An article in the NYTimes 'Privacy Project' by Kamenetz
resonates with my own experience of very mixed reactions to viewing some of what I consider the most private and intimate details of the lives of my 5 and 7 year old grandsons occasionally revealed in some of the Facebook posts by their parents. I feel embarrassed for the boys, and sometimes how they would feel in their 20s and 30s if they were to look back at these posts on their childhood. (A pre-facebook version of the situation from my childhood is a photograph of two legs - five year old Deric - protruding from under a newspaper sitting on the toilet...how cute!). Some clips from the Kamenetz piece:
Today, many children’s social media presence starts with a sonogram, posted, obviously, without consent. One study from Britain found that nearly 1,500 images of the average child had been placed online by their fifth birthday. Parents get a lot of gratification from telling kids’ stories online...It’s less clear what our children have to gain from their lives being broadcast in this way. ..parents’ rights to free speech and self-expression are at odds with children’s rights to privacy when they are young and vulnerable...This is especially true when the information is potentially damaging. Imagine a child who has behavior problems, learning disabilities or chronic illness. Mom or Dad understandably want to discuss these struggles and reach out for support. But those posts live on the internet, with potential to be discovered by college admissions officers and future employers, friends and romantic prospects. A child’s life story is written for him before he has a chance to tell it himself.
Even if you confine your posts about your children to sunny days and birthday parties, any information you provide about them — names, dates of birth, geographic location — could be acquired by data brokersClose X, companies that collect personal information and sell it to advertisers.
Finally, there’s display and commodification. In 2018, the top earner on YouTube, according to Forbes, was a 7-year-old boy who brought in $22 million by playing with toys. It’s never seemed more accessible to become famous at a wee age, and the type of children who used to sing into a hairbrush in the mirror are often clamoring to start their own channels today.
The most egregious abuses are just the tip of the iceberg, though. For every moneymaking influencer, there are millions of less-successful stage parents and wannabes scratching for followers on YouTube and Instagram. They’re out there shoving cameras in children’s faces, using up their free time, killing spontaneity, warping the everyday rituals of childhood into long working shoots.
When it comes to childhood and technology, we adults are the horror show.
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