As a child of the late 20th century, I am very well versed in technology. I sport my iPhone 4s everywhere I go. I have an iPad, iPod, laptop, you name it. I spend a lot of time on social networking sites and I read numerous blogs. I am part of the unique “First Generation” for many of these trends. I remember what life was like before cell phones, but I also know how miserable it would be without them. I’m also part of the group of young people who has changed the norms for basic types of communication. We spend our days staring at screens and avoiding direct connections to the rest of the population. We’d rather send a text than make a call. We can chat with our best friends online, no matter where they are (as far as Venezuela!). Not all of these changes are bad…but some don’t bode well for future generations. After reading this article, I’ve found I really agree.
For the first time ever, young parents have the opportunity to post ANYTHING about their children online. They can keep Grandpa and Grandma in the loop by emailing photos or short videos. They can give their baby a Facebook page (or their dog, ew). They can invite us all to after-school show-and-tell. But when is all of this too much? When do we start to harm the child psychologically? At what point are we putting our children in danger?
Throughout the article, many parent testimonials discuss the harm in giving a child an internet presence before that child can make the decision himself. I feel like we can take this thought one step further. Once that child reaches 13 years of age (the age limit on any social networking site) and decides to have a Facebook page, he will come upon a little problem. Mom and Dad have been posting photos of him since birth. Now every photo he has ever been in is online, tied to his Facebook. Doesn’t that seem a little unfair? Usually embarrassing baby pictures are unearthed when a serious girlfriend finally comes around. Now every person he knows can see all of his baby pictures. Shouldn’t he get a say in all of that?
Let’s go one step further. Currently, employers are asking for Facebook pages in job applications. They want to see what kind of social networker you are. They’ll have access to your 21st birthday party, that trip you took to Europe, EVERYTHING. And now, they’ll see all of those photos from when you were a kid. Does an employer really need access to all of that? This is an especially scary question if you are like the father that shot his daughter’s laptop on the internet. Why is it alright to humiliate your children on the web? Where once seen, NOTHING can be unseen. That poor girl will have to live with this for the rest of her life. I know that most parents are completely innocent in posting photos of their babies. They’re cute! They’re a tiny human! Kids do hilarious things! But there is definitely a line that can be crossed.
Which brings me to my next point…safety. Do you know who has the rights to your Facebook photos? Not you. In this article about the Facebook photo agreement, I learned that the moment a photo is on Facebook, it’s out of your control. Any photo you upload can be taken by Facebook and used for ads. So that adorable photo you took of your daughter’s first day of school can be slapped on an add for backpacks and seen by MILLIONS of people all over the internet. Another interesting aspect of Facebook privacy involves sharing. If I comment on a photo of a friend, every person who is my friend can see it. The same goes for anyone who comments on my status updates or photo uploads. So what if you invite someone to your son’s band performance and they comment on the event page? If one of their Facebook friends happens to be a child molester, suddenly they know your son’s name. They know what school he goes to and that he’s in band class. With one click, this person knows enough about your son to try and pick him up from school. Scary, right? It’s 100% real. You can have your Facebook set to the most extreme privacy settings and this can still happen.
I’m not trying to call anyone out. I’m one of the BIGGEST abusers of Facebook. I’ve posted a million photos, statuses, you name it. Everyone knows about my cats and what I like to cook for dinner and the wonderful things my husband does for me. Everyone knows when I’m at work or on vacation (gonna stop doing that!). But when it comes to that time in my life where we (my husband and myself) have to decide if we want to have children, we’ll also have to decide how much we want the internet to know about it. It’s a scary question for something that seems so innocent. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with everyone all at once. Maybe they’ll really crack down on privacy and safety settings in the years to come. But until then, I’m going to stop and think before I post things on the internet. In 30 years I don’t want to walk down the streets in Vegas and see a photo of my daughter on those club flyers (oh did I not mention that? Other creepers take photos of beautiful girls they find on Facebook and use them for strip club adverts, etc. FUN!), or pictures from our honeymoon on some hotel ad. I think we need to pause before we share. Does the world really need to see this? Does it need to know? Hmmm…
After this post went up, my brother-in-law emailed a fabulous booklet about internet safety for families. It’s split up by different age groups and the types of risks, so it’s easy to navigate. Definitely worth a read!