Is There Privacy in the Internet Age?


Explicitly teaching students about the importance and the intricacies of privacy online is as important as teaching students reading comprehension strategies. As 21-century educators, we should be teaching students developmentally appropriate ways how to cultivate their digital footprint and digital privacy from the moment we begin to integrate technology with our students. With my fourth graders, I am becoming increasingly aware of just how much screen time they are experiencing and how large their PLN’s already are, without them (or their parents) knowing it. The rapid growth of  social media, online gaming, and online forums is relatively new and is something that many parents and educators cannot connect to. Digital migrants do not follow best practice when it comes to modeling good online privacy behavior because they are navigating through uncharted territory. I was always taught that you NEVER sign anything without reading it first. Yet I never read the terms and conditions when Apple has another update. I just click agree and get back to listening to my jams. But what am I actually agreeing to? Does anybody actually read that stuff?

According to a Fairer Finance survey, small print for some companies now runs to more than 30,000 words (the length of a short novel) and, unsurprisingly, 73% of people admit to not reading all the fine print. Of those who do, only 17% say they understand it.
Source: Will you read this article about terms and conditions? You really should do.  Robert Glancy

Has technology turned us all into lazy digital consumers who can’t be bothered to read the T’s&C’s before clicking that little accept box? Or are companies taking advantage of technology to make the T’s&C’s so cumbersome, that nobody bothers to read them giving them free range to make up whatever rules best suit them?

Carnegie Mellon researchers determined that it would take the average American 76 work days to read all the privacy policies they agreed to each year.
Source:The Huffington Post Didn’t Read Facebook’s Fine Print? Here’s Exactly What It Says

Navigating through this labyrinth of terms and conditions is nearly impossible for those of who are trying to be responsible digital citizens. How does this translate to our students as they begin and continue to build their digital footprint?

In addition to the hidden realm of Ts&Cs, there are many, more obvious privacy issues that parents and teachers need to be mindful of. Stranger Danger used to look like Officer Friendly talking to elementary students about not talking to strangers and role-playing situations like some guy loses his puppy and needs your help to find him. Stranger Danger today looks different and can happen in the comfort of your own home. There is research to support that people (children included) put their guard down when they feel there is a commonality between them and the people they are talking to online. Joey Salads’ social experiment of Pokemon Go is a great example of this.

In his social experiment, he sets lures in Pokemon Go, then invites other Pokemon Goers to go with him to catch that ever so precious Pikachu. Before getting into the car, he questions their decision to get into a car with a stranger. The children admitted that they let their guard down once they had a sense of common ground. It is our responsibility to teach modern day Stranger Danger to our students and their familiar. In order to do so, we need to stay aware of the latest trends in modern day kid culture and be proactive in raising their awareness of online dangers.

How can we model best practice in online safety for our students? is a great resource to stay on top of the latest news and issues around technology. How can I make sure my kid’s privacy is protected when her teacher is using digital tools for teaching? raises some key points for schools to keep in mind.

It’s important to make sure teachers and administrators have a plan for how to use, store, and eventually destroy the data they collect. Not all schools have figured this out yet, and until enough legal protections are in place for students, it’s a good idea to be aware of the basics you should expect from your school:

  • Personal information should be used only for educational purposes. Ask if it’s really necessary for a student to include details such as their full name and age.

  • Personal information or online activity should not be used to target advertising to students or families.

  • Schools and education technology providers should have appropriate data-security policies, including those related to how they store and destroy student data.

Source: How can I make sure my kid’s privacy is protected when her teacher is using digital tools for teaching?

This week I have been teaching note taking and citing sources for nonfiction writing piece connected to our Middle Ages unit. Citation.  We were looking at how to cite websites and digital resources and where to find copyright information. I noticed that in teaching my class about where to find the information needed to cite the source, they were also learning how to evaluate the reliability of their sources, including when it was last updated.

In raising our own awareness of online privacy, what it means and how it is changing, we add another tool to our teacher tool belt and better prepare ourselves as we strive to empower safe,  21-century life-long learners.




Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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2 Responses

  1. Dan Berry says:


    Thanks for an interesting post.

    My attention was immediately grabbed by the very first sentence and I couldn’t agree more – educating children about their online practises are just as important as reading comprehension skills. I wonder how many schools/educators see things this way..? I certainly don’t think my current workplace sees them as equally important. I worry so much about how we are preparing our students for the world that that will be inhabiting – so much of my practice is no different to when I was at school, yet the world is unrecognisable from then.

    I am definitely an ‘agree’ clicker and that is just one of my many digital bad habits. I also try to encourage my students to image search responsibly and cite their sources wherever possible. A colleague and I were talking the other day – one of the problems with this is that it sometimes takes over the whole lesson. I may be getting my students to make a presentation on Egyptians, but we end up just looking how we do a responsible image search. It is so much easier to just tell them to Google it and right click the image that they like…

    I enjoyed the video link – I have used his videos before in PSHE lessons. My class are always amazed at just how readily children will head off with him. Here is the one that we watch together:

    Good luck with the rest of Course 2.


  2. Laura Kaufman says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    This was fabulous – a great example of what I am aspiring for my blog posts to be like.

    I was literally thinking about the dangers inherent in T&C that none of us really consider. Even when I am thinking of it, I all to often click “agree” anyway because I feel I need the app or program.

    I found a list of some of the scary things people have agreed to, like companies owning any photos you post or being able to make changes to your phone or device without warning ( Makes me wonder what else I have unwittingly agreed to….

    Good luck teaching your young ones to be better than my generation is at this!

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