Children's rights to privacy in the digital era

​One in three internet users in the world are children under the age of 18, and so we must recognize that the internet is no longer the preserve of adults alone. The recent passing of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU has stipulated that children require special protections in relation to their personal data collected by businesses, governments and information services online because they are less likely to be aware of the risks this presents to them the short or long term. Although the GDPR prompted research exploring how children and parents manage online privacy in the UK, there has been little research as to how New Zealand families conceptualize privacy in the digital context. 

 

The GDPR acknowledges that children merit special protections, with regard to their personal data stating that “they may be less aware of the risks, consequences and safeguards concerned and their rights in relation to the processing of personal data.” The GDPR also states that “specific protection should, in particular, apply to the use of personal data of children for the purposes of marketing or creating personality or user profiles and the collection of personal data with regard to children when using services offered directly to a child. It recognizes that corporate interest in children's data can have negative consequences.

The European GDPR introduced child specific regulation to protect younger children by requiring parental consent when using digital services, and which also obligates teenagers (anywhere between 13 and 16 years of age) to manage their own data privacy in the online world.

 

Increased regulation around the collection of sensitive personal information is also accompanied by efforts to encourage industry privacy standards, and to build parent and children's awareness of data flows in the commercial online environment so they may make informed decisions when consent to the terms and conditions of digital services.

​The central premise of regulatory trends in western democratic countries, however, is that adults and teenagers are obligated to assess and manage their own privacy online. It is important therefore to understand how parents and teenagers currently managing their online privacy, how they value privacy, and whether they understand how their privacy is compromised in the digital environment. This study explored parents' and teenagers' concepts of privacy in the digital context to assess their ability and willingness to make informed decisions about sharing data with corporate actors.

 

Parents and children are well versed in the content, communication and contact risks introduced through digital technologies but how do they assess privacy risks online? This research explored how New Zealand parents and children manage personal data privacy risks, and what barriers there are when considering commercial and institutional collection of their personal data.