Strengthening Children’s Privacy Literacy through Contextual Integrity

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Strengthening Children’s Privacy Literacy through Contextual Integrity


  • Priya C. Kumar College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, USA
  • Mega Subramaniam College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, USA
  • Jessica Vitak College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, USA
  • Tamara L. Clegg College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, USA
  • Marshini Chetty Department of Computer Science, University of Chicago, USA


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Abstract:  Researchers and policymakers advocate teaching children about digital privacy, but privacy literacy has not been theorized for children. Drawing on interviews with 30 families, including 40 children, we analyze children’s perspectives on password management in three contexts—family life, friendship, and education—and develop a new approach to privacy literacy grounded in Nissenbaum’s contextual integrity framework. Contextual integrity equates privacy with appropriate flows of information, and we show how children’s perceptions of the appropriateness of disclosing a password varied across contexts. We explain why privacy literacy should focus on norms rather than rules and discuss how adults can use learning moments to strengthen children’s privacy literacy. We argue that equipping children to make privacy-related decisions serves them better than instructing them to follow privacy-related rules.

Keywords:  children; contextual integrity; digital technology; learning moments; password management; privacy education; privacy literacy; transmission principles

Published:   10 November 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v8i4.3236


© Priya C. Kumar, Mega Subramaniam, Jessica Vitak, Tamara L. Clegg, Marshini Chetty. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.