It’s a simple rule: Never post anything online that you wouldn’t want to explain to your mother. Or father. Or any other similarly judgmental familial relation.
And, yes, it’s being ignored right, left, up, down, sideways by just about everyone younger than 30.
This came to mind when the friendly confines of Casa de Dude were invaded by the raucous laughter of the Siren, a friend from college of my wife’s, known to me as She Who Must Be Strutting. The Siren was driving her youngest little dude, Robert Bob, up to boarding school.
The two ladies were out for a drink with friends, one of those sorts of gatherings where mammary glands are required, but gonadal possession in the first degree is prohibited, so I was left at home with Hyper Lad and Robert Bob, both of whom are of an age. Not a problem for me. It was the first Saturday night of college football season. They had video games. We all had pizza. Good time for the dudes.
Anyway. We were talking over piping hot slices and I happened to ask Robert Bob what sort of messaging app he used on his phone. He immediately told me it was SnapChat. For those of you not in the know, SnapChat is an app that allows you to send a photo to someone else on the service. The catch is that the picture you send will self destruct 10 seconds after first viewing.
Which, to most of us older folks, sounds like a recipe for the users to start sharing — oh, I don’t know — naked pictures of themselves, secure in the knowledge that the photo will never, ever, no possible way get out into the wider internet and be seen by anyone else but the intended recipient and then only for 10 seconds. Were you readers able to detect the sarcasm there?
So I asked Robert Bob why he felt safe sending those pictures (not that he was sending naked selfies. He wasn’t. Just asking a younger person in general.). After all, anyone receiving one of those pictures could easily take a screenshot of the picture as it was displayed on the phone.
Well, says Robert Bob, with the smug manner of someone who has considered that question coming from an adult and already has an answer that will completely deflate said old person and send them packing with tails between legs, “The app always lets you know if someone takes a screenshot.”
I waited. He kept looking smug.
“And?” I asked.
“And what else?”
“What do you mean what else?” he said.
And I went on to ask, in some detail, how knowing that someone had taken a screenshot and now had a long-lasting image of whatever picture you’d just sent to him or her will help you control whether or not that image now goes online, to be widely disseminated throughout the world-wide web.
To which he replied, “Uuuuhhhhhhhhh. . . ”
Understand, Robert Bob is an intelligent, well-reared, thoughtful, considerate young dude, but that question never even crossed his mind. I shudder to think of those young dudes and dudettes not quite at Robert Bob’s level and what happens to them.
Let me make one more thing very clear: This is not a call to arms for parents to start taking away phones or slamming down the metaphorical boot on the informational neck of their little dudes and dudettes. There will always be a new app, a new way to connect with others that you won’t know about and so can’t stop.
The only constant will be your child. If your child has sense enough to be careful and present only a carefully constructed version of themselves online, then you’re good. I consider this to be something like the sex conversation. It’s not something you have one time and then it’s done.
The sex conversation is an ongoing dialogue between you and your child. So should the public oversharing conversation be. Start early and continue the conversation at every opportunity.
Otherwise, unfortunately, there could be consequences.
About which we’ll talk tomorrow.