What is it like to raise children in an age of zero privacy?

Andrea TomkinsThere’s a video about a hysterical woman who missed her ferry is making the rounds right now. CBC decided to give it some play, even though there’s no real story behind it.  To summarize: there’s a lady, and there’s a ferry. She missed it by three minutes and someone recorded a video of her having a breakdown. We don’t know who she is, or why she acted the way she did. Admittedly, her behavior is pretty outrageous, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she was having some kind of personal breakdown or some inner turmoil that boiled over at a terrible time. What if she has mental health issues? CBC basically ran with the story because of the “viral” nature of the video. There’s really no other reason.

There are numerous examples of public shaming that happen for no reason other than the fact that there happened to be someone nearby with a smart phone. It makes me sad to think that this is the kind of society we’re living in now.

It’s happened countless times. Someone does something stupid, like sending an invoice for a no-show at a child’s birthday party or acts like a jerk on the TTC, and the Internet explodes with anger. What’s worrying is that we rarely have the benefit of the other side of the story.

There was a Twitter account I used to follow, a humourous parody account written by a well-known pop culture character. He tweeted one of those click-baity “you won’t believe these embarrassing moments” links and, of course, I clicked on it. The first photo was of a cheerleader in a white jumpsuit, arm in arm with members of her squad. The photo was snapped right at the uppermost juncture of a high kick. Guess what, she got her period at the worst.possible.time. In pre-smartphone days, some people in the stadium might notice, and she would die of embarrassment, and then it would be over and eventually turn into a bad memory. But NOW, everyone gets to see that awful personal moment, over and over, for the rest of her life. Possibly beyond.

What about websites like People of Walmart, or Worst Haircuts Ever? (Ok I made that last one up, but you get the picture.)

So what have we told our own children? Two things: (a) Never to post anything they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. They can NEVER be the person shooting the video and sharing it because it’s morally bankrupt, and (b) true privacy doesn’t exist anymore. Heaven forbid we do something that someone else considers in bad taste, or slip on the treadmill at the gym, or have a nervous breakdown in a public place. Someone with quick reflexes can grab that footage and have it circulating around the Internet in seconds.

This is, unfortunately, the price we pay for living in such a digitally connected society, in which everyone has the ability to publish anything, at any time.

How would you feel if you were the one caught on camera at your lowest moment?


I think if we let ourselves

I think if we let ourselves believe that privacy no longer exists, and teach our children the same, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If instead we teach our children that privacy is a human right that must be respected and cherished, then we stand a better chance of living in a world where privacy still matters. Plus, kids themselves are demonstrating their respect and desire for privacy – something Mediasmarts’ own research reveals. There will always be jerks looking to exploit another person’s humiliation, and the Internet amplifies that effect, but I don’t think they’ve managed to kill privacy.

Wow…I have to admit this is

Wow…I have to admit this is something I haven’t thought much about before. I think I was still running on a basic assumption of privacy that comes from being raised before the Internet. I love your rules here - I would be very upset with my kids if they were the videographer in these cases, and I think it’s become so important to watch what we do in public. I’m going to put this on our “talk about” list.

Here’s a question for you personally - have you ever been recognized while out and about in the city for your blog or writing? Does it make you more aware or worried about how you act in public?

Lynn - It is a big issue and

Lynn - It is a big issue and it’s one that I’ve really only just started thinking about. To answer your question … we are recognized in public on a regular basis. People have stopped us in the street or at the store. I wouldn’t say I worry, but it has certainly has made me wonder if anyone has ever seen me lose it with my kids. We’ve all had our low parenting moments, e.g. with our sanity hanging by a thread as we try to wrestle our kids into their snowsuits at the end of a long day. Sigh.

Daphne - I agree that we

Daphne - I agree that we should teach our kids that privacy is a basic human right, but I still think that it’s our responsibility as parents to let our kids know how the world works and prepare them for any outcome. And although privacy isn’t completely dead, it’s certainly eroded. There is cause for concern, especially at school where smart phones are the norm.

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