Protecting Your Teenager's Privacy

CMA's Tips for Parents

Research shows teenagers spend more time on the Internet than any other age group. In fact, the Internet is now the primary communication tool for teenagers with most going online for school work and research, news and information, and to listen and download music or play games.

These new interactive technologies have joined television, print and other media as an important component of today's marketing campaigns. To address the growth of teen marketing, the Canadian Marketing Association recently introduced amendments to its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice to ensure marketers respect a teenager's right to privacy.

The following tips will help you safeguard your teenager's privacy:

  1. While they've probably "been there before", remind your teenage son or daughter why privacy is important, and how to protect it. Make it clear to them that they should not give out any information about themselves or their family on the Web, over the telephone or in a survey or contest entry without understanding how the information is going to be used. By law, marketers must explain how they intend to use the personal information they are collecting.
  2. Teach your teenage children that contests (whether online or not) can be fun, but that they need to be cautious and should always check when filling out a survey or entering a contest. Many marketers (including CMA members) offer consumers the option to decline to have personal details collected or transferred.
  3. Put your family computer in a common area and check in regularly to see what sites are being visited by your kids.
  4. Watch for "Cookies". These are files automatically placed on your computer to track your behaviour within certain websites. They allow companies to create profiles of people who visit their sites. CMA members are required to disclose what personal information is collected and how you can opt out. You can also change the options in your browser so that a website will have to get your permission to place a "cookie" on your computer.
  5. Encourage your teenager child to keep his or her identity confidential in chat rooms, bulletin boards or newsgroups. Teach them to choose a screen name that does not identify them, and help them understand that any information they exchange on the Internet is not private. If they meet someone online who asks for their address, telephone number or other personal details, they should discuss it with you before sharing their personal information.
  6. If you think a marketer is collecting inappropriate information, contact the company to register your objection. Check with the Canadian Marketing Association to see if the company is a member, and should be in compliance with the CMA Privacy Code.