Privacy, what’s that?

In the second chapter of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, there are many things discussed revolving around the privacy of teens when participating in social media. She speaks of two things that seem to go hand in hand in many cases: social steganography and the surveillance of parents. As she mentions, it has always been common that teens want privacy from their parents in certain aspects of their lives. The parents of teens today did not grow up with technology the same way that our generation has, usually causing them to want to be ever-present and all-knowing in their child’s life. Teens on the other hand don’t always want their judging, rule-implementing, and lecture-ready parents tracking their every move regarding social interactions. To combat this Boyd mentions, “many of the privacy strategies that teens implement are intended to counter the power dynamic that emerges when parents and other adults feel as though they have the right to watch and listen” (70). From this stems steganography where teens tend to code their messages by posting lyrics, sub-tweeting, etc. This made me think about when I was younger and in middle school or early high school and how my mom would look me up on social media to see what I was doing. I remember feeling frustrated not only because it was my page that I didn’t ask her to view but because there was no reason for her not to trust what I was doing. I was always safe, didn’t talk to strangers, or post things that could be deemed as unacceptable or inappropriate.

Parents seem to think that we don’t care about our privacy to the outside world or understand the dangers, but at what point can they trust that the way they raised us is enough and we will share what we want when we want? I found an interesting video in which Kelly Wallace from CNN discusses that her biggest fear is her children becoming involved with social media. This video was striking because she says at one point, “how will I possibly keep tabs on everything they’re doing?” as if in order to be a good parent she must know every single detail of her child’s life. She goes on to say that in reality parents might not even have a clue because of the ways teens have chosen to encrypt their messages. She gives an example about how someone might post a group photo but intentionally not tag someone as an act of aggression, something that would easily slip by parents viewing the picture. Her solution is to sign up for the social networks that the teens are on and befriend them. However, if teens go through such lengths to keep their parents from knowing what is happening on their social networks, where is the line to be drawn for privacy between teen and parent?

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Author: Sara Reuschling

I am an English major with a minor in Sociology at the University of Delaware. The aim of this account is to learn as much as possible about the ever-growing changes in the world with an open mind and connect the information to my life experiences, especially regarding technology and digital rhetoric.

3 thoughts on “Privacy, what’s that?”

  1. Sara, It is striking how the advice given in the video seems to be, stalk your kids even harder! So I’m wondering: Is there a way you might use boyd’s work to assuage some of the fears you hear parents and “experts” expressing in videos like this? ~Joe

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  2. I really relate to your response, and I think every person in our generation has experienced their parents being involved in their life on social media. In my personal experience, my parents didn’t put restraints and limitations on social media and that allowed me to be more trusting of them and tell them things on my own. I do think that how parents should go about their children’s use of social media is long and continuous debate.

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  3. How can I keep tabs on everything they’re doing: I mean at some point you have to trust your child in a general sense. I’m sure before the internet there were helicopter parents. Privacy sure is tricky.

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