Balancing Authenticity and Maintaining Privacy

The Matter of Privacy

The materials provided for this theme have ignited my desire to look deeper into the way I personally generate and protect my personal data and my students’ data. According to The Economist, May 2017, ” data is the most valuable resource in the world” and we all need to consider carefully what we share and where; what data we generate and collect and whether it is relevant, accurate and up to date; whether it is processed lawfully and handled securely. Awareness of data protection regulations brings actions. I was shocked to find some statistics about the companies ( providing educational and learning tools) admitting to interest-based and third party advertising: about 38% of Edu Tech we use in schools indicated that they may use the students’ data and about 50% of Web-Based services may allow children’s personal data to be visible  ( Common Sense Media group survey). That is mind-blowing! As teachers, we are responsible for choosing the right digital platforms to use or tools to introduce, for raising our students’ awareness about data protection, and making them advocates for stronger data protection.

My school has developed and it uses its own Digital Citizenship/ Acceptable Use Policy below. It is not simply a document on file, it is an active doc, always discussed and referred to, revisited, and reviewed often by admin, teachers, families, and kids. Each point of the pledge is introduced within lessons and reflected upon during the technology lessons or the lessons with integrated technology.

Whether we like it or not, accept it or deny it, technology is a big part of life for most kids; and despite the age restrictions and rules at schools and at home, more and more children are logging on to social media platforms. I believe that just strict rules and restrictions are not enough, conscious and well-informed behavior online is something we, as teachers and parents should aim at modeling and teaching. Conversations about privacy and cyber safety should be open, regular, and age-appropriate. Lessons on sharing content ( digital footprint)  and online etiquette, privacy policies and managing passwords, appropriate use of technology, and online collaboration are integrated into our curriculum; ongoing IT support of passionate Technology coaches and training are available for classroom practitioners;  Privacy awareness day, an opportunity to reflect on how we share and manage data, is an annual event.

The digital citizenship interactive lessons on Common Sense Media for all grade levels address various topics, including Media Balance, Privacy and Security, Digital Footprint and Identity, and prepare students to take ownership of their digital lives. Common Sense media

Contrary to the popular belief, kids do care about their privacy, they just need support and guidance from the adults they trust to help them make conscious good decisions and stay safe.

Do as you preach they say; and I must say I take my data protection, my online safety seriously. Internet is the center of our lives with almost all areas of our lives connected to the web, and it is vital to consider privacy protection. We all know that cybercriminals are getting craftier by the day and look for opportunities to exploit your online activities in many different ways, so sharing limited information, using the incognito or private mode, and utilizing anonymous search engines, using ” think before you click” strategy and powerful antivirus are my tools. Following all the mentioned above, I feel quite safe and able to protect my students by giving them a great example.


Being yourself online, is it important? What does being yourself mean in the digital era and in the virtual environments? Through our posts, we all present a version of ourselves to our online communities, often keeping some details and facts private ( for reasons of privacy concerns and sometimes to fit in or to create an image of self that is appealing to that particular group or community). Developing authenticity isn’t easy, particularly when it comes to privacy issues and concerns, it requires balance: honesty to be authentic enough but also acceptance and understanding of others while keeping your data and your privacy. We make personal choices on how we want the world to see and perceive us

Online authenticity is a complex thing, it is composed of a sense of real me and expression of real me, and it is greatly influenced by the users’ need for popularity and craving validation online. Fake communications, getting likes, or comments don’t really make a person more likable or more authentic.  To be authentic and to show true thoughts means to understand yourself and to be thoughtful and deliberate. Everything shared can make an impact, sometimes an impact you don’t expect.

Authenticity isn’t just binary, there are many options in between. “This is the digital world, my friends, and you are complicit in its construction. Authenticity is but a hashtag on a post about a meme.” as Kerri Sackville notes in her article “Authenticity online is overrated” 

Balance is the answer: be yourself – care, create and share responsibly and freely with the intended audience, differentiate the purpose of your posts and the communities to where you contribute to.

4 thoughts on “Balancing Authenticity and Maintaining Privacy

  1. Lana,
    I too was shocked by the statistics shared around third-party advertising and learner’s data becoming visible. For an app to be geared towards education, you would assume that these issues would not be as prevalent as they are. I have been thinking about how to create an environment where learners are protected and actively involved in monitoring their own safety. The pledge you shared is fantastic and I appreciate that it is a living document. It sounds like you are the perfect model for your learners in regards to data protection. The points you have made around authenticity really hit home for me. It has been interesting to read comments around my vulnerability in regards to my blog posts. It’s possible that I have not considered my audience and focused too much on writing for me as if nobody was actually reading it. I think I had to approach this course in this way or I would never have the courage to post what I write. I will take your advice on trying to stay balanced and consider my intended audience a bit more.

  2. Hello Lana!

    I agree that no matter how many rules or restrictions are in place by whichever party, technology is here to stay and taking an integral role in our lives. We definitely should be modelling and teaching students how they should conduct themselves online and have discussions about how they can maintain privacy online. It is definitely a whole-school approach. I feel that we need to provide guidance and support to parents on how they can engage with their child in their online activities.

    I am interested in your school’s Digital Citizenship/ Acceptable Use Policy. I find it amazing that it is used within lessons AND reflected upon. I am curious as to how you manage their reflections with the kids. Do you have students keep a portfolio or journal? What is expected from students in their reflection? Do parents have access to these reflections?

    It was interesting to read what you had mentioned about authenticity. It is indeed dynamic and complex. I think it can be challenging for kids to be authentic online as they are more susceptible to social pressure. As they are still trying to find out their own identity, it may be hard for them just to be themselves. Since what you post represents who you are, you are making yourself vulnerable in a sense. You would have to be able to stand by what you post as it is open to a larger audience. In the earlier days of Instagram, my past secondary students would have their profile pages filled with a whole collection of photos. On some of them, you can now only find a single photo or even none! It makes me think about how we can support kids emotionally as they navigate the ever-changing unwritten rules and etiquette of social media. How can we reach our kids in the digital world?

    It has made me think about how we have to remind our kids about having authentic, engaging and meaningful interactions online. For instance, asking them what a “like” would surmount to in real life? What can they do instead of hitting “like”? I think that we would need to guide our kids on making ethical choices and understanding how their actions would affect others.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  3. Lana,
    I’m so encouraged to hear that your school takes digital citizenship and its acceptable use policy seriously enough to treat it as a ‘living document’ with regular review and discussion and making sure all parties involved (students, teachers, parents, admin) are oriented to it. I really like the Common Sense Media lessons as they show how these different topics can be introduced in the primary grades and reinforced and expanded on in the upper grades with an age-appropriate lens. And so many lessons and topics could be useful to adults as well! We have such an important opportunity to help our learners understand and apply strategies for managing, exploring, and contributing to their world in a positive way through technology and digital tools and platforms that so many adults continue to struggle with. But as we reach other teachers and parents with this information, hopeful they can be reflective and learn how to manage their ‘digital lives’ (which impact their lives in general), they can help educate others

  4. Hi Lana,

    It sounds like your school does an excellent job, throughout the whole school, at designing and communicating an AUP that works well for ALL of your stakeholders – along with offering support. That is something I have yet to see in my 16 + years at a handful of schools.

    In addition, I loved the Sydney Herald article on authenticity you shared. I agree. I think you’d really enjoy HBO’s “Fake Famous” ( documentary on influencer culture, which illuminates many of the ideas you illuminated.

    You highlighted an important concept in your post — audience. In my opinion, teaching this concept early is crucial. This year, we did a G4 “How we express ourselves” unit of inquiry at the beginning of the year with a central idea of “Understanding our audience influences the way we communicate”. Before their own inquiries, we began the unit by modelling and highlighting some ways you can break down audience (e.g. Location, Age, etc.) as well as looked at purpose (was it to persuade, inform, and/or entertain – PIE). Long story short, the enduring understandings of this unit transcended/transferred to so much of our other learning this year. Neurons I’m certain that will stick for some time.

    This foundation of knowledge links very much to your argument of conscious consumption of media. Having a discerning lens/perspective of being able to pick apart a message and chop it down to its aims/purpose is a crucial 21st-century skill. Particularly when being able to discern the following questions: Is this a deep fake or reality? Are bots at play in this post? Is this person trying to influence or persuade me in some way? If so, how? Why?

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