Online Safety Tips for Kids: How To Not Overshare

Posted on 5/6/15 11:23 AM by Marisa Samek

A recent survey of over 5,000 youth in grades 4 to 11 by Media Smarts, an Ottawa-based non-profit, revealed that parents today enforce few rules governing their children’s Internet use. One reason for this trend is the rise in Digital Citizenship programs that teach children as early as Kindergarten about using the Internet effectively and safely. In this generation of digital natives, Internet safety has almost become common sense. Almost 

As a generation addicted to selfies, social media, and Instagram, children frequently overshare on the Internet.

In every-day terms, an “overshare” or “oversharing” occurs when someone shares inappropriate or uncomfortable information. As in: “Then after a romantic dinner your Mom and I—“ “Whoa, whoa Dad, overshare alert!”  More dangerous types of oversharing include gossip or sharing private information about yourself or someone else.  The context determines how dangerous the overshare. For example, with a click of a button you can upload that funny picture of Mom onto your Tumblr feed for everyone to see—including Mom’s boss, who might not find it so funny.  Capture

Most schools have programs that teach kids Internet safety basics: don’t talk to strangers in private chat rooms and don’t divulge your home address or phone number. When you chat with someone you don’t know on Facebook, isn’t that talking to strangers? When you post your phone number on your friends Facebook wall, isn’t that giving strangers the opportunity to see it? Since today’s Internet takes participation for granted, Digital natives are often unaware about how much they actually divulge and how it could affect them, their families, and their futures. 


Here are 3 types of dangerous overshares and how to avoid them:  

 Personal information 

Personal information is Internet currency. For the most part, many apps and sites request personal information by way of a sign up form to gain valuable metrics about their target market. Sharing an email address with your child until 7th grade is a good way to monitor your child’s web activity as well as the kind of information these sites are requesting. For social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, make sure you walk through the privacy settings together and talk to your child about sending personal information such as phone numbers and home addresses in private messages rather than posting them publicly.

 Personal Opinion

The Internet calls for participation but kids need to be careful: posting a comment on T-Swift’s Youtube channel is usually okay but bad-mouthing a teacher on their blog or in a Facebook post could land them in hot water. A good rule of thumb to impart to your kids: never say anything you wouldn’t say in person…in front of the entire school.


 Personal Image 

Digital natives communicate increasingly with photos and video—anyone who knows a 14-year old with an iphone knows what I’m talking about. Legally, your kids are allowed to take photographs in public spaces so long as they are not being used to sell anything. They cannot take pictures in spaces where people expect privacy. That means parks, streets, restaurants without explicit camera prohibitions are okay but places like bathrooms, doctor’s offices, and even hair salons are not.

Even though you are in a public space, it’s important to teach your kids that there are people around who may not want to end up in their Facebook albums. Since so many people have access to what they post, the implications are not always obvious. As a parent, a photo of you can often end up as the subject of a Tumblr or Facebook post without your knowledge. It’s important that your kids understand that your privacy matters too.