An interesting US national poll from Common Sense Media asking 'is social networking changing childhood?' opens up some wider issues.
Common sense media suggest their poll...
...illustrates a continuing disconnect between parents and kids when it comes to kids’ digital lives. In today’s society, there is more technology and less time for parents to supervise their kids’ actions and behaviors on Facebook, MySpace, or in any other digital environment. Communication and socialization in our kids’ world is increasingly moving from face-to-face to face-to-cyberspace. Families need to keep up regular conversations about life in the digital world and what it means to be a safe, smart digital citizen – including ethical behavior, privacy, bullying, and reputation management.
The report appears aimed primarily at parents and educators, with recommendations to help them get up to speed if they are not digitally literate with this advice and answers section.
This is an age old parenting concern: what IS this mysterious Rock 'n' Roll/Hip Hop/ Texting Language/Social Networking those crazy kids are doing?
From behind their bedroom doors, more than 1 out of every 10 teenagers has posted a nude or seminude picture of themselves or others online - a "digital tattoo" that could haunt them for the rest of their lives
... said Jill Tucker's opening paragraph in the San Francisco Chronicle's article on this report, before settling down into a less salacious tone
Common Sense Media are starting a pilot program this fall to bring digital media literacy into public schools. It'll take in everything from not using the cell phone at the dinner table to the dangers of posting personal information online, but parents need some lessons too, reports Tucker.
As Sun's Scott McNealey said in 1999 'You have zero privacy anyway, Get over it." Kara Swisher wrote 'that goes double for social networks' earlier this year, commenting on the ever shifting terms of service/rules of user engagement with Facebook.
The reality is that you have very little privacy online, and this goes back to every email you've ever written which is out there somewhere. The whole concept of what and how to share information is an extremely valuable teaching exercise for just about anyone using this new medium: we are all in a digital childhood regardless of our physical age around these new mediums.
As Jennifer Leggio discussed a few weeks ago on her ZDNet blog there is widespread confusion around what constitutes your personal life and what can be picked over by potential employers. A careerbuilder.com survey found 'more than one in five employers search social networking sites to screen potential hires. And, if your social network presence isn’t in tiptop condition, it might hinder you from getting the job of your dreams in an already tough market.'
This is akin to being asked to bring all your Rock'n'Roll singles and your personal diary to a job interview in the 1950's, or your ipod hip hop playlist and all your cellular text messages more recently. 'Teenagers' must think adults are idiots as usual.
Common Sense Media will be doing a great service just by teaching users of all ages about the value of understanding their Facebook privacy settings, but what is likely to happen is users using multiple online personas for different audiences.
Implications for employee use of Enterprise 2.0
The huge productivity and cost savings of collaboration networks, the use of enterprise 2.0 technology within and between companies is reaching critical mass in many companies: the more savvy users of these relatively lightweight tools understand the power of sharing information and working together. The out of focus enthusiasms and fears around 'social media' - the personal use of online shared spaces to socialize, interact and be word of mouth marketed to - are a significant barrier to the understanding and adoption of similar technologies for business organizational use.
The chart above, from the Common Sense Media 'Teen Social Media' page has some interesting parallels not just in managing employees online (of any age) but also on educational sites.
Apart from the entertaining idea of a parent 'pretending to be an adult while chatting with someone online' (8% do it: teens must think adults are idiots take II) these are all actions which apply equally to your offline persona or your online one.
Given that more adults than teens are signing up for Facebook these days, Common Sense Media might want to broaden their focus to explicit adult privacy education also.