autonomous way. Trust is important not only in interpersonal relationships, but also for building confidence for contexts in which we do not have any prior knowledge, such as with strangers or with the providers of online platforms.