But what is private information?

Picture: Danime, user of goSupermodel

Picture: Danime, user of goSupermodel

“Be careful with your private information” is the number one rule for social media interactions and great advice for general internet use. It’s also very easy to say – so easy, that it has become a mantra that gets repeated without anyone stopping to think what it actually means. If there ever was a broad concept, “private information” is just that.

We at watAgame noticed that kids sometimes are uncertain and get lost when we tell them that it’s not cool to share private information or ask others to tell theirs. They simply don’t know what we are talking about. We decided to do a little experiment.

What is it and why should it be a secret?

We got our own police officer Jack to ask the kids to define private information and to tell why sharing it might be harmful.

Many kids knew exactly what private information is:
“I think it’s like your school’s address, your age and phone number.”
“Snapchat name and Skype account are private information too!”

Some had great tips on how to define it:
“Phone number, your full name, your address – everything you wouldn’t shout to a weird stranger on the street.”
“These things you should only tell to people you’ve met face to face!”

Horrible threats were mentioned – these kids have definitely been watching television:
“If you give your address that person can come over to your house and rob you. Or if you give your Skype password they can delete all your friends and change your password!”
“You can’t give your personal information, because someone can kidnap you and your parents will have to pay up a lot of money to get you back, but those people can still kill you or lock you up in a dark basement.”

Sometimes it’s okay to lie about your private information if you don’t want to share it, but the kids also know what crosses the line:
“Instead of telling your real name come up with one, like Mollie Sapphire Moonlight. (It’s OK if it’s a weird one.)”
“Don’t put in your teacher’s name or address instead of your own.”

Some question the whole threat connected to sharing private information:
“If I say I’m 11, how can ANYONE know who I am based on that? There are so many 11 year-olds. I’m not stupid enough to tell my name or address.”
“I have revealed my name and posted my picture, but I’ve done it after thinking if I’m sure I want to do it.”

And ugh, there are some who do it for the likes:
“Some people give out any information just for more likes. And this is the worst, because it’s like they don’t care for their lives and that’s dangerous.”

Education pays off

We’re happy to see that many kids are aware and show a lot of knowledge on the subject. There’s still a lot to learn – for example, instead of getting kidnapped, a much more likely risk is being bullied – but it’s fair to say that kids have good base knowledge. We’ll let Jack continue his education work, and we hope homes and schools do their part too!

About the author:

Silja Nielsen, watAgame

Silja Nielsen is Head of Community and Safety at watAgame. She has been a watAgamer since 2010. Silja has a master’s degree in Media Studies and is interested in privacy, online behaviour and online communities.

  • Lola

    October 7, 2015 at 16:42

    My daughter would love it to be a Jackie! She’s 13 years old. 10 january she becomes 14. She has sent you a e-mail about she would love it to be a Jackie, but she has to be 15 years old. Why? She is really honestly and she wants to help people on Momio with their problems. Kind regards, Lola, the mother

    • watAgame

      October 9, 2015 at 08:23

      Hello Lola! Nice to hear about your daughter’s interest in helping out. Jack’s helpers are moderators on Momio. They help Jack to keep Momio nice and safe for everyone. We know that there are a lot of young momios who would love the job, but in our experience kids under 15 years old cannot do it. The job requires a well developed sense of right and wrong and the ability to see things from other people’s perspectives. Jack’s helpers must also be able to follow written instructions that might sometimes be complicated. The job is very independent and also therefore better suited for people who are 15 or older.