My 9 year old takes better selfies than anyone I know, my 12 year old talks in “hashtag speak”, and my 3 year old swipes at every screen he sees….for most kids and tweens, technology and social media in particular is an integral part of their lives. In discussions around social media and digital citizenship we discuss privacy and how important it is to safeguard our personal information, but are kids concerned about their privacy and the implications of social media posting as we are (should) be?
We have been talking about parents posting about their kids on social media, the consequences of our actions on behalf of our own kids, but what happens when kids post about kids on social media? As I found out, it can get really messy. Kids growing up on social media is inevitable. Everyone gets to be a celebrity by blogging, tweeting or posting on Instagram and Facebook. But where it gets complicated is when kids begin to have a sense of privacy and request we, parents, don’t post about them. As parents, we respect their request and move on. For example, when kids take a selfie with their friends, who gets to post? Should anyone get to post and who decides? Unlike with their parents, kids might struggle with how they feel about their friends posting about them. And thus the privacy debate.
To most kids I have talked with, privacy comes down to having control about what they choose to disclose about themselves. So when a group of kids takes a selfie, kids need to decide who gets to post it, what comment is attached to the pic and what kind of platform it is posted on. And some could argue that a kid’s privacy is respected by not identifying them by name, by not “tagging” them. But it’s more complicated than that. Kids know the difference between public and private but we need to understand the real reasons kids take selfies and how it affects the way they view the world and how the world views them. I won’t claim to have an understanding on how they negotiate between themselves who gets to post what and who gets tagged and not, but I do know that kids are looking for us to help them navigate the complicated world of social media and protect their own privacy.
Kids have a good sense of ownership of their information and could advocate for themselves if allowed. It gets a bit more difficult for them when it’s a discussion between their peers. If one kid took a picture and posts it or shares the picture and then another posts it, what happens when kids don’t like what’s been posted about them? Because, once it’s out there, it’s out of their control. Who says what about whom? Who gets to post it first? As parents, we can help them by helping them discern between public and private, between what they feel comfortable disclosing and what is not ok. We can help them navigate this messy, complicated, social media landscape, and as more and more kids gain awareness of their own privacy, the discussions between kids will get more interesting. However, I don’t think many of these conversations are taking place between kids and we should help enable that dialogue to take place. Maybe once we acknowledge that they are owners of their information and let them decide, the conversations amongst peers will happen in a constructive way.
As my kids have repeatedly told me “privacy is what you keep private” – who gets to decide this is still up in the air. My bet is on the kids……