Whose life are you sharing when you share online? The question is not as straightforward as it might seem. Is anything that happens in your life fair game for a Facebook status update or Instagram post? What if it involves other people? What if it involves your own kids? Should they have a say in what goes online? While public moments pass, what’s shared online persists long after the event is over.
Who owns the “rights to share”?
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting social borders when it comes to sharing and offer some tips to balance the right to privacy against the impulse to share.
Different Perspectives: Parents vs. Kids
Privacy etiquette is an evolving topic, and the rules aren’t defined. Interestingly, expectations and behaviors around social media sharing and personal privacy are most vivid when it comes to parent/child relationships.
In a surprisingly reversal of expectations, it turns out kids have greater concerns about what their parents share than the parents themselves, according to a study referenced in the New York Times article, “Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say.” In the study conducted by Alexis Hiniker, a graduate student in human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington, and researchers at the University of Michigan, “about three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media” and “children ages 10 to 17 “were really concerned” about the ways parents shared their children’s lives online.”
Stacey Steinberg, a legal skills professor and associate director of the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, is also cited in the article. According to Steinberg,
“Parents often intrude on a child’s digital identity, not because they are malicious, but because they haven’t considered the potential reach and the longevity of the digital information that they’re sharing.”
Parents have always had an urge to document their children’s lives, especially when they gain a sense of how fast the time goes. While those moments used to be filed in the family scrap book, Facebook and Instagram have become the defacto replacement. Problems may arise when what’s shared isn’t restricted to immediate family and close friends.
The impact may seem harmless at first, but it’s worth considering the long-term impact on kids growing up in a digital environment where every move is documented for public consumption. Given that they will inherit a record of themselves they did not choose to share, shouldn’t parents pause before they post?
Who Should Break the Big News?
Parents aren’t the only ones who might want to check their urge to share against others’ right to privacy. Friends of parents-to-be should also be sensitive to privacy preferences. In “Don’t Insta my newborn: 5 rules for posting about a friend’s baby,” Mashable writer Chelsea Frisbie brings up several excellent points for both friends and pending parents. While friends should always seek permission before sharing, it’s also a good idea for those expecting to express their privacy preferences directly to friends and family.
Tips for Promoting Privacy Etiquette
Today’s generation of kids and parents have vastly more complex privacy issues to manage than generations past. Fortunately, there are ways to raise kids with privacy awareness and protect kids’ privacy online.
Parenting kids with privacy awareness means learning how to effectively teach kids about privacy and online safety. Understanding how to talk to kids about privacy is part of that picture. Common Sense Media on Privacy & Internet Safety, OnGuardOnline.gov, and the FTC portal for Kids’ Online Safety are excellent places to start.
When it comes to your kids, set ground rules such as where and when kids can go online or use a mobile device. Check privacy settings on devices kids use to ensure they are optimized to protect how much information is shared by default. Finally, use tools like Disconnect Kids or Kidoz to limit tracking and moderate content.
Privacy is deeply personal. We foster a civil culture of mutual respect and empathy when we abstain from applying our own preferences to those around us. The next time you feel the urge to share, pause before you post. Social manners and privacy etiquette are not old school – we can maintain them even in our modern digital age.