Article first published as Facebook’s New “Download Your Data” Feature Just Might Teach Us Something on Technorati.
Fact: 92% of U.S. toddlers have an online presence by the time they’re two years old, Mashable reports. Everything from a single photo upload to an online photo album to a full-fledged online profile.
Fact: Twenty-five percent have some form of an online existence before they’re even born.
Fact: I just threw up a little.
We’ve just gone from social networking to the newest reality show: “Pimp My Kid.” OK. Maybe that last one's a stretch. Then again, maybe not.
Imagine these kids being able to give their parents their digital footprints for the holidays. The ceramic ones we made for them in grade school of our actual prints? So last century.
Among the study’s other key findings; the degree to which adults’ own online data trail extends into cyberspace.
Smith said he found it “shocking” that most 30-year-olds have an “online footprint stretching back 10 to 15 years at most, while the vast majority of children today will have online presence by the time they are two-years-old — a presence that will continue to build throughout their whole lives.
The above may or may not surprise you. One indisputable reality is that everything we do online lives forever. For better or worse. The Internet is like an annoying elephant. It never forgets. Don’t believe me? Ask Christine O’Donnell. Bazinga.
Enter Zuckerberg and Co.’s recent announcement that users are now able to download their Facebook data right to their computer. Yup. You read that right. Every wall post, photo, message, party invite or chat log is now yours to keep and cherish forever, if you care.
In the scheme of things, this concept is is nothing all that new. Many of the major blogging platforms have long enabled users to download and archive their posts along with the accompanying data. However, this new feature is a big step toward allowing users of social networks to do the same. For those who are into the idea of a digital scrapbook chronicled via Facebook, rock on. I have no doubt there will be many people taking advantage of this feature. Sometimes it can be fun to look back and realize how much we’ve changed. Or not.
Depending on when you joined and just how social you are, you’re potentially looking at up to six years worth of information. Ouch. Of course, If you think six years of Facebook data is a scary reminder of just how unforgiving the Internet can be, image what these kids will have to contend with in the future. And it’s not just Facebook. It’s the whole World Wide Web.
Not that we should be paranoid. Absolutely not. Just careful. Cognizant of the fact that everything we do online has consequences. For that reason, social media and digital literacy is essential for everyone, kids and adults alike.
This is especially true for parents, who are creating their child’s digital footprint at a time when they are too young to understand what that will mean for them down the road, or have any control for that matter. The responsibility to be mindful of the long term effects falls to parents. And, as I’ve talked about before, it’s also imperative that teens and young adults understand the importance of reputation management for themselves when interacting online.
When I stop and think about it, six years of data seems like a steal. I grew up with the Internet. Today’s kids are growing up on the Internet. That’s a distinction with a very marked difference. A difference I am very thankful for, and I’m thankful that the latter is not a battle I have to fight.