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

Joke Bauwens*, Katleen Gabriels, Lien Mostmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-196
Number of pages12
JournalMedia and Communication
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • children
  • emerging teenagers
  • family environment
  • morality
  • onlife
  • privacy

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