Most people, in one way or another, had their childhoods recorded by their parents. Whether it was a baby book, a mother’s journal, a family photo album or home videos — their children’s birthdays, holidays and milestones were all kept track of by someone.
Everyone has seen the embarrassing obligatory photos of themselves as children: naked baby in the bathtub, first day of school and blowing out birthday candles. It’s a little known fact that it is a mother’s sworn duty to pull those pictures out and mortify you in front of your teenage friends.
But for the most part those videos, photos and journals are private, kept stored in a drawer, on a shelf or in a keepsake box. Not so for children today.
With the advent of the internet, it was only a matter of time before social media became a regular tool in our everyday lives. Nowadays it is just as common for people to tell someone to “hit me up on Facebook” as it was to exchange telephone numbers a decade ago.
People born in the 1980s didn’t grow up with the internet and cellphones, but the technology became commonplace by their late teens and early 20s. Now they’re in their 30s and having children and a whole new generation is growing up in the digital spotlight.
Are children who are still in the process of finding out who they are as individuals in danger of having their identities defined for them?
Katie Davis, assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Information School believes so. Davis, along with Harvard professor Howard Gardner penned The App Generation: Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in Today’s Youth to address potential potential issues this “Facebook-baby” generation may have to contend with.
Davis writes: “Adolescence is typically the time when you become aware of your individuality and figure out your own identity. What are the implications if your identity has largely been formed for you online by your parents?
“We know what children need to develop in a healthy way and we know that they require some degree of autonomy and some degree of freedom to make mistakes. If every move is being recorded online, it’s constraining. By documenting everything your child does – creating such an involved and detailed digital footprint before the child has any say in the matter — is that supporting or undermining the type of person that you want your child to grow into?”
With the ramifications of essentially having your entire childhood posted on social media still unclear, we’re all in uncharted waters.
At what point does a child’s privacy become violated? Posting a funny story about your toddler may be OK, but what about when they turn 13? Will they appreciate those “funny stories” then?
Privacy settings can be useful, but ultimately, anything that it posted to the internet is there forever — and accessible to anyone. Passwords can be hacked and photo licensing on sites like Instagram and Facebook is still a murky area.
The bottom line: even if you’re careful about who you share your posts with, on the internet, nothing is ever truly “private.”