I recently read an article about parents who set up their children’s email and social media accounts at birth. In some cases, parents registered accounts before the birth!
Although we all want the best for our kids, is this really a good idea?
On the practical side, it assumes that our kids will be using the same email and social media we use. Keep in mind, technology changes rapidly, on average every three years. Facebook (Meta) and Twitter haven’t even been around twenty years yet. Email has been around for decades. Should we assume that our kids will use that as a primary form of communication the way we do? Last summer my practicum student replied to our ad to work on an email management project. She did a brilliant job, which I found impressive for someone who doesn’t even use email.
On the privacy side, shouldn’t our first priority be to protect our children from, and on, social media? I have an email account with my real name. Though sometimes I wonder if that’s such a good idea with email handles linked to so many aspects of my identity. In many ways, an email address is another unique identifier. Although an email address may not be as distinct as a SIN/SSN, driver’s license, or passport number, in combination with other elements it can be used accurately for identification. All this to say, is registering an email or social media account with our kid’s real name in their best interest? Especially before the child is even able to use social media.
Another point on the privacy side is posting images or news about children on social media. The article described some parents creating an ersatz digital archive for their kids on social media accounts. But again, this assumes the technology will be around by the time the child is able to use it. Or interested in it.
And what about the child’s right to privacy? A lot of new technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition to identify people in real life instantly by using posted images on the internet. When our kids grow up, do we want some cache of digital images documenting their babyhood and childhood available on the internet?
Until privacy laws improve and technology protects our privacy better, I wouldn’t set up anything for my kid digitally, unless it was absolutely necessary.