Privacy: When Will They Ever Learn?

Uploaded by Mancala at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

What will it take to make adolescents and teens understand that what they do just about anywhere is not private — even if it’s digital and feels like a limited number of others will know? Perhaps we are about to find out.

Harvard University recently rescinded acceptances from ten or more incoming students who formed a “private” Facebook page and traded sexually explicit and disgusting memes about kids, women, and people of color. Putting aside the loathsome behavior — just for a moment — why on earth would these young people consider any Facebook group or any other online group to be private, even if it has private in its name?

Crimson reporter Hannah Natanson writes:

In the group students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups…

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Resolution 2015: Focus on Family Members’ Digital Footprints

Digital Footprint Venn Diagram Project

Student Digital Footprint Venn Diagram Project

Digital footprints — those small bits of digital information collected and compiled on each individual — can portray a person in all sorts of ways. Everything we do on the web or with when we interact with other connected sites is saved somewhere. We may think first of email, texts, social media, and web searches, but our information gets collected when we shop, travel, drive, make mobile phone calls, and even when we buy groceries.

Below are a few links that can help parents and educators think about managing and curating digital footprints. Everyone, child and adult, has a digital footprint profile.

Spring Clean Your Digital Profile

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Download the document at A Platform for Good.

The idea of spring cleaning each individual’s digital profile is terrific — something for parents and teachers to do themselves and then share with children.

Just like we tidy up our homes and our gardens in March, April and May, it’s a good time to put our digital domiciles on the to-do list. Paying attention to the upkeep of our digital footprints and devices allows us to clean up and polish online images and minimize potential problems on our devices and gadgets. In the process we learn a lot about ourselves, but also about the details that others can learn about us online.

So check out the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) digital life spring cleaning mini-poster over at the organization’s newish web space, A Platform for GoodFOSI designed A Platform for Good as an informational site that helps  parents, teachers, and teens connect, share, and do good online.  The website’s about page shares this thought about its mission:

Our vision for A Platform for Good is to start a dialogue about what it means to participate responsibly in a digital world. While recognizing the potential risks, we will celebrate technology as a vehicle for opportunity and social change.

The clean-up-your-digital-life mini-poster, available by link or download, asks each of us take some time to dust off our online lives. Suggestions include ensuring that our passwords are strong, Googling ourselves to see what comes up from a search, and examining our devices to be sure that they are secure and up-to-date. The Platform for Good document also encourages individuals — adults and children — to evaluate the privacy settings on any social network accounts (many adults and children reside on these sites as if they are second homes or at least daily digital playgrounds).

So why should we go through this process?          Continue reading