Should Teens Be Given the Chance to Have Their Online Activity Wiped Clean?

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Cybersecurity expert talks online privacy and whether young people should have a cyber reputation

Although many parents talk to their teens about online safety and the importance of privacy and discretion when it comes to social media, the reality is that young people often post information on the Internet that could come back to haunt them in the future.

Now, a new survey has found that 59 percent of people believe that children under 16 years of age should have the right to have their online data permanently deleted.

“We always try and warn our kids that once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever,” says Marcus Harris, technology attorney and cybersecurity expert. “However, kids don’t always heed our best advice, and for that matter, neither do adults. For example, many parents post intimate or embarrassing pictures or information about their child on the Internet, and these images and posts could come back to haunt the child.”

The Under 16 Privacy Bill of Rights seeks to help promote increased online privacy, particularly as it relates to young children who can easily be victimized or overwhelmed by technology. “Most of us would cringe if our teenage diaries or the personal notes we swapped with friends as preteens were easily accessible and viewable for the rest of time, yet that is the future that today’s young people are facing. Parents can warn teens until they are blue in the face, yet even adults post things that they regret online, and the same is certainly true of Internet users who lack the emotional maturity and brain development needed to understand long-term consequences of their actions.”

Harris, partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, says that this bill is gaining the support of the American public, particularly in recent months thanks to scandals like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

“People are now realizing that absolutely nothing that they post on social media is ‘safe’ or private,” says the tech attorney and cybersecurity expert. “As adults, that’s troubling, but when we consider what impact this could have on children, it has the potential to ruin a child’s ability to get into college and purse their dreams, and all before a teenager really even understands the impact of their decisions.”

 

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