7th Graders Care About Privacy

November 18th, 2010 by rubenr

We live in a brave new world! Privacy is dead! Today’s kids are growing up without privacy! Or so we’re told… often by those with a financial interest in a world where that’s actually the case. Danah Boyd’s done a lot of work showing that, in fact, kids do care about their Privacy. Though the extent to which they care didn’t really hit me until this week (since, my life as a 28-year old Chicago attorney and part-time entrepreneur doesn’t really have me interacting with 13-year olds that often).

This week, that changed. I participated in a great program run by the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago which brings Lawyers into classrooms to run through programs designed to teach kids about law and the Constitution. The lesson plan called for discussing the merits of a simple rule: “You can’t Bring electronic devices to school.” First off, the level of engagement of these kids on the subject matter was off the charts, everyone wanted to say why they thought the rule should or shouldn’t apply to given situations. The hypotheticals we ran through covered all sorts of devices: cell phones, cameras, iPods, medical devices, etc.

One surprising theme came up over and over again in support of NOT allowing electronic devices in School: Privacy. In particular, lots of kids didn’t want their peers taking pictures without their permission that would end up on Facebook. “It happens all the time, and I don’t like it!” I never believed that kids didn’t care about privacy, but I didn’t think they’d care so much as to agree that electronic devices should be banned in school. What’s particularly striking about this is that often the discussion about privacy on the internet as applied to kids revolves around a presumption that the youth of tomorrow “just don’t understand” the implications of online sharing. Where, actually, they get it. They get it a lot. They don’t need to worry about embarrassing information affecting a job interview, they’re worried about embarrassing Facebook info that might affect them the next day at school.

Of course, this gets us into other issues worthy of discussion, such as cyber-bullying. But the idea that kids don’t care or that they don’t get it is SO wrong. They might actually be getting better prepared for a world of online sharing than the generation currently in college.

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