I love George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones. Particularly, I like the character of Jon Snow. Early on in the HBO series, there is a scene where Jon is talking with his friend, Samwell Tarly, about the Night's Watch's oath of chastity, and how many watchmen are known for breaking it.
Jon has lived the life of a bastard son, and he is familiar with what that entails. During the course of their conversation, he ends up telling Samwell about his reluctance to lay with a woman from fear that she would become pregnant with his child.
Here was a man of such selflessness, such empathy, that he would sacrifice the comfort of carnal relations because he was already thinking about the suffering of his unborn child! This quality, this care and thoughtfulness, is something that I have not often seen in my peers.
Throughout my life, I have been continually surprised at how heedless many actual or would be parents are. I imagined that deciding to become a parent would be a huge decision and that people would be considering and planning out as much as they could before making the commitment.
Time and time again, I have not seen this. Mostly, a child just kind of happened, and then people handled it as best they could, regardless of the consequences to their children. Of course you cannot prepare for everything, but some basic planning could not hurt, right?
In particular, I have thought about how easily many parents share pictures of their children online. There are at least several ways to think about this.
But the subjects of these photos and memes are human beings who have their own desires and interests. Parents, caretakers, and other adults who spend time around children must take into account those desires and interests before choosing to put images of young people on the internet. New research shows it’s not just privacy advocates who warn about the unintended consequences of sharing images of children online—the kids have something to say about it, too.
I am not a parent, but I can imagine that most parents are proud of their children, and when the children do something smart, funny, cute, or are just being themselves, they want to share that with the world. Others may be more cautious, and limit their sharing with friends and family. Even so, keep in mind, your photos are still on the Internet, and you are trusting the service you are using to keep those photos private and secure (psst, they're not).
Yet, the only wise way to approach the modern world is to assume that everything that is uploaded to the Internet is there forever. The company who is storing and serving your media has it. Whomever they sell that content to has it, and whatever government or third party hacks that company has it, too.
What do young people want, when it comes to their parents and online sharing? They want what everyone wants: control over their own information. That’s what privacy is about—maintaining control over what kinds of information others can access about you, and deciding who can see which information.
It is important to stop and appreciate this, to re-evaluate this behavior. Most of the time, the shared media is of children that are very young and are not nearly capable of appreciating the consequences of what their parents are doing or of giving their consent.
So how can you responsibly share information about your kid? For older children, like those surveyed for this study, straightforward consent is the key. Ask a teenager if you can share an image of them with a friend or with Facebook. But for younger kids, the answer may be that you just don’t do it. At the very least, save those cute pictures and stories about your kids for private means of communication.
How are they going to feel about this in 5 years, 10 years, or 20 years? I do not know what the right answer is, but I think it would be wise for people to start relying on decentralized, private, and secure solutions that do not involve saving precious media to other people's Internet-connected computers.
It is the job of the technically inclined to either help these people find and utilize such services, or to create them.