“I would never post that”: Children, moral sensitivity and online disclosure

Lien Mostmans 1 , Joke Bauwens 2 , and Jo Pierson 2
  • 1 Free University of Brussels/Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
  • 2 Department of Media and Communication Studies, Free University of Brussels/Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Abstract

This article explores young children’s moral sensitivity regarding online disclosure. Drawing on psychological theory, moral sensitivity is defined as the ability to express and show moral consideration in terms of empathy, role-taking and pro-social moral reasoning. Twenty-five preadolescent children aged 9 to 11, all living in Belgium, were asked in focus group interviews to share their reflections about and experiences with self-disclosure and privacy in internet environments. The findings demonstrate that young children are capable of imagining the moral consequences of disclosing personal information about oneself and about others. Their moral reflections are embedded in a more general concern of children’s vulnerability to other, more powerful information circulators in their social networks, such as older children, siblings, but also parents or the internet crowd. A strong sense of children’s entitlements to online privacy is articulated. Also, the decision of disclosing personal information about the other is carefully considered when the other is emotionally important to the children.

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