Online privacy is a major issue for young people. Information posted online can cause problems far into the future, as well as creating issues in the present, potentially impacting on career prospects and opportunities.
With the increase in technology available to young people, the need to share every aspect of their lives has grown to proportions unrecognisable to older generations. Phone applications such as Instagram, Snapchat and Vine allow young people to document their every night out – a group of girls simultaneously Snapchatting their cocktails is a typical sight – and have become a method of communication that is entirely visual. Drunken pictures or status updates dominate Facebook and Twitter feeds with no thought to who could view them or the potential damage they could have. Employers regularly use social networking sites to scope potential employees and usually aren’t inclined to hire an applicant after seeing their photo album from “Magaluf 2013”.
That being said, social networking can act as a method of finding and applying for jobs, as long as you check your privacy settings first…
Its not only visual information that young people are happy to share online. A report published in May 2013 by the PEW Internet and the American Life Project found that 91% of the 12-17 year olds that took part in the survey were happy to post their real name online. 60% willingly publicised their relationship status, 82% their birthday and 71% the town that they live in. Worryingly, 20% of these young people were also happy for their mobile number to be online. The UK statistics are very similar.
Controversial and offensive opinions posted online can also be an issue in future situations as Paris Brown, the teenage youth crime commissioner, discovered last year. Brown was forced to step down from her role when offensive posts were discovered on her Twitter page. These consisted of violent, racial and homophobic abuse and also referred to drug and alcohol use. The discovery of these posts resulted in the loss of her £15,000 a year job.
Once pictures or comments are posted online, it is incredibly difficult for that action to be undone. Images can be propelled all over cyberspace and whether they’re deleted from their initial source or not there is no real way of knowing if they’re actually gone for good. This is what makes knowledge of how to correctly use internet privacy so important.
This video clip looks into whether young people really care about what their own privacy:
Many privacy issues related to young people come as a result of a gap in their knowledge and a lack of awareness of the consequences. Possible solutions to this is to introduce thorough internet safety education in schools and to increase young peoples’ awareness of what they’re sharing online and how it could impact on their futures.