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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Violating our kids' privacy

Kids aren't the only people who need to think before they post, but the latter half of that sentence is an oversimplification, of course. New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin brings new meaning to the phrase "Protecting Your Child's Privacy" in her Motherlode column this week. Where's the line between "exploiting [a child's] pain" – as one teenage subject of his parent's published memoir put it – and blogging about your parental struggles (or joys) with that child in the public blogosphere? Belkin asks: "At what point do parents lose their right to their children’s tales? When do things stop being something that happened to 'me' and start being something that happened to 'them,' and therefore not 'mine' to tell?" There is no blanket answer to those questions, partly because the answers are highly individual and the surrounding conditions change (kids grow up; they can become mortified teenagers). Also, as Belkin points out, the questions didn't first arise with blogs and social network sites – or even the Web or newsgroups or email. At the core of Belkin's post is the story of a mom who felt she had to un-adopt a child after 18 months and wrote about it. Some detractors "scoured everything she has written in the past, finding a post that used the boy’s real name and country of origin, and circulating it around the Internet" and then, after the mom deleted as many references as she could think of, they "found old cached versions," Belkin writes. The questions are age-old, but there are some differences now: e.g., the Web as both permanent, public, searchable archive and - sometimes - amplifier (see also "The Net effect" and "Online privacy: Photos out of control").

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Blogger Shaping Youth said...

Great post, Anne, I ponder this constantly and fiercely protect my daughter's identity, school, surname, etc...however she thinks nothing of grabbing my phone and reading a text msg., or picking up on CallerID or 'recent threads.' "What's the big deal, mom?" Ironic.

She's shared far more about my life than I have about hers it seems. More irony? She was given my handmedown phone when hers finally fizzled and the first thing she did was 'password protect' it! ;-)

Even MORE irony? "I'll give the PW to YOU if you want it mom, this is to keep it away from my FRIENDS."

Hmn...Welcome to my living lab of life...heh.

3:27 PM  
Blogger clarinette said...

Is there really an age for privacy disclosure? I am not really sure. It is certainly of concern that parents 'broadcast' their kids' life. It is widely admitted that what is posted on the net is there for ever - the law of energy as Ben Rothke, security advisor calls it. How information can be used is uncertain.
Google's CEO had suggested the option of deleting the past to create a new identity at the age of 21. Not an easy option!
Instead, users could exercise control over their publications for instance, the degree of publicity or audience selection. Once again, more awareness and guidance is the key.

3:45 PM  

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