My parents drummed into me the importance of “Buyer beware.” Today’s parents need to teach kids a variation on that phrase, “Browser beware.”
One of my younger employees once told me that he preferred digital media to mass media such as television because he didn’t have to suffer through commercials not targeted to him. However, the technology used to target digital ads can harm people who may not be aware of what’s going on (and he certainly didn’t fall into that group).
In 2011, The Journal of the American Association of Pediatrics published a study called Clinical Report—The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. The report by Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and the Council on Communications and Media cataloged both the negative and positive influences that social media can have. The report makes a powerful case for media literacy education.
The authors define social media as any Web site that allows social interaction
These include social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Second Life; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs.
The authors point out that many social sites gather information on the person using a site and use that information to give advertisers the ability to target “behavioral” ads directly to an individual’s profile. They also discuss how this information can come back to haunt kids later in life:
“When Internet users visit various Web sites, they can leave behind evidence of which sites they have visited. This collective, ongoing record of one’s Web activity is called the “digital footprint.” One of the biggest threats to young people on social media sites is to their digital footprint and future reputations. Preadolescents and adolescents who lack an awareness of privacy issues often post inappropriate messages, pictures, and videos without understanding that “what goes online stays online.” As a result, future jobs and college acceptance may be put into jeopardy by inexperienced and rash clicks of the mouse.”