Teenagers struggle with privacy, security issues
By Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus Apr 18 2005 10:46AM
SEATTLE -- High-schools students have a message for their parents:
with technology. Security and privacy? We have it covered.
A panel of teenagers speaking at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy
Conference told attendees on Friday that they are far more in tune with
technology than their parents and have come to understand the issues of
security and privacy on the Internet largely without any guidance from
educators or their parents.
"We don't go over Internet security, we don't go after 'Watch out for
because your identity can be stolen,'" said Elizabeth, a 16-year-old
at Seattle Prepatory School. "I don't know that a school should be
courses in computer ethics, but they should talk about computer
you are going to have a computer in the classroom, talk to kids about --
hey, you might see an adult site, that there are Internet predators out
there, they exist, you kids need to be careful -- you know, give them
The panel of five teenagers described the benefits of growing up in the
Internet Age as well as how they deal with the dangers. Because the
teenagers are all minors, their last names will not be used.
The group said that they had to learn about many of the pitfalls on the
Internet on their own. Parents and schools tended not to know how to
the subject of security and privacy on the Internet.
"Every kid, when they reach a certain age, have The Talk with their
parents," said Steven, a 16-year-old junior at Sammanish High School.
need to have the same sort of discussion in terms of privacy. The
of teenagers know about the sexual diseases out there because of this
conversation that they have with their parents or because of they have
talk in school in sex ed. I think (security) needs to be addressed the
'I think it is hard for the parents and educators because we are moving
different pace than they are... no offense. It feels like we are done
to the next thing by the time other people are aware of it.'
-- Elizabeth, a 16-year-old junior at Seattle Prepatory School
A major problem for the kids is that they are, in general, far ahead of
their parents in terms of Internet usage. The teenagers blogged
used instant messaging to keep up with their friends, and were usually
to circumvent any computer security measures at school, they said.
"I think it is hard for the parents and educators because we are moving
different pace than they are... no offense," said Elizabeth. "It feels
we are done and on to the next thing by the time other people are aware
Yet, the teenagers also admitted that the group of five and their
were more savvy than many other students. For example, some students at
their schools blogged under their real names and included many real life
details, which the panel of teenagers believed was a danger.
"If you want to give out you first name, then go ahead, nobody is going
stop you," Cathy, a 17-year-old senior from Newport High School, said
topic of the students' concerns about sexual predators. "But you should
that there are so-and-so types of people out there."
The teenagers had mixed opinions on how much should be taught at school
regarding Internet safety. Some believed that ethics in the digital
should be a required topic, while others thought that only basic safety
should be taught. However, they did agree that parents and schools
talking about the Internet with their kids far sooner than they do
at least by fifth grade, they said.
However, when parents fear for their children's safety turns into, what
teenagers see as, violations of privacy, then it is definitely not cool,
"My mom has blocked the TV, the computer and I'm not allowed to listen
lot of radio stations right now," said Elizabeth. "It is a very bizarre
experience for me. I really feel like she doesn't trust me anymore. She
hasn't demanded my password, but I know that she knows it, and I'm
sure she has gone onto my computer."
Other panellists saw such tactics as easily circumvented security
Some suggested they would have an e-mail that the parents would not know
about in order to protect their own privacy.
"My parents wanted to check my computer, so I stopped using that
said Morgan, a 17-year-old senior at Mountlake Terrace High School. "I
the computers at school. There are things that they don't need to know."
Such opinions and view points should be kept in mind by parents, as
to protect their children from digital dangers, said one privacy expert.
"In general, society does not pay enough attention to what young people
think, particularly in policy questions involving students and schools,"
said Kevin Bankson, an attorney and fellow with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and a moderator at the panel.
The general feeling among the teenagers, however, was that parents
talk about the issues with their kids.
"The most important thing is don't talk down to us," said Morgan. "For
most part. we are not dumb."