In the digital era, families are incorporating digital solutions to support children in both their need to learn and their need to be entertained. Children are connected, and this means the devices, applications and websites they use can collect data about them regularly.
As a vulnerable demographic that is less aware of the consequences of stolen data, children need to be paid attention to and protected online.
As a parent or guardian, it is important to be aware of the measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of your children’s’ data being exposed. In this article, we go through some preventive measures that can contribute towards safeguarding your child’s data privacy.
Educate children about the importance of data privacy
It is impossible to monitor your children’s online activity all the time, and this is why it is better to educate children so that they take up preventive practices on their own. Explain the risks so that the children in your care are equipped with the necessary knowledge.
For example, make sure they are aware of the kinds of personal information they shouldn’t reveal online and why that is dangerous. Information such as your full name, birth date, phone number and current location can be used for data theft or online abuse.
Set privacy settings and parental controls in applications and on websites
After downloading an application that your child will use, edit the privacy settings. Popular social media apps give the user the option to alter who can interact with your child online.
For example, on Snapchat, amongst other privacy settings, it is important to ensure your child has managed who can see their location. By tapping the circle or your icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen and then tapping the Settings icon located in the top-right hand corner, you will find the See My Location tab.
This tool offers ‘Ghost Mode’ where your friends can’t see your location, ‘My Friends, ‘My Friends, Except’ and ‘Only These Friends’. Keeping your location totally hidden from all users provides the best level of security for your child while using an app such as Snapchat.
As an added measure, you can set parental controls on other websites and applications to restrict the browsing of the children in your care. Restricting what they can see or do online can help to stop them from encountering situations where they are prompted to provide personal data.
YouTube’s Restricted Mode is an optional parental control that aims to filter out potentially mature content. To switch on YouTube’s Restricted Mode, sign into your YouTube/ Google account, click the Settings button in the left sidebar, and click the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page that reads: “Restricted Mode: Off.” Switch this option to on and click save to confirm these changes. This process must be repeated for use on different browsers or devices that your children may use.
YouTube also offers a ‘YouTube Kids’ version of the application that offers parental controls which provide a more guided and safer experience for children. Parents and guardians can decide what content is available, the content level appropriate for their children, a screen time limit and more, towards customizing their children’s’ experience.
Understand how the law on personal data protection and privacy protects children’s data
Article 9 of the new Rwanda’s law relating to the protection of personal data and privacy provides that:
“Where the data controller, the data processor or a third party knows that personal data belong to a child under the age of sixteen (16) years, he or she must obtain the consent of a holder of parental responsibility for the child in accordance with relevant laws.”
This is a significant development in protecting children’s data, and one that all parents or guardians should be aware of when considering how their children’s personal data is being collect or processed online.
As a measure to protect children’s personal data, parents or guardians should fully familiarize themselves with the new law on personal data protection and privacy, in order to understand how the legal instrument can be used to keep their child’s personal data safe.