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Techie Tools


Guarding online family privacy is super important in today’s age. When my family decided to organize a reunion we wanted a way to communicate information and get feedback, so we turned to … you guessed it, online tools and social media. Little did we know that there were so many decisions to make (from a security standpoint) to help protect our family and balance information sharing without exposing them to privacy risk. It was so overwhelming!

multi colored locks arranged in 3 by 3 with guard your online family privacy text overlay

A lot of research later, it all boiled down to three key decisions that drive the social media application you use.

Top 3 Considerations For Online Family Privacy

ONE: WHAT TYPE OF INFORMATION DO YOU PLAN TO USE? (does it need to be private?)

The type and nature of the information that you want to share are of top importance. Is it for details of upcoming events, details about individuals, or historical in nature such as stories from your grandparent’s childhood? This information drives the tools and application choice. In the ever-changing online environment, it is hard to know what information to protect. Did you know that information is classified in two ways? Information is either direct and indirect.

  • Direct Information: specifically tied to an individual. Examples: name, address, phone number, email, or Social Security number.
  • Indirect information: Items such as gender, race, date of birth, geographical indicator.

If the information you are sharing contains direct information, consider more secure sites that allow adjustments to privacy settings.

Historical stories and facts, although indirect information about ancestors, should also be guarded. Not because of the information type but to ensure the integrity of the information from someone who may want to exploit you. Indirect information, if shared with enough frequency can be pieced together like a puzzle. This completed puzzle picture actually then becomes direct information.

If the stories and dates you are sharing belong to ancestors who passed away well over 150+ years ago, then maybe it’s not as imperative to protect all the details. Once you start saying “my mom mentioned…” now you are opening sharing information that could impact you and your family.

Don’t get discouraged; there are tools and sites to meet all your online family privacy needs.

Click HERE to read more about setting up secure Facebook groups.

TWO: WHO IS THE AUDIENCE? (does privacy matter?)

The group that you are trying to share information with is important. Is it family members, peers, or a broader group? In our case, we wanted members of our family to be able to access the information. This meant teenagers to baby boomers needed to receive information.

We also ran into the challenge that grandparents and middle schoolers DON’T use the same applications!

Also, consider minors. If you have minors in your family group you may need to address another level of scrutiny. This applied to us for sure!

Most social media applications restrict registration to children of 13 years of age (in the United States) or older due to the Children Online Privacy and Protection ACT (COPPA). Some applications have youth registration that restricts social interactions and the type of personal information captured.

One of the most recent changes was with Facebook. Facebook released a youth application (Messenger Kids) that allows the parent to register and approve who communicates the child. Those under the age of 13 can now message with these approved people. There are more hefty filters to ensure pictures are not inappropriate but it still allows kids to participate with other kids under the age of 13. Facebook’s Messenger Kids is entirely separate from Facebook and does not interface with it for child protection. And as a bonus, there isn’t any advertising here.

family around table discussing guarding online family privacy


The intent behind the communication is also a consideration before selecting a technology application. Ask yourself, Is the information intended to be one-way? In this situation, the owner shares information in a “view only” type scenario. Or, is the information intended to be two-way communication?

In our case, we desired a forum where information (everything ranging from surveys to sharing historical stories) has two-way communication. We wanted our family to be able to respond and provide input or add to a shared story about a great-grandparent. Therefore, combine security and usability was critical.

Do you need your site secure?

With our family reunion, we planned to share information about relatives who had passed on as well as current generations. Even though the information about current generations would be more of an indirect nature, we wanted to protect the online family privacy of the living especially as some of our family work protecting our freedoms. Also, the volume and frequency we planned to use could be significant which pushed us to select a secure forum. Because we selected a secure site we had confidence that minors had their privacy protected in our group. Double win!

What did we use?

Ultimately we choose a Facebook secret group to share our family stories. It allowed us to monitor group members ensuring they were all family members.

Using Facebook also enabled two-way communication. Sharing stories about our family and our great-grandmother’s favorite memories in a protected manner was a big win. AND to boot, we were able to have those over 13 with Facebook accounts participate in our family group.

Our family found a secure forum utilizing a Facebook Groups.

We modified the privacy settings to mark the group SECRET. We also edited the group settings so only moderators could add or approve members to the group.

With the hundreds if not thousands of applications available there is a forum to meet your needs. Don’t get discouraged, one that works for you is right around the internet corner. Now that you know the key considerations and the type of information you’d like to share, you can nd the perfect solution to protect your online family privacy.

three generations of family to discuss online family privacy

Facebook Messenger Kids:

multi colored locks arranged in 3 by 3 with guard your online family privacy text overlay

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