My son came running through the door, furious. He was outside playing in a public area, when he noticed girls from his school ‘spying on him,’ he said. I looked outside, and sure enough, there they were, peeking around the corner. But there was more. “They’re videoing me, Mom. They’re videotaping me and my friends playing and it’s creepy.”
Two days later, one of my sons' friend's came running up to me, upset because during an argument over an impromptu soccer game, one of the kids, another middle schooler, pulled out an iPhone and started videoing the argument and the calls from some of the boys to fight, live, on video. Despite repeated requests for her to turn off the video, she refused. He was more upset about being videotaped than the calls by the other kids standing around to start a fight.
This is the newest land mine we parents of today have to overcome: loss of privacy in a world where everything is made public, regardless of consent. Children do not necessarily enjoy being videotaped without consent, but it’s the new normal. We think our kids are numb to it. They’re not, but they don’t have any tools to deal with it. We’ve reached a point where technology has outpaced our ability as parents to respond, and can barely navigate the technology ourselves, must less teach our children how to navigate that technology. On one side, we have parents telling other parents not to put pictures of their children on social media while on the other side, the children themselves are doing just that, casually and without consent.
It’s a new conversation we need to have, one we’re trying to have, but we lack solutions and practical measures. What can I tell my son to do when he’s in a public space and his peers are video-taping him? It’s not illegal, after all. What should we do with the teenager who videotapes something disturbing, and instead of bringing it to the attention of authorities, uploads it for the entertainment of his or her peers? Is that child responsible for inaction, if he or she had the power to report the incident but instead turned it into a disturbing, but sadly common entertainment - victimization, bullying or assault of a peer? Our children are growing up in a world where they will not know any privacy, where every other day a new app that defies parental technology shows up, where eventually, parents give up in frustration and trust their children, not realizing how dangerous that is.
Luckily, I live in a small neighborhood, and in both instances, the parents of the children intervened, ensuring the pictures and videos would be erased. In the aftermath, I’m struggling to find a way to help my sons understand a way to retain privacy in a world where everyone can be uploaded and sent viral.