Privacy is a huge concern for many users of social networking sites (SNSs). As danah boyd points out in her article, “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications”, the private and public realms of the online world are blurred and constantly in flux. For instance, the public we may think of as our Facebook friends is separate than our outside world public. Unless of course someone from our outside world, a future employer, or a stalker, for instance, finds something we have posted on our Facebook public…

In Jan 2015, the state of California signed a new bill into law, the “Eraser Bill” which will require social media websites to have a delete button or a way for users under 18 years old to delete any post or picture. The reasoning behind this is that young people should not be held responsible for making particular posts or photos at a young age that could impact their ability to get into college or find a job in the future.

To be honest, my initial thought was that young people need to experience some lessons learned the hard way. But as I think more about this I actually think it’s great, but shouldn’t be used only for children. However, I understand why there’s such an emphasis on protecting (as best they can) children.

Children, just like adults, will do all sorts of crazy things and one alternative option with regards to SNS may be to prevent them from being on these sites in the first place, but let’s be real – we also have an age limit on drinking and they still find ways to get around that. We can’t prevent younger users from not doing things, but we can help protect them when they do. Especially when younger users may think or assume that their Facebook ‘public’ is private and aren’t proactive enough (or just don’t know enough about privacy settings) to make sure their privacy setting are locked down, the option to delete is good to have.

So, in regards to a bill that allows users under 18 to be able to delete a post is a good thing and I agree, they shouldn’t have one photo or one rant post on their Facebook preventing them from ever finding a job and basically having one bad choice haunting them forever. They shouldn’t have to use an alternate name on SNS if they don’t want to. Although the law is slow to catch up with technology, I think this is a good start. We need to remember that Facebook, like many other SNS’s, were not developed or designed with younger users in mind. In fact, Facebook’s design is made to easily lurk other people’s profile. Although I think you need to be 13 to sign up with an account, these limitations are not helpful, because, hey, my dog has a Facebook profile (really, he does).

But then another question comes to my mind: how do you protect posts and photos made by people who are friends with someone under 18? (i.e. Amanda’s and Martha are both 15 and Martha posts a photo of Amanda wearing next to nothing and Martha refuses to delete it..) There is the option of reporting it through Facebook, I know. But that’s also up-in-the-air with Facebook as to what counts as being reportable and what does not (and also, up to a third party figure – employees of Facebook). How are other social media sites such as Twitter, for example, designed and built that allow certain amounts of protection? Twitter allows for users to block others. Ok. Is that enough?

Another thing that should be considered in the fight for privacy and protection of our young ones is that we can’t prevent someone from taking a screenshot of what’s been posted and keeping it. Remember, what goes up on the internet, stays there.

What are your thoughts about how the law can catch up with technology when it comes to young users? Should the law be more involved? Less? Should it be up to the SNSs to integrate a form of privacy and protection for younger users? Is this possible? But also, where does this stop? Should we allow people under 18 to have a delete button in the real world too, so to speak?

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