… from reading researchers’ blogs and papers and participating in informal discussions with parents, scholars, risk-prevention practitioners, etc.
Assumption is that it’s bad, risky, even dangerous to be public – the only research we have on this in N. Amer. concerns 1) how much YP use privacy setting), 2) how parents feel about that & use parental controls in terms of both rules and monitoring tools – nothing on the impact of using various privacy settings (such as if “friends” protect one’s rep better than friends of friends) I’ll tell you what I mean about the public-vs.-private binary in a min. Will also talk about the current product range in a min. (to see if there’s awareness of this on this side of the pond) It’s a moving target because, as I mentioned this morning [in “Making the case for digital citizenship,” we’re at the very beginning of the whole concept of our online public image, digital trails or footprints and reputations. It’s like that feeling of uneasiness upon waking up for the first time in a new environment. I believe that parts – not all – of this conversation are going to be moot when today’s teens are parents… and I think we need to have some awareness of this, or some open-mindedness to the possibility that public isn’t purely risky. [See “A new book & fresh look at online privacy” http://www.netfamilynews.org/?p=30595 and this on latest Pew Internet findings (fall 2011 http://www.netfamilynews.org/?p=30933 .]
Just-released Yahoo/Ipsos survey (http://safely.yahoo.com/expert-advice/survey/) - and Pew’s latest findings show very similar data – that 81% of teens set their privacy settings to private or partially private and “ more than half of online teens have decided not to post something online because they were concerned it might reflect badly on them in the future ” http ://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Teens-and-social-media/Part-3/Private- profiles.aspx . Anecdotal / qualitative evidence Mikalah’s “super log-off” – deactivates her account every time she logs off, so no one does anything with it when she’s not watching (danah credits the term to Michael Ducker, who she wrote noticed this to be a practice among gay youth, danah wrote) Shamika, danah wrote, deletes wall posts, status updates, even Likes shortly after posting so as not to add to “the drama” or have them taken out of context or abused Teen seeking privacy by hiding what they mean in “plan view” or, in a way, encoding it (danah calls it “social steganography”) [After a breakup, teen posted lyrics from “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from Life of Brian, Monty Python film. Friends knew the song was a little sarcastic – came right before main char. was executed in the storyline.]
Me on the Web: 1) alerts user to when personal info appears on the Web, 2) helps user remove unwanted content, at least from Google search results – SIGNS THAT PEOPLE ARE “GOOGLING THEMSELVES” MORE AND MORE, whether or not they use this “product.” Range of services, from Safetyweb & others that pull together in one place YP’s public postings in FB and other social media (so parents don’t have to Google their kids OR friend them on FB More sophisticated products like Israel-based service that finds and analyzes online content that a child has not made public and “learns” about the child the more it tracks the child. Even more unusual and interesting, it alerts the parent to issues without exposing the child’s actual conversations to parents . Maybe the creators realize how invasive this technology is!
In her PhD dissertation, danah boyd wrote about “invisible publics,” and of course we need to keep in mind that they’re there, but we now have many potential publics – not just THE PUBLIC – and the media environment is changing… According to USC professors and authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in A New Culture of Learning (which I highly recommend)… Our private vs. public binary framework comes from Aristotle, who spoke of “speech” vs. “philosophy” – speech was for the masses (the public); philosophy was for personal, or private, conversation. Social media is making this much more nuanced. Today’s very different, user-based media environment is more of a fray un controlled by the “powers that be,” and private/public becomes a spectrum rather than a binary setup. The publishing medium has become a publishing environment and the context is not a technology, but offline life – so-called “real life. ” Personal and collective expression always happen in a context – such as a family , a peer group , a congregation , or school life – and when we view people’s personal and collective expression online, we need to factor in context , understand that there’s more to what is expressed than what we’re seeing. [THIS IS WHAT WE CAN HELP OUR CHILDREN WITH.] e.g., “cyberbullying incident” online is tip of iceberg of dynamic social relations, very often a snapshot of a chain reaction.
When I say “our messaging,” I mean our collective messaging at the societal level – the msg we adults, including Net-safety advocates, have been sending youth to date. From my blog (here, under “The need for youth agency” <http://www.netfamilynews.org/?p=29466>: “ While probing for ethical thinking in a study of young people aged 15-25, some Harvard University researchers heard “two sentiments from young people ‘a lot’ : 1) “ the Internet is simply for fun ” ( inconsequential – at best entertainment, at worst competition for important activity such as homework), and 2) “ they feel a lack of efficacy online – if they see something unsettling they tend to ignore it or move on because they don ’ t feel they can change anything online. ” I believe this is partly a by-product of constant messaging from adults in homes, schools, the news media that youth are potential victims of online dangers and that their online activity is a waste of time, a potential addiction, fraught with risk. So I’ll end this with a Q : WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE (from their feeling a lack of consequence & efficacy to their seeing themselves as stakeholders in their own wellbeing and that of their peers & communities online – which is exactly what today’s participatory media environment calls for ? Just say “mea culpa” and move forward? Yes! When we start empowering young people as stakeholders in developing the social norms of social media as well as school, we will see them take the responsibility the vast majority already are. We will be more in sync not just with them and their use of the Net but with what the research shows.
Questions that Seattle educator and risk-prevention practitioner Mike Donlin suggests to students that they ask themselves: What is this message, text, status update, post, or tweet saying about me, as a person – about what kind of person I am? [Self-knowledge is good.] What is my message saying about the person it's about? Could it be misunderstood … edited … forwarded? Do I really want it to go out?
Digital Reputations (a few notes) Anne Collier NetFamilyNews.org ConnectSafely.org