I happen to be one of those kids who always had a computer readily available for use in my house whenever I needed it. With very strict parents, of course, there were restrictions as to what I could and could not do. For example : Facebook? No No, MySpace? No No No, even AIM was considered bad to my dad…. But, did my parents “rules” ever really make me listen? Absolutely not. Lets be real… I learned how to delete my web browser history permanently at the age of 12 to assure my parents were getting no access to the sites I was not allowed to be on but was still frequently using. My top 8 was my business, and nobody else’s! My parents hatred for social media was very similar to the show Friends… “so VULGAR… you are too young.. it will give you bad ideas” … but of course, it was too easy sneaking upstairs into their bedroom to watch and have Nickelodeon set as the “last channel” .. one click to last and I went from watching Rachel and Ross ignore the fact that they were meant to be to watching Kenan and Kell basically shoot up orange soda(so much more appropriate… ). I just wonder when parents will realize prohibiting something makes it only that much more enjoyable. Especially when you get away with it!
As I got older my parents “catching me” on social media became more of a tool for them to catch me doing something wrong verses the fact that I was disobeying their rule of not using social media. The wrong thing was not the fact I was using social media, but the content I was posting. I will never forget the time I came home from school what had been the current profile picture on my Facebook at the time, I had just gotten the facebook and I wanted to put up a really cool picture… I was holding a red solo cup with my tongue out clearly pregaming at the very popular PNC concert center – far before I was even remotely close to being 21 (theatrical taste preference according to Liu much???). I found the picture taped to the fridge in the kitchen with “ ? ? ? ? ” written in my dad’s handwriting. I immediately tore the picture down and opted for never bringing it up, praying my mother wouldn’t find out about it. The next day however, the same picture with an additional picture of me clearly intoxicated at another concert in a different outfit was taped right next to it “Seriously… ??” I remember how violated I felt but at the same time, I knew deep down I had been in the wrong. I look back today and I think- THANK GOD I GOT INTO COLLEGE! Those pictures are 100 % incriminating seeing as my 21st birthday is STILL not until July. My facebook or MySpace or twitter however was and is my public but private sphere. It was my area to be free and do what I wanted without having anybody tell me I was wrong. In fact, most of my peers and friends online encouraged the online behavior parents despise so much. Lord knows, in high-school, the pictures with the most likes or comments were ones where somebody was most obviously doing something they should not have been doing.
I do feel that the internet is a public sphere for teens. But I also feel that it’s affordances in today’s day and age do not openly display the consequences they can absolutely have. Do I think social media networks should be banned? No. But I do think that children, teens and even young adults should be taught and informed about the small minute dangers available on these sites that we use without thinking about the large effects they can have.
For example: checking in at places (do you really want everyone knowing exactly where you are all the time…); posting certain pictures (should the police or mom/dad or possible employer be seeing a picture of you hugging a toilet?), sarcasm(maybe it’s funny to you but maybe it is extremely offensive to your future employer or a dear friend or somebody you don’t even know but are friends with)… to name a few examples. We do not think twice about what we post or what we say because we really think we have control of who is seeing it. However, with the linking tools available on most sites, we literally gain access to a number of things we were never supposed to see in the first place.
Similarly, we see an extreme point of view of how predators gain access to children’s whereabouts almost immediately with the check-in features. Byron Acohido of The Last WatchDog, a website dedicated to internet security, explains the new issues with child predators and how social media now makes it too easy to reach children. In his article, How Predators Use Mobile Devices, Social Media to Victimize Children we learn about the past and present ways predators are capable of reaching children through the internet. No longer do they have to engage the child they have friended or speak with them in order to arrange a meet-up of some sorts. Instead, today, when somebody uploads a new picture or posts a status update, on most social media sites, there is a check-in or location feature that links your picture or post to a town, city or specific place. This alone allows the predators (or as I explained earlier.. your parents, the police or a future employer) to know exactly where you are at a particular time. “Hey so where do you live… what is your address..” is no longer necessary. Instead “play-date with Sarah tomorrow at our favorite park!” is all the predator needs to check for a m-upload or another status with a check-in / location update and they know exactly where to go at exactly the right time. Kind of freaky to think about….
These affordances are not abused by children so that they put themselves in harms way. Most of the time, people are unaware of the damage that can be done. In fact, I feel that most people criticize the use of social media without teaching proper use. Saying social media is bad and dangerous can be true however, the future of most of the children in today’s day and age rely on it. More and more jobs are tailored around your ability to use social media… I mean take a look at this class, we MUST use twitter at least twice a week to pass. Are we expected to suppress children’s appetite for a field that is not only scholarly but may potentially become their future. Of course their are dangers, but we do not take into account the way these sites tailor themselves to be more dangerous for youths and also problematic for adults.
Anyways… that is my tangent on social media. Most of them come from my experiences that have led me to be really careful and hesitant about what I post. Specifically…. an interview where my future employer followed me on twitter and asked me during the interview why I had posted a picture of “dollar beer night” on Tuesday followed with a tweet about how I can never get to work on time on Wednesdays. People are capable of following and tracking you through social media, not that they will do so most of the time. But, when somebody really wants to check up on your whereabouts they really are able to. It’s our responsibility as young adults who grew up in the haywire that was the rise of social media to know better. The only way to know is to either learn your lesson or to enforce the use in a protective but free way.