Following on last week's post about posting photos on Facebook, here's another source of unknown ramifications our grown children with teenagers are parsing: the photos on their children's smart phones.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 24 percent of teenagers are online "almost constantly." They aren't just playing video games. If they are like my teen grandkids, they are spending time posting photos on Instagram and Snapchat. It's a way to stay in touch with friends.
While they're Instagraming or Snapchatting, mistakes can be made--posting a too-sexy photo, say, or forwarding an unflattering one of a friend or classmate. Do parents have a right to edit what their children post?
Many parents--a recent survey put it at just under 50 percent--check out what their child is posting. My daughter and son-in-law do and they require a "take down" of any photos that are deemed to be "inappropriate." But some kids--my granddaughter is one of them--also store photos on their phones in a camera roll and those photos are often the source of Instagram posts. Is the camera roll fair game for parental eyes?
I was witness to a kerfuffle on this point that broke out during a family weekend visit. It was hard to tell--the flash point became red hot so quickly--just what the parents (my daughter and son-in-law) were trying to check out. All I knew as the grannie in the awkward position of observing a family row was that my Grand huffed off to the guest room in tears, phone clutched to her chest, door slammed shut. Everyone was upset and, with my limited knowledge of the issues swirling around smart phones and teens--and no experience with those issues--there wasn't much I could do to ease the situation or to give what could possibly pass as wise counsel. So I did what I do best. I waited a few minutes, asked my daughter if she minded and then knocked on the guest room door.
Here's what I learned. My Grand agrees with the Instagram rule. She is willing to take down any photo her parents don't think should be up there. And she agrees that they have a right to check her Instagram account whenever they want to. But she sees the camera roll as her private domain. For her parents to peer into it: that's an invasion of privacy.
While I have no experience with camera rolls and teen behavior thereof, it struck me that in my Grand's eyes, the camera roll was tantamount to what in my day was a personal diary. Parents wouldn't read their children's diaries. Or would they? One key difference: There is little likelihood that the scribbles in a personal diary would go viral and be read by everyone in a child's high school.
Writing in the Washington Post's On Parenting, columnist Meghan Leahy repeated this piece of tech-parenting advice a friend gave her. It was about texting but it seems to me to apply to photo scrutiny as well.
'Unless you suspect real danger or have real concerns, do not read your child's texts on a daily basis. It will erode the good trust you have with your child, promote sneakiness in your child and create a 'gotcha' atmosphere in your family.'
Then Leahy, who has three children, added a word or two of her own in reaction to that advice. Her words are ones that we, as parents of grown children whose children are online, can bear in mind--and pass along if it seems appropriate:
Do I still glance at texts, Instagram and Snapchat? Yes. But I tell my child when I do it and what I learned, and then I go into listening mode. The main message is: 'I care. I am watching. I know your heart. I love you. You will make mistakes. I will always be here for you. I am listening.'