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Privacy and Boundaries

Updated: May 8, 2023

By: Patricia R. Hamilton, MS, LMFT

Several years ago, as I was preparing to teach a class on Digital Citizenship to a group of 7th graders, I read a compelling article, "Why We’re So Hypocritical About Online Privacy" written by by Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Nathalie Nahai in the Harvard Business Review. It stuck with me and continues to inform my thoughts on privacy and mental health. What do individuals need to consider and parents need to teach young children about boundaries, limits, respect, and protections for ourselves and others?

Whether you are an individual, a parent, a caregiver, an educator, or a student, and regardless of your age, this article raises some important questions….

What are my feelings about privacy?

What does privacy mean to me?

Am I responsible for myself?

Am I able to set and adhere to limits?

Am I comfortable with my digital footprint and online activities?

Am I entitled to information about others?

What am I teaching my children about privacy? About self-regulation? About impulse control?

What basic constructs must a young child learn before they can understand the concept of privacy?

These are fundamental questions that are both difficult to answer and even more challenging to teach and implement in our everyday lives. In the last three or four decades, the formalities, decorum and familiar constructs in American family life have loosened, changed, or simply faded away. The use of screens and social media have changed the basic operations of societies around the world. Some of these changes have been good and perhaps necessary.

However, history reminds us, time and again, that even with great gains and societal change, there is a cost. We must carefully and honestly assess and adapt wisely in a world where privacy is a fluid construct.


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