Why I Don’t Tell My Kids “the Internet is Forever”


I speak to teens differently than speak to adults. I’m probably much more candid with teens than I’d ever be with adults in part because they’re more accepting and in part because they’re more deserving of my candor. I’ve learned more from 15 year olds than from 50 year olds in this chapter of my life.

I’ve had more than a few people tell me that I’ve given misinformation in a post that I wrote last week when I said:

By now, my braless teenage friend, you know that adults have lied to you because you’ve seen plenty of things be deleted, you’ve seen entire social networking sites disappear (MySpace anyone?) and you know not to trust those adults who tell you that the internet is forever and that the world thinks you’re dirty.

Do MySpace images still exist? Yes, of course they do. The kids have been told that they still exist but the odds of one of their pictures coming back to haunt them must be one in a billion.

The whole The Internet is Forever scare speech is overdone. Though it’s mostly accurate the kids are still kids with partially formed frontal lobes and a limited amount of self control. Kids are going to make mistakes, lots of them, and most mistakes have small consequences. We don’t tell them that every time they cross the street without looking they’ll be hit by a car. If we told them that they’d know we are stupid.

So yes, the pictures we posted on MySpace in the last millennium are still there but the pictures I posted on Whrrl (sold to Groupon) are not. Could someone have saved them? Yes. Is it possible that there’s a screengrab of me misbehaving? Yes. Is it more likely that nothing will ever come of these. Absolutely. What malice have you imagined?

My point in my other post may have been lost on a few people. The most important thing that I wanted to convey to teenage girls is that many people (myself included) won’t judge them for being a little sexy or a little silly. I wanted to remind them that though there may be people behind pulpits hell bent on ostracizing them for the crime of being teens most of the world will sort of glance at these poses, shrug and move on. It’s not brilliant to take or share sultry photos but it also doesn’t define who you are.

Although technically photos may be around for a good long time and although social media teachers and techies will be able to give you stories about photos resurfacing and kids becoming depressed or suicidal that’s not the norm. The norm is that most photos are simply never seen again because we’re not all that interesting.

So technically, yes, I got the details wrong. But common sense says that it’s the right discussion to have.


LBS, VC, Apps and Me (or you)


If you want to do a little Pavlovian experiment, be present at a VC (Venture Capital) networking event and mention LBS. The VC will probably get slobbery and their cheeks could get red. This little video might explain why search marketing gets hot and bothered when you add location.

What does LBS really mean though to us, parents and end users? Location Based Social Networks typically live on your cell phone. Or your child’s cell phone. I have both a Nexus 1 (android based Google phone) and an iPhone, for the most part the apps are similar and Blackberry (though a bit less social) has many of the same.

Here’s the thing, if you or your child uses their cell phone to “check in” anywhere, for any of these apps (applications) then they are leaving behind a digital footprint. For the most part a digital footprint is just fine, but there can be issues. I’m not saying that sharing your life is bad. By definition I’m a bit of a lifecaster myself, and with that being said, there must be boundaries.

One of the reasons Facebook is a problem for kids is that friends of friends are able to see your activities. Some of the privacy issues have been addressed, but Facebook was set up to be like a book. It’s an open network for people to read, share and enjoy. This morning I spent quite a bit of time purging my facebook friends of anyone who hasn’t been to my home. It’s the litmus test I chose, it may or may not work for you. I’m not really sure what, if anything, it will achieve. I hope no one has their feelings hurt, but my husband is entitled to more privacy than he was getting.

With LBS using Facebook to connect you to so many friends, it was also important for me to whittle down the friend list if I’m to continue enjoying using apps like Whrrl* and Foursquare. Foursquare is a marketers dream with people fighting to be the mayor of your business, and updating their twitter and facebook statuses. Again, with friends of friends, and the very public nature of Twitter, using Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl and the like requires a bit of forethought.

For me, the forethought is to fire facebook as my social media black book, to use MySpace instead, and to invest more of my time in Whrrl than the other location based applications. Why? Well, my husband doesn’t use myspace. We’re divorcing our online lives and he gets to keep Facebook, but I get MySpace. MySpace is a bit more like being in a million tiny chat rooms, so it appeals to me a little more as a way to communicate with people outside of my IRL (in real life) neighborhoods. Also, and more importantly, Facebook Connect is used in many of the LBS applications and leaving a digital footprint for friends of friends isn’t very smart.

Please understand that in taking social media off of Facebook, I have separated myself from editors in chief, VC’s, CEOs, reporters, social media gurus and celebrities. This is not a decision I came to lightly.

One of the reasons I’ve been using Whrrl for so long is because of the privacy they have built into it. According to Pelago the makers of Whrrl, “Privacy is one of the core product values that Whrrl was built upon. We take privacy very seriously, and enable anyone to make their check ins private or viewable to friends, trusted friends, or the public. Once you check in, you also have the ability at any time to change the privacy level. In addition, Facebook and Twitter status updates are optional and if activated, can be turned off at any time.” When the folks at Pelago talk about “trusted friends”, what they mean is that there are two levels of friendship on their network, you can be friends with someone or you can be a “trusted friend”. My “trusted friends” are my immediate family and they’re the only ones who get to see the kids, and know exactly where I am.

Being a Mommy Blogger is a privilege. I’m so honored every time just one person reads my posts, and when I meet folks and they say they’ve had the same experiences my heart soars. When you leave comments, I feel good. Really good. I can’t even explain to people what it’s like to have this blog, to have you as a reader. I can’t. It’s good. Please trust that.

Like my friend Matt Singley, I’m reviewing the way I do things. If I’m not your Facebook Friend, and I was three days ago, please don’t be offended, maybe you’ll join me at MySpace? I’m not less interested in your life, I’m just interested in sharing with you in other forums, so that we can all feel comfortable. And appropriate.