Our children shouldn’t have their childhood/teen escapades and embarrassing moments haunt them for the rest of their days due to their youthful indiscretions being stored on social media and being found through online search. We’d like to think that our kids can mess up a little and start their adult lives with a clean slate as much as possible. Unfortunately todays youth does a lot of their growing up online with personal posts and photos shared on social media, either through being uploaded by themselves or via others. Many of these posts may show our children in an unflattering light both now, and in the future.
By the time our children are in their early 20’s and hoping to be taken seriously as adults, if their past misdeeds are found online by someone who can influence their future, the discovery might mean a failed application to college, or lack of a promotion, a rejected job application, a loan refused, or a promising relationship broken. For all of us deleting our past posts and personal information stored online is becoming harder and harder due to the complexities of doing so, and due to the sheer volume of content that we and others are uploading online about us. Some leaders in the online search industry like Google’s Eric Schmidt, have suggested that many users may even decide to change their names to escape their online past.
A New Law To Help Protect Children Online
A new law has just passed in California aimed at Californian minors (under 18years) to help them successfully remove past posts and photos from online platforms. On first glance the new law seems to be heading in the right direction to help their youth overcome any fall-out from teenage shenanigans shown online. But will this new Law actually help Californian youth with their online reputations in any way?
The Senate Bill No. 568 CHAPTER 336 Will take effect on January 1st 2015.
One aspect of this new Law states:
“The bill would, on and after January 1, 2015, require the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user of the operator’s Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application, to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted on the operator’s Internet Web site, service, or application by the minor,”
Meaning that online apps and websites need to provide the under 18 year old user with a clear way to delete anything from their account that they have uploaded.
Another part of the new law states that:
“An operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application directed to minors shall not market or advertise a product or service described in subdivision (i) on its Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application directed to minors.”
Meaning that the new law prohibits Web based Operators from using personal data from minors to market to 3rd parties, and also prohibits web operators from advertising certain adult products to minors, as outlined in the Bill. (described in subdivision (i)
I’m not sure how this new law effects Website operators that do not reside in California who may not fall under the jurisdiction of this new law.
I don’t think this Law goes far enough:
As outlined in the Bill, unless you are under 18years of age and have posted the content yourself, you cannot make use of this Law to have a photo of you, or content that mentions you taken down from the website or platform on which it is shown. If you posted the photo on your own social media account or other online site as a minor, and then as an adult want to remove it, this law will not apply. If your content is shared or copied from your account to another website, or platform, or on to other friends, again, you cannot use this law to have it removed. See Excerpt Below:
“unless the content or information was posted by a 3rd party, any other provision of state or federal law requires the operator or 3rd party to maintain the content or information, or the operator anonymizes the content or information. The bill would require the operator to provide notice to a minor that the minor may remove the content or information, as specified.”
Most online accounts and sites already give you, the user, the ability to delete posts and photos that you have posted yourself, so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to create this particular aspect of the new Law.
The New Law Doesn’t Cover Photos Of You Posted By Others
One of the most damaging and upsetting uses of your photos or posts online can be when someone uses your identity and photo to set up an account that looks exactly like it belongs to you, and once set up as a fake account, the bully starts posting embarrassing content as if it is from you, to defame you. This fake account bullying is quite a common practice on many social media apps and platforms, and particularly used as a form of cyber bullying and harassment among teens and even younger children. Photo’s taken from Instagram or Facebook or any other online platform are easy to steal and download. If your child hasn’t protected their private information online, for example, phone numbers, email addresses, Instant messaging profile names, these can all be added to these bogus accounts to further harass your child. Getting these fake accounts taken down can be quite hard, and in some cases may require legal representation.
Your content or image can also be posted to unsavoury social media sites where the photo may be voted up or down as being “Hot or Not” or to websites set up specifically to humiliate or embarrass people. See the video below regarding a notorious platform called Jerk.com which thrives on users uploading photos and content about people without their permission, to have them voted up as the Jerk of the week! This site even stipulates that they won’t take content down no matter who it is. There are more sites like these being created both as apps and online in browser form. But this new Law won’t help anyone that is the victim of such behaviour, because the photo is usually uploaded by someone else.
See more about how to get your profile removed from Jerk.com Here:
Nothing Is Private Online!
This new Law cannot prevent our children’s online content being copied and shared on. A user might have success getting a photo or content taken down from one site, but another user may have already copied it and then posted it online to another site. This Law only covers user uploaded content, and not any copies of reproductions.
Education Is Still The Best Protection
Despite the good intentions of this Law, it isn’t really practical from the “deleting content online” aspect. The other part of this new law might help prevent advertising adult content to minors and put companies like Facebook on notice to be careful about using children’s data and photos in advertising, as they have been proposing, but unless this new Californian law can also cover other users re-posting photos of your children online, it isn’t going to achieve all that much.
What Is The Solution?
The best thing we as parents and educators can do to help our children prevent their image or posts being seen publicly and possibly risk humiliation or harm, is to teach them to behave responsibly, (others might photograph them doing something they might later regret) and teach them to minimise the amount of personal information and images that they share online. Our youth need to learn about privacy settings, about not “friending” strangers, and how to use good online practices, including deleting old posts and archiving them. We need to also teach children to respect others, and that they should not upload photos of their friends online, or to comment on posts in such a way that may be misinterpreted or may embarrass their friends.
Parents also need to set a good example. Pictures of your children in their bathing suits or doing “funny” things might be sweet right now…but in 10 years time your children may well ask you to take all their baby photos offline, what are you going to do then? Facebook has no “bulk” delete button you will have to go to every single post, one by one ,to delete each of them…. or delete your entire account.
Question: How much are you sharing online? Have you set your privacy settings up to the most private settings? Check this post to see if you have, you might be surprised what you have missed.
Have you or your child ever had a problem deleting a post or photo from an app or an online site?