Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Navigating Onlife Privacy: A Family Environment Perspective on Children’s Moral Principles

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Abstract:  This article illuminates which moral principles children and their parents invoke to explain onlife privacy-related practices from a family ecological and narrative approach. It draws on a focused ethnographic study with 10 Flemish socially privileged families with a keen interest in digital technologies and at least one child entering their teenage years. We analyse our data through the analytical lens of a sociopsychological framework that considers children’s privacy experiences from three dimensions: self-ego, environmental, and interpersonal. Overall, this article concludes that while risk-averse concerns are present in both the parents’ and children’s narratives about onlife privacy, parents have allowed their maturing children considerable privacy and leeway. Also, both parents and children articulated the importance of respecting one another’s privacy. We frame this set of principles as ‘quadruple R’: responsibility, risk, reputation, and respect for privacy.

Keywords:  children; emerging teenagers; family environment; morality; onlife; privacy


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© Joke Bauwens, Katleen Gabriels, Lien Mostmans. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.