The Privacy Lawyer: From The Mouths Of Babes

Companies can begin winning over the next generation of online customers now, by respecting kids' privacy and being focused on adding value to their Internet experiences.
How many of you click "never remind me again" when the computer tries to tell you that software is being updated, or something is being installed, or that a site violates your security or privacy settings?" All sheepishly nodded.

OK, I thought, I was actually getting somewhere. "So, if there is something you get out of it, it's OK to share the information, right? (Those of you with preteens and teens know what happened next.) "No," they shouted in unison. "It depends. If you get a reward or something of value back, then it's fair to give this information away."

"So," I responded, "you will give away this information if you're rewarded for giving it away?"

The kids again disagreed with each other. "If the Gap wants to know what I like and don't like, to be able to sell to me or other kids better, they should give me something for it," said one cherubic 13-year-old girl.

"If they offered me some kind of reward, I wouldn't trust them. I would be suspicious of their motives," shared another preteen.

Great, back to the drawing board.

A Matter Of Trust
What have we learned about kids and teens and privacy online? The first thing is that they understand privacy. They also understand trust. If you violate that trust, you won't be given a second chance. Big names, with lots of brand recognition, are seen as more trustworthy.

Companies that haven't had the best history of privacy compliance may find comfort in the fact that they're not household names to the teens. So their credibility among the newest Internet generation may not have been damaged.

Kids also want to be kept informed, but not bothered. And they want the ability to control their personal information and prevent intrusions. They recognize that the right method of getting their buy-in isn't there yet. They're demanding your respect and acknowledging that they will work with you, if you're really adding value. Value to the Internet, to all kids' surfing experience, to your Website and business--if you're truly trying to serve your young customers more effectively. You also can be focused on making more money because of this information, but the value component to the young Internet users has to be the primary impetus.

It's not often that marketers, respected brands and up-and-coming companies can address their future customers this early. And there's much to be learned. It's all about sharing and not always taking. It's about balance and not being greedy. It's about earning their trust and not abusing it. Bottom line, with kids, preteens and teens (perhaps even more so than with their parents), it's all about respect. will be conducting a survey of preteens and young teens on privacy and trusted computing. If you're interested in helping sponsor this survey and related research, contact Parry Aftab directly at [email protected]. WiredKids is a nonprofit corporation and the child, preteen, and teen division of, the world's largest online safety and help group.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit the Talk Shop.

To find out more about Parry Aftab, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing