Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a conference call hosted by Jim Steyer, Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Common Sense Media along with Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), co-sponsors of H.R. 1895 Do Not Track Kids Online bill.
Even though I regularly blog about my kids and have a large online presence, I’ve been slow to embrace social media in our family culture. Yes, my kid once wrote that his mom is happiest when she blogs. And he often asks if I can post a picture for him to Facebook. But he doesn’t have a Facebook profile or belong to Club Penguin. He doesn’t have an email account or a Twitter handle.
Unlike most kids, the internet isn’t “like oxygen” to my son.
We are okay with putting the brakes on introducing technology beyond basic computer skills.
I know there will come a day (soon!) that he will want an email account. Judging from many of my friends with tweens, I should be hearing a plea to break the Facebook age requirement and let him fudge his birth date for an account sometime around the age of 10. When my son is a teenager, I know that he will need to take ownership of his online actions. Still, I wonder how many teens know that when they put a photo on Facebook, they are co-licensing it to the site for Facebook’s use. Did you know that?
If my child can’t give consent in real life, why should he be able to give his consent online?
In the meantime, I recognize that kids are kids. My son isn’t a teen. While I don’t think that teens should be able to give their consent online either, the Do Not Track Kids Bills mainly focuses on kids under 13 – the tweens and the school age kids that want to be tweens. My seven year old is not capable of making an informed decision about his privacy online. He hasn’t learned that real life playground politics are remedied by a simple apology could forever haunt him if played out in the online space. For as long as my kid is a child, I still want to be in charge, even online. In fact, I need to be in charge, especially online.
One provision of the bill would require social media sites to have an “eraser button” that works within that social media entity. This way, when a kid or teen messes up and posts something that can have major ramifications, the parent or child can delete that data. Even if it can’t erase everything everywhere, it would be beneficial for kids who made a stupid decision one day to not have to live with a lifetime of regret.
What stuck with me the most from the call was Jim Steyer’s observation that all of these social media companies have the ability to innovate privacy protection and, yet, all are focusing instead on data collection. My child’s information should be protected.
If you agree that kids’ online behavior shouldn’t be tracked and companies shouldn’t be allowed to sell or transfer kids’ personal information. If you believe companies should protect kids’ and teens’ online privacy rather than exploit it for advertising, please join in a day of action today. Contact your representative to urge them to vote in favor of the Do Not Track Kids Act (H.R. 1895). Find your representative online or call the U.S. House of Representatives switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected.