We call it ‘The Wave of Regret’. This term, coined by my Online Safety for Kids partner, Peter Andrada, defines a movement we predict will happen in the near future where content shared by kids on social media applications will come to life and change their future permanently.
We’ve all done things in our youth that shaped who we have become as adults. We have all been in a sticky situation here and there where we have come out on the other side a little tougher, a little stronger, and a whole lot smarter. The difference between our childhoods and the childhoods of kids today, is that our less than shining moments weren’t documented for anyone we allowed to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ us to see. They were not ‘tweeted’, ‘facebooked’, or ‘instagrammed’. Our moments, while forever etched in our memories, were just that. In our memories. Today, passing thoughts are tweeted, random moments are posted for all to see, and we share the inner workings of our lives with our 800 closest ‘friends’.
I try to impress upon the kids I speak to that the internet is forever. Anything posted cannot be deleted, regardless of what that ‘delete’ button implies.
One of the biggest social applications kids are using now is Instagram. Instagram, owned by Facebook, is an application that allows you to take pictures, apply a filter (think of a filter as a very simplified Photoshop), and then share the image with anyone who is ‘following’ them. Instagram currently boasts 90 million users, who post 40 million photos a day.
Why is it popular? While presenting for the McAfee Online Safety for Kids program I have discovered that kids love Instagram for a few reasons. 1) It’s a fun way to express their creativity 2) Their parents aren’t on it.
Why is it dangerous? Kids equate the amount of followers they have to how popular they are. I regularly ask kids how many followers they have…100…200…1,000… they nod their heads. The issue with this is that it is incredibly difficult to keep PII (personally identifiable information) out of a photograph. From a single glance you can tell where the photo was taken, when it was taken, and do investigative work from there. Instagram also has a feature called ‘geotagging’. Geotagging allows the user to embed the GPS coordinates of where they are when the picture was taken. This information stays embedded in the data of the image forever. Many times, a user is unaware that the geotagging application is activated in the application they are using.
My advice: Help distance your child from the Wave of Regret. Download Instagram on your smartphone, and follow your kid. It can be a very fun and informative way of getting a glimpse into your child’s digital life. You will be able to intelligently guide your child to making better decisions when posting online. Also, have your child put their profile on private. It is simple and easy to do in Instagram’s settings. Lastly, go through your child’s follower list with them – anyone who they cannot immediately identify, have them unfollow and block that user.
What steps do you take to keep your kids safe online? Comment below, and follow me on Twitter for more information @tctompkins
Note: Instagram is not intended for children under 13. If your child is under 13, Instagram recommends you delete their account.