Last week the California legislature passed SB568 which seeks to prohibit providers of social media apps from exploiting minors in two ways: 1) presenting content about harmful or age-inappropriate products, such as tattoos, e-cigarettes and drugs and alcohol and related accessories, and 2) making it a mandatory option for minors to erase content (images and text) posted to the site.
Technical blogs critique the law for missing the mark on several fronts: a) the erase function is nothing new in as much as the delete functions are already available on media apps, b) the viral nature of sharing content makes it impossible to guarantee privacy and eliminating all the questionable content, and c) “likes” on photos/posts are technically protected free speech.
By the same token, Common Sense Media and other child protection groups applaud the law for the signals it sends to the industry. According to a recent report by the Association of Corporate Counsel, this law will likely have a national impact going beyond Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restrictions.
Craig Henderson is a private attorney and community advocate in Sacramento, who is also concerned that children have too much communications horsepower with very little judgment, applauds the higher objectives of this law.
“SB 568 is a step in the right direction to protect minor privacy,” Henderson said. “Clearly, many youth do not grasp the public nature of the Internet or social media. While we seem to be more forgiving of mistakes and scandals in our society, I'm not sure we could ever have imagined a time that childhood transgressions would be available for the world to see forever. We've now given children the technology to make their mistakes and crimes public knowledge, without necessarily giving them the judgment to know when they are doing so.”
That said, Henderson is equally concerned that legislation is not the panacea for protecting children from themselves in the social network. “If there is anyone that can reach these issues from a legislative perspective, it is probably Darryl Steinberg,” Henderson said. “Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that a statement placed on a website and disseminated throughout the Internet can ever be made private again. Once on the Internet, you can't put the cat back in the bag. The post may be taken down from that particular website, but it could already have been distributed to various websites and email addresses.”
Granite Bay mother of four, Christi Benz concurs. “There is no law that can protect our children from the viral problem,” she said. “Sometimes I get concerned when laws like this are passed because we risk giving people a false sense of security. There is no law that will make up for lack of parenting and teaching children how to be responsible users of the technology.”
Needless to say, a good conversation with your child about the importance of maintaining privacy is imperative for being cyber safe. For more about preparing children to be responsible citizens in the social network, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media.
- Banana Moments: Help for parenting in the social network
- Preparing teens for texting and social media
- CyberParenting Topics on The Fish 103.9FM
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