When my oldest daughter turned 13, she got a brand new smartphone, signed up for Facebook and Pandora and went on an apps downloading spree. At the same time, my brand new teen lost many protections over her privacy online.
The online games she plays know her location at any given moment through her phone’s GPS technology.
She’s given my VISA card number to buy apps, iTunes has our family’s email address and everyone’s full names and Facebook knows her birth date and the school she goes to…
At an age at when I still don’t let her go to the shopping center by herself or open the door to strangers, she has a growing dossier about her habits, likes and dislikes, etc. accumulating on the Web. And even though laws have been passed that protect the youngest of Internet users from giving away much information about themselves, once children become teens, the same privacy rules no longer apply.
Leaving aside the laws that regulate these aspects, experts on adolescent development say youths between 13 and 18 deserve special attention, and teenagers are among the most voracious and precocious users of new Internet services, constantly making grown-up decisions with grown-up consequences. However, as experts say ‘Their ability to make decisions is still forming and clearly different from that of adults.”
With few restraints, teens are creating digital records that also build their reputation offline. All the status updates, tweets and check-ins to specific locations can be reviewed by prospective employers, insurance companies and universities.
Despite Internet companies say personal data can be collected only with permission and parents can set security controls on phones and computers, the Web offers so many opportunities to share information online that teens just don’t stop to think about the consequences.
Anyway, don’t think this is something of the future. It’s the present and it’s here to stay. Becoming a controlling, paranoid mother won’t help either, as they will still have endless possibilities to access the Internet. Therefore, once again I think that the only way to get rid of these fears is to educate teenagers about the dangers posed by the online world as we have been doing forever in the offline world.
How to do this? By helping them make thoughtful decisions, giving them the confidence to turn to you if they make a mistake, and having first-hand knowledge of those sites, games and apps they love so much.
What do you think?