Tween/Teen Privacy: Inside and Outside the Library

Privacy and intellectual freedom go hand in hand, once you think about it. The ability to explore new ideas and information -without fear of judgement or repercussions- directly supports the growth of intellectual freedom. As tweens and teens seek knowledge to understand themselves and their place in the world, they benefit from protections inside, and knowledge outside, the library. Here are some resources that may be useful in thinking about working with teens and tweens in your library!


Policies Protect

Inside library walls, policies put in place by ALA safeguard a patrons’ ability to seek knowledge while their privacy is protected:

The American Library Association Code of Ethics states in Article III:

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

The USA Patriot Act allows the release of personal information under certain circumstances, and only from a law enforcement agency with a court issued subpoena or search warrant.  General practice in most public libraries is to allow only patrons access to their own self-created reading lists.  


Out on Their Own

How do we raise tweens and teens awareness of privacy risks when they’re outside the library walls?

I asked my 27 year-old son, online gamer and social media user who said, “Online, kids share every single thought they ever had. They’re not worried about privacy.”  

In July 2021, US Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) introduced legislation to update the 1988 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which restricts the tracking and targeting of those younger than 13. Castor proposed this new legislation to counter social media companies’ contention that COPPA does not apply to them as their guidelines require users to be at least 13 years old to use their platforms. Updating 33-year-old legislation which addresses technology that changes daily seems like a step in the right direction. But government can’t be everywhere to protect us.

Empowering and educating young internet users is the most efficient and effective strategy toward protecting their privacy.  

Resources for helping tweens and teens understand internet privacy issues

Tools exist for adults working with – and parenting – tweens and teens. When young people can safely explore different ideas without fear of scrutiny or retribution, intellectual freedom grows.

It’s our obligation as librarians to encourage that.


Choose Privacy Every Day is a web site supported by ALA offering information about privacy including training opportunities and programming ideas.

Additionally, ALA provides information and guidelines about privacy issues in the document “Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools”

Nonfiction Books for Tween and Teen Readers:

Buckley, A.W. Personal Data Collection. Abdo, 2020. 9781532118937.

Burling, Alexis. They’re Watching You: Personal Privacy on Social Media. Enslow, 2019. 9781978507784.    

Gregory, Josh. Posting on Social Media by Josh Gregory. Children’s Press, 2019. 9780531127346.             

Hudak, Heather C. Cell Phone Privacy. Abdo, 2020. 9781532172144.   

Journal Articles:

Agosto, Denise E.; Abbas, June. “Simple Tips for Helping Students Become Safer, Smarter Social Media Users”.  Knowledge Quest, v44 n4 p42-47 Mar-Apr 2016. 6 pp.  https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1092261 accessed 9/9/2021

Sklar, Alissa. “Sound, Smart, and Safe: A Plea for Teaching Good Digital Hygiene”. LEARNing Landscapes, v10 n2 p39-43 Spr 2017. 5 pp. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1253526  accessed 9/9/2021

Guest Blogger: Marybeth C. Kozikowski is a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee and works as a Librarian II, Children’s Services at Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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