Today, I’ve decided to write about something a little different.
I see many people are thrilled to write about their children on social media, whether its updates on facebook, short videos on youtube or blog posts.
I understand the need to share – we are all social creatures. I can understand the pride we have in our own children.
But I am scared and reluctant to go down this road.
Firstly, there is a such a wealth of information we choose to share on these social media channels. We post them so easily and this abundance of data does not disappear. Yes, there is no cost to us to use all these free apps and hosted services but the content is not ours anymore, after a point, is it?
Perhaps free comes at a price indeed.
Once the data is out there, someone else has it. 5 cents by itself is nothing much but 5 cents in pooled contributions in the billions across the world makes a marked world of difference. And the question is : do you know who is doing what with your data? Will you ever and if you did, could you stop it if you wanted to?
Secondly, the digital world that we are slowly getting accustomed to, is one that is developing perhaps far more rapidly in breadth, depth and application, than we are gaining experience using it.
If that is indeed what I believe is happening, the question we must be brave enough to ask ourselves is whether we know exactly what it is that we are getting ourselves into here? Most of us have grown up in a world with real world identities but the young of today, have to manage both real world and digital identities. As our children face this, are we as parents, equipped to prepare and educate our children about such things?
We are talking about online reputations and identities that have a lifespan that will be almost as long as their real world years — perhaps the majority of which were crafted and built without much of their knowledge or input, by well-meaning family.
As Dr Mary Beth deWitt, director of psychology at Dayton Children’s Hospital said, “I would tell parents to look back and think how they would feel if their parents posted about them online for everyone to see and use that as the guideline for what’s appropriate and what isn’t.”
Thirdly, there’s a fair amount of digital crime and its only increasing. Building your child’s profile online, a task that you will chip away slowly and surely over a period of years, will be hard to erase and only serve to increase the chances of your child being open to profiling.
We don’t need to worry only about children posting information that could be harmful to their safety online – we as adults do that already. I’ve seen enough online to know that people expect others to be good and relay information online far more than they should because they expect the best of people.
I’ve seen people provide resumes with high resolution colour photos, with their full home address, email address, date of birth and cellphone number. Oftentimes, these resumes were posted online at career sites or sent in via a job application service, or worse – left on a profile page – whether via Facebook or LinkedIn.
What does this mean? In earlier years, application forms and resumes were sent to individuals – ie from one person to the other. In today’s world, we still do that but we also post to all and sundry. This means we are not always sure who is downloading, gleaning and processing this vital and personal information of ours. And these are adults I am referring to here. What do we expect from an eager fourteen year old excited at the prospect of connecting with friends? What choices will she make? What choices are we making for her?
Learn and understand the concept of triangulation so that you understand that data sets are not viewed in isolation. Therefore, you don’t have control of all data sets to say with satisfaction that others do not have enough of the kind of data they need to do harm – should they choose.
But I guess the strongest reason for me to refrain is simply this : I am not my child. I should give them the right to choose for themselves, what they intend to do, with their life, their updates, their pictures, their art. I know that as parents, we too have some rights in respect of these issues. But it is not entirely black/white. And I would prefer to err on the side of caution. I would prefer to give them the choice. These postings are, after all, about them.