Gen Z, Millennials and privacy

23 10 2011

photo credit Dan Taylor

I must be getting old.

Or paranoid.

Or both.

While “researching” (aka killing time) on Facebook the other day, I happened to notice that a friend’s child was posting on their wall. Out of curiosity I clicked on the child’s Facebook page and found that I could read their entire site.

There were a couple of other names in the friends list that I recognised, and I clicked on those – again, I could get into their sites and read everything. And each of these children had between 200 and 300 Facebook “friends”. Excuse my skepticism – but do they really KNOW all these people?

These are not the children of neglectful or thoughtless parents. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting that for those parents who also have Facebook accounts, they have their own privacy settings set up very high. And they probably only have people they actually know as their Facebook friends. So how is the message not getting to their children?

We still teach our children stranger-danger, and we have all heard the dreadful stories of children who were contacted and groomed by predators online…. yet none of these children seem to have any privacy settings on their Facebook pages.

Now there is nothing of any particular concern on any of their walls, although the occasional older friend seems to post language and concepts that would be best left out entirely, if not just off-line. But they do post general information like their home town, what teams they barrack for, what teams they play for, what school they go to – all identifying features if you were so inclined.

So how do we teach Generation Z and the Millennials about privacy? About keeping safe? About protecting themselves? Or do we have to keep checking up on them?

This is a generation that grew up with social media. When they were born their parents emailed photos to friends, and for some of them, their births were announced on Facebook. (Some may even have birth videos on Youtube, but let’s not go there.) Their childhood was documented with photographs of every achievement posted online, accompanied by comments from their parents about whether they had been good or naughty, exhausting or joyful. And then their parents’ friends got to “like” or comment. Childhood by popularity contest.

So if the parents have over-shared their child’s life, is this what the child thinks is normal?

And the next question is, what happens when these children get to adult age and start looking for a job. How much of what they, their friends and their family are posting on-line, will still be there? Will the in-jokes amongst friends play any better if you allow for the fact the child was 13 at the time they posted it, or “liked” the rather off-colour page? Will recruiters need to take all of this into account when recruiting in ten years time? Or is there going to be a booming business in “cleaning up” Gen Z’s online reputation? (Get in now – I take only 20% commission for the idea.)

But if prevention is better than cure, how do we teach our children to stay safe in the online environment?




One response

3 11 2011
Social Media news « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] Media in Emergency Situations Shades of Grey for Social Media Click-bait Stalker-net Part II Gen Z, Millennials and Privacy Developing your Company’s Social Media Policies LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

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