On a fairly regular basis, a public scandal occurs, and these days just about every one of them reminds us of how ignorant people are about the transparency of their digital footprints.
If reading about the most recent scandal doesn’t convince you of how easily accessible digital footprints can be, then this November 17, 2012 Washington Post article should. In The FBI’s Long Reach Into Digital Lives, reporters Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima describe how easily the FBI gets into an individual’s e-mails and how accessing one account leads to exploring the accounts of other people who have sent or received e-mails.
Interesting Quote from the Post Article
Investigators with a warrant to search a house for drugs can seize evidence of another crime… But the warrant does not allow them to barge into the house next door… But what are the comparable boundaries online? Does a warrant to search an e-mail account expose the communications of anyone who exchanged messages with the target?
Scandals arising from common digital mistakes can provide opportunities for adults and children to participate in family conversations, learning more about their online and networked world. However, if you do not want to talk about the scandal, that’s fine — talk about the lack of privacy that everyone experiences today. Children who make mistakes have no protection as they explore the digital world, because what they do can easily become public and embarrassing. In any past era their common and developmentally appropriate errors would mostly remain private, but with today’s speedy and electronic communication tools, that’s less and less likely.
Summer is the time when many digital children start using e-mail accounts — and often the laid back summer lifestyle means that parents spend less time helping their children develop strong and collaborative digital habits.
Last year’s post offers parents some ideas and suggestions for getting started and setting limits.
Hundreds of digital options — e-mail is only one of them — are available and waiting for your child to discover them, so in the final analysis you cannot prevent digital access. You can, however, make decisions help you focus on educating your child about digital citizenship.
I hate receiving so much unwanted e-mail! In my family we follow most of the rules. We don’t sign up for contests or take quizzes. We don’t post our e-mail addresses in strange places, and we never forward chain letters or respond to the many ridiculous things that arrive in our electronic mailboxes. Yet the message glut is frustrating everyone in my family on a daily basis
Of course some of the mail arrives because I’ve signed up for alerts or news, but other messages arrive for unknown reasons. After ordering from a catalog, I’m often asked to provide my e-mail address so a confirmation can be sent — which I like. But then, suddenly, I start receiving daily messages — which I don’t like. In fact, when a store or catalog starts sending me several e-mails a week, my inclination is not to order from them again.
Strange screen names seem to pop up in the summer more than any other time of the year.
The best screen names are boring. In a virtual world, where even a nuanced word association can invite unfortunate behavior, taking care when choosing these online names is critical. The easiest solution is to use a first name, nickname, or a different name, perhaps paired with numbers at the beginning or end. Many years ago I used 29Marti1607, a name that attracted little attention except once when someone asked me if my ancestors had lived in colonial Jamestown (settled in 1607).
Children experiment with edgy screen names as one way to look and feel cool, and as they get older, their choices often push limits, unintentionally drawing attention. A suggestive name in any number of categories can encourage the people who interact with your child — even people who are friends — to behave impulsively in the web world where adult supervision is minimal. It is way too easy for two-way communication to go awry.
What is the right age for children to get personal e-mail accounts? Most of us discover, usually in hindsight, that a child’s independent e-mail account changes the context of many childhood experiences and complicates our child-rearing concerns.
E-mail connects a child to the world in ways that we parents may want to postpone. Chain mail, spam, the occasional unkind note, crazy stories, and the appearance of strange links — all are experiences that cannot be avoided, even with the best parental monitoring and regular family discussions. Complicating the situation are the regular and age-appropriate conversations children have with one another, talking about odd and unusual electronic encounters. It’s wise to chat with teachers at your child’s school because they observe digital interactions that are different from what parents see.
Hundreds of digital options — e-mail is only one of them — are available and waiting for your child to discover them, so in the final analysis, you cannot prevent digital access. You can, however, make decisions help you focus on educating your child about digital citizenship.