Online privacy comes down to a personal choice, how much do you want the world to know about you? What can we control when it comes to our privacy? Teaching young students about this is a difficult undertaking, and in most cases they don’t have the background knowledge to understand why keeping themselves private is important. When we can make this decision for ourselves it is not a problem, but what happens when other people share things or post photos without your knowledge or consent. When my wife was about 16 weeks pregnant with our first son, a friend who is quite the oversharer posted a picture of the two of us crossing the finish line at a charity race along with the comment, “Here comes momma and baby.” While it was obvious that she was pregnant to the people in our daily lives, we had not made it “Facebook Public.” This is not how we wanted our friends back home to find out we are going to have a baby.

I am a very private person in general, and even more so online. When introducing students to the idea of privacy and a digital footprint, I will Google myself to show them how easy it is to find someone and all their information. The part that is most shocking to them is how easy it is to find the addresses where I have lived and the names of my parents and brother just by using the little information they know about me. 

Teaching students how to stay safe online is as vital as teaching them to stay safe in the real world. 

Remember, everything that’s posted on the Internet is public, even if you don’t intend for it to be. As long as one other person can find it, it can go viral. 

This is what students need to remember. When students are speaking rudely to each other or make a mean comment, I ask them if they would say that same comment to their mother or grandmother. The answer is virtually always no. When teaching about privacy, it is important that students understand that same concept. If you wouldn’t share the photo or comment with your grandmother, you shouldn’t post it online. 

Even if we are vigilant about what we post online, many companies, apps and programs collect our data and sell it to others without our knowledge. Who among us reads, let alone understands, the privacy statement when using things online?

Privacy is difficult even if went don’t post photos or comments. it seems like every app or anything we use online mines and sells our data to make billions of dollars. Not to get into the whole net neutrality issue, and I don’t know who would get paid, but perhaps we would be able to keep ourselves private if the economic incentive was taken away.

I live in China and have a nearly 3 year old son with blonde curly hair and blue eyes. This fact has made it difficult for our family to enjoy playing at the playground or going to the store. That is because people often want to take his picture or touch his hair. Sometimes they ask, but most times Many times people try to take his photo surreptitiously. We always say no when asked, and if I see people trying to sneak his photo I take theirs as well. They are often shocked I am doing this and will react by hiding their faces. I point to my son and say “buyao xiangpian.” No photo. This even happened with a colleague while we were traveling. We were at the airport, and she was with her mother in line behind us. After chatting for a bit, her mother pulled out her phone and took a picture of both of my sons, despite our saying to our colleague and her mother not to take a photo. Her response was, “But they are so cute.” Yes, I know. But I still don’t want you to take their photo. My biggest concern with the random photo taking, beside the fact that he does not like his photo taken at all now even by us, is that I don’t know what is going to happen to those photos. Are they just going to be shown around on someone’s phone? Are they going to be emailed or Wechatted to who knows where? I don’t want what happened to the Thomas family to happen to us. 

From the opposite angle, it is often the parents who need to be reminded of privacy considerations of their children. They are posting photos without asking and or even thinking about what their children want. Parents rightfully need to teach their children to be private online; however, “child predators” is not in reality a major concern. Despite what the TV program, “To Catch a Predator, might make us think, children are more likely to be harmed by people that they know according to Lenore Skenazy, founder of This is where many parents focus their energies, but then will post pictures of their children online without thinking about what their children want. As a result, France is passing laws which greatly restrict what a parent can post about their children online. They have even fined Facebook for privacy violations.

Our job as parents is to prepare kids, not to lock them away from technology. Nothing is ever 100 percent safe—a fact a lot of us have forgotten. But when you do remember this, the Internet seems less like a truck stop after dark, and more like the rest of the world: a reasonable place our kids can hang out with each other.  Lenore Skenazy

Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say

In China, cash is not king. Mobile payment services are, including Wechat (owned by Tencent) and Alipay (owned by Alibaba). Almost everyone in China uses their phones to pay for things. It is so simple to simply scan a QR code or have your personal QR code scanned, which is connected directly to your bank account. One benefit over credit cards is that you draw from your own money and don’t accrue debt.  The problem arises, as Ben Cavender, of China Market Research explains, “At the end of the day your money is being handled by companies whose main objective is to sell you all sorts of services. There’s definitely a conflict of interest [that works against consumers].” People willingly give these two companies access to all sorts of personal information, things like your online and offline shopping habits, access to your bank account information and balance, plus your identity. Starting June 30, 2018, the Chinese government will also collect this information and track every transaction made using mobile payments. I am not sure what could be less private than giving your information to huge tech companies and the government. I don’t use either of them, because there was a problem with my old phone. Now that I have a new phone, I am not sure I want to add the money feature to my Wechat. I will continue to get strange looks when I pay with cash, and everyone can spy on my wife and her separate account!

China’s Cashless Society

What are we going to do, retreat from society and live off-grid? If you want to do that, great. I also have a lifelong dream of owning a cabin in the woods. As educators and functioning members of society, we need to learn to negotiate this complex world that is our online life. As users of technology and the internet, we need to manage our privacy settings and be mindful of what is posted about use.

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