Last Sunday CBS News 60 Minutes aired a feature on the state of encryption software in social media apps which protects the privacy of communications for all users whether they be those working for terrorist causes as well as average citizens. In particular, a communications app called, Telegram, demonstrates the challenge internet technology presents to law enforcement who seek to prevent and investigate terrorist acts. This dilemma, experienced by every society on the globe, is stirring controversy over the protection of individual privacy and the transparency demands of agencies responsible for the security of local communities and nation states.
According to the report, Pavel Durov, inventor of Telegram (an encrypted communications app that hosts over 100 million users) explains that there is nothing law enforcement can do to stop the terrorists from using encrypted communication technology. “ISIS could come up with their own encryption program if they wanted to,” he said. CBS reported that Telegram has been found on the device of one of the ISIS terrorists in the Paris attacks last November, and has become the “go to” communications tool for terrorists because of its promise of privacy and eluding law enforcement.
Durov offers a point of view that begs a question: can focusing on privacy policies of app developers like Apple, Google and Telegram potentially become a distraction? Certainly bad actors using technology protected by encryption to perpetrate harm is a major concern across the board for families as well as communities and nations. And there is no denying that innovation can be used for good or not good. So considering this reality about the motive and intellectual capacity of individuals and groups driving the impact of technology on the quality of our lives is instructive for everyone young and old in every society.
Balancing family security and privacy
Certainly for families technology can be a very disruptive influence. The power crisis of mobile connectivity landing in the hands of youth, happening today at earlier ages, can be summed up in one question: when it is easy to believe that you can simply google anything you think you need to know, who needs a parent, teacher, coach or a benevolent deity to impart wisdom?
The gap between wisdom and knowledge has never been greater than it is in a cyber-powered world. So the aim for the modern parent then, is to be the trusted resource, the authoritative guide who teaches their children how not to give up personal power to the bully, the drug or the device. And when dealing with youth who truly believe by their own visceral experience with mobile devices that they don’t need parents for guidance, or have shame-inspiring experiences motivating them to keep secrets (which is easy to do with technology), the best way to impart wisdom is to offer the thoughts that are in your head about a situation, a circumstance and the chances are great your child will want to know what you have learned from your life experience.
Just like the laws of the land will not be able to keep up with the pace of innovation by evil-doers in the cyber realm, so too parents must accept that their inherent authority as primary teachers for life is to govern the home (house rules, creed, and values) and educate the child. Ultimately the child governs him or herself. We cannot control the technology or our children’s choices about the role they allow technology to play in their lives. We can, however, provide instruction with experiences and consequences that reinforce their own power to be responsible for their own thoughts and actions. This is the fundamental truth about personal security. This is power that can never be taken but is easily surrendered. (To learn more about creating an empowering family culture, go to Fresh Start).
Straight talk about personal power and security
Below are some key concepts for conversations around the fundamentals to impart wisdom about the distinction between private and secret, which can easily become confused in the social network.
Private v. Secret A very important distinction which can be obscured in the network. Private is when you decide not to disclose information about yourself in order to be safe. Privacy involves discretion and is active boundary setting. In the social media, minors should have “private” settings for friends only. And for minors, it is important that they do not expect privacy from parents, whose duty is to ensure safety. This is one of the top warnings of law enforcement.
A secret, on the other hand, is something that is determined cannot survive the light of day because it is not acceptable: i.e., exploitative, harmful or illegal. When a secret is kept, there is usually risky behavior involved and it is a source of tremendous anxiety. Anything that is secret in the children’s on-line world is not okay. This is why transparency is one of the fundamentals for making cyber-safe rules in your home.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.
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