Having the ‘Data Talk’ With Your Kids

by Glenn J. Thomas

If you are a parent, you know that there are a number of conversations that many parents fear having with their child or children:

1)      Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc

2)      The ‘birds and the bees’ when young

3)      ‘Don’t do drugs’

4)      The ‘sex talk’ when teenagers

In fact, some or all of these might raise such a bead of sweat on the foreheads of some parents that they prefer to never have ‘the talk’ and rely on the kindness of others or the (mis)information provided by their children’s friends as the source of knowledge. (On the other end of the spectrum there are also parents that realize that some of these are not a ‘one-time’ discussion and should be part of on-going conversations with their children.)

In this day and age I believe there is another talk that parent’s need to have with their children. It’s the ‘data’ talk. The problem may be that many parents feel so far behind the technology curve compared to their kids that they are afraid that the kids may ask a question or raise a point that the parents may not know the answer to or have a legitimate rationale to support.

When our daughter could still count her age on one hand, she was already totally familiar with my mantra, “It’s all about the data”. Unfortunately, she didn’t always understand what it meant! Some of her first experiences on-line resulted in her shouting excitedly that she was the millionth visitor to a website and had just won a great prize (if she’d just give them her name and address so they would know where to send it). At that point we sat her down and tried to explain the concept of advertisers, and hackers, that wanted to get her information so they could sell it to others or put a little file on the computer so they could track everything that she or we did on the computer – not necessarily just which computer sites we were going to. Of course that was way too much for her mind to comprehend so it got boiled down to “don’t click on any of those things that pop-up while you are online and *never* put in your name unless you show it to us first.

Years later, when she wanted to create a FaceBook account, we realized that it was time to have a refresher on the ‘talk’.

The talk wasn’t an attempt to scare her into not having an account. Instead we tried to explain to her why it might not be the smartest idea to have her account wide open to any/everyone in the world and the sort of things that she should never post – ever. Of course she had the innocent mindset of a young teenager finding it hard to believe that anyone would: 1) find or focus on her account amongst the millions of others and 2) have any reason to do her personal harm.  Fortunately for us, over the next several days a number of news articles highlighted many of the same arguments that we had made or showed how bad things had happened to unsuspecting people that had taken a similar ‘devil may care’ attitude.

At this point I’d like to praise my daughter’s ability to not only humor her parents for sitting her down for such a chat but also for her ability to rationally process what we were saying and see the logic of doing what we were telling her. As a result of placing a few restrictions on her account, she hasn’t lost any friends but we feel safer knowing that her personal life isn’t on display to the entire world.

As she prepares to head into the ‘real world’, we have a sense of comfort in knowing she’s a little wiser and perhaps a little better prepared for the realities that will come her way.

If your child is old enough to turn on a computer or get to the internet on your tablet or smart phone, I highly recommend that you take the time to have the ‘data talk’ with them. It’s much easier than the other four talks you have in your future.

 

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Glenn Thomas

Glenn has more than 20 years of experience as a programmer, analyst, and project manager on systems development projects and research missions around the globe. The past 10 years have been spent serving in a variety of leadership roles in the application development, data and enterprise policy and standards arenas. His background includes time spent in the US military, private industry, and the public sector. Glenn is a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP – DIQ), a Certified Public Manager (CPM), and a Project Management Professional (PMP). Glenn was the recipient of the 2009 DAMA International Government Achievement Award and is a former President and VP of Communications for the Project Management Institute’s Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter. 

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  3 comments for “Having the ‘Data Talk’ With Your Kids

  1. Deborah
    June 15, 2012 at 11:46 am

    The schools are doing their part to warn kids about “cyber safety” but paretns absolutely need to know what their kids are doing online and talk withthem as well. I am a member of every community that my kids belong to and they use my email address to sign up for them instead of their own. I have also made sure that they are sufficiently paranoid about cyber predators and that helps me feel much better about letting them explore the digital world.

  2. Glenn Thomas
    June 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Deborah,

    Thanks for the comment. Kudos to you for being an ‘active’ data parent!

    Glenn

  3. June 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Totally agree Glenn! Great point and very well framed.

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