1. Resources

A Parent's Guide To Ensuring Their Children's Digital Privacy

Published on: May 21, 2024

Emojis, memes, and digital code have become the norm for our kids today, leaving many parents feeling unprepared to take on the challenges of the internet, smart devices, and the latest online trends, especially regarding digital privacy. 

To help parents navigate this new digital frontier, in the guide below, we will review some guidelines and tips that parents can use to handle digital usage better and protect their children’s safety and digital privacy at all educational stages.

Data Privacy in Elementary School

Digital devices like laptops and tablets have transformed how children learn in elementary schools. Reports from California State University even indicate that students today begin using tablets as early as preschool.  These devices have become a critical component of the modern classroom, often replacing traditional materials, such as books and other paper-based learning tools, and altering how teachers prepare their lessons.

The educational tools that are now often used by school districts include educational apps such as interactive math and English lessons through Prodigy, as well as other online learning platforms, including Google Classroom and Zoom. However, while the tools may bring many educational benefits, they expose students to various privacy risks, including data collection and third-party sharing. Many of these apps collect students’ information and share it with data brokers and marketers, who use the data to target children with advertisements that follow them around the internet. According to the Washington Post, researchers have found that nearly 90% of education apps and websites are designed to send details and information they collect to ad-technology organizations, which may use the data to estimate a child’s interests and determine what they want to buy.

Taking Protective Measures For Your Kids

One of the main problems with educational digital tools is that many technologies that schools and students use are not explicitly designed for educational purposes or with students in mind, such as the Duolingo app. As a result, parents need to take protective measures when it comes to digital learning to protect their children’s digital privacy. These protective measures include setting up privacy controls, reviewing app privacy policies, and discussing data protection policies with the school's administration.

Sources and Further Reading

For further information about educational apps and how they impact privacy in elementary school, check out the following resources:

Data Privacy in Middle School

Almost 95% of all teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 use social media, and more than one in three report using social media “almost constantly.” Yet, while these platforms require members to be at least 13 years old, almost 40% of children aged 8 to 12 still use social media. 

As children move towards the end of elementary school and into middle school, they tend to use technology and social media more independently. However, this increased use brings along certain privacy risks and potential threats of data breaches. These risks include cyberbullying, data mining, identity theft, deep fakes, voice manipulation, the spread of fake news, botnet attacks, leaked credit card data, and hacking.

Taking Protective Measures for Your Middle Schoolers

As parents or guardians, we are responsible for ensuring our children's safety, even when they are using screens or phones. That is why we must educate our children about safe online behavior before they start using social media or other online forums. This includes explaining the potential risks associated with these platforms. In addition, monitoring online activity to an extent and setting parental controls can also help protect our children’s digital security.

Sources and Further Reading

For additional sources and further reading regarding child online privacy, check out the following sites:

Parents should also review the Federal Trade Commission regarding children’s online privacy rules. For instance, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act offers parents control over what information websites can obtain from their kids. This can be a good starting point for parents looking to safeguard their children's digital privacy.

Data Privacy in High School

As technology continues to improve, it has enabled students to learn in new ways, communicate without barriers, and work together from anywhere in the world, such as through the use of Google Docs and wikis. However, this technology has also exposed high school students to digital risks. On average, high school students use social media platforms for 4.8 hours daily. Across different age groups, the average time spent on social media ranges from 4.1 hours per day for a 13-year-old to 5.8 hours per day for a 17-year-old.  However, as social media continues to grow in popularity at this age, so has the risk of data breaches. As more information is put online, there is an increased danger of hackers mining data in ways that will undermine personal privacy or result in stolen data.

Taking Protective Measures For Your High Schoolers

High schoolers must understand that even when their social media account is set to private, scammers and advertisers can still gain access to their sensitive data, such as:

  • Names, contact details, and birthdays through their profile

  • Personal life events, relationship details, and work information through their status updates

  • Addresses and other hometown information through their check-ins and location data

  • Personal interests, including buying history

  • Personal images and videos through shared content

  • Details about other individuals they post about, even if the person does not have social media

That is why we recommended that parents or guardians of high school students discuss digital footprint awareness, review the importance of privacy settings, and discuss the risks of sharing public posts and locations.  

Sources and Further Reading

The links below provide information and access to privacy advocacy organizations and articles related to teenage privacy protection strategies:

Data Privacy for Undergraduate College Students

Higher education industries often face unique challenges when collecting and processing data. While these establishments use this information for various purposes, including communication, administrative reasons, and improving learning outcomes, this information is not always protected, even though universities are obligated to safeguard student information.

Data that can be accessed by multiple individuals, as is often the case in a college or university setting, is more likely to be available in numerous locations. This increased accessibility can make it more vulnerable to security breaches, and failing to protect this sensitive data can expose students to serious problems.

Taking Protective Measures at University

There are several actions that university and college students can take to protect their data, such as choosing not to share their personal information, using a VPN whenever possible, accessing institutional resources only through approved campus Wi-Fi networks, and creating strong passwords that are regularly updated. Furthermore, if the college or university offers training or provides information on data privacy, students should use it to enhance their knowledge and better protect their data.

Sources and Further Reading

The below resources offer further information about protecting personal information at the college level:

Start Protecting Your Child’s Digital Privacy Today

The digital world is an integral part of our lives and our children’s, as it has become an incredible resource for connection, education, and exploration. That is why, as parents, we do not want to instill fear in our children about the digital world. Instead, we want to empower our children with the knowledge and skills to navigate it safely and confidently across all educational stages.

To stay informed about these issues and find ways to communicate with your children about digital safety, review the resources listed in the article and the section below and continue to engage with schools on their policies regarding technology use.

Other Digital Privacy Resources To Consider

Elementary School

  1. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA): Reference the Federal Trade Commission’s official page on COPPA, which provides guidelines on children’s online privacy under the age of 13.

  2. Common Sense Media: Offers advice and guidelines on privacy settings for apps and devices commonly used by children.

Middle School

  1. StaySafeOnline: Powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance, providing tools and tips to teach children about staying safe online.

  2. Cyberbullying Research Center: Useful for understanding the privacy implications of social interactions online and how to safeguard against cyberbullying.

High School

  1. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Offers a wealth of information on digital privacy, particularly relevant for teenagers who are more active on social media and other online platforms.

  2. Teens, Social Media & Technology 2023 (Pew Research Center): Provides insights into how teens use social media and technology, which can inform discussions on privacy risks.

Undergraduate College

  1. EDUCAUSE: A nonprofit association that helps higher education elevate the impact of IT. Their IT and privacy resources can be highly beneficial for understanding the risks and protections needed at the college level.

  2. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): Offers advice and legal considerations regarding student privacy and digital rights.

General Resources

  1. Digital Privacy at School: An excellent resource guide from the Future of Privacy Forum focusing on school-related privacy issues.

  2. Internet Safety 101: Provides guidelines and educational resources to protect children online across different age groups.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kasia Nelson, Esq.

Kasia Nelson is a licensed attorney and skilled legal content writer with years of experience. With a background in corporate immigration law, she is well-versed in the intricacies of producing legally accurate and well-researched work. 


  • Michigan State University, B.S.

  • Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Law Licensures

  • Michigan

Kasia Nelson

Kasia Nelson, Esq.


Education: Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, J.D.

Knowledge: Corporate Immigration Law

Reviewed by:

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Ryan P. Duffy is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business law. 

Law Licensures

  • New Jersey

  • Pennsylvania (inactive)

  • South Carolina

  • North Carolina

Ryan Duffy

Ryan P. Duffy, Esq.

Editorial Lead

Education: Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, J.D.

Knowledge: Estate Planning