A new law in California makes it much easier for minors to erase their digital past, but what implications does this have for holding kids responsible for things they’ve posted online? The law, which will come into effect in 2015, lets children and teens under the age of 18 make a request to any website to remove their personal information, including things on their social media profiles.
Kids are now going online at a younger age (even LinkedIn has lowered its minimum age for membership to 14 in the US, and as low as 13 in other parts of the world), and the state of California is recognizing the need to protect minors who may regret something they’ve posted online.
True, everyone makes mistakes in their youth, and although it’s important to protect the online privacy of minors, a lot of the material that needs to be removed are things that these kids have posted themselves. Notably, the law won’t protect images that have been saved and re-posted to another website by someone else.
Less personal responsibility?
This clearly brings into question the degree to which we hold minors responsible not only for their actions, but also how these actions represent them online. Youth has almost always been associated with rebellion, and although it’s a lot easier to pull skeletons out of the closet in the digital age, where virtually everything is immortalized online, it’s still important for minors to be conscious of how they use social media in the first place.
Adults also have the option of deleting their online past using programs like JustDelete.me, but it’s easier to remove information from some sites than from others, and there certainly isn’t a law that requires websites to help you in the process.
justdelete.me shows you how difficult it is to remove yourself from various websites.
Coincidentally, the biggest problem could be for people just on the brink of adulthood, those who grew up in the early digital age and have plenty of online skeletons in their closet, but who are aged over 18 and consequently are not protected by the law, which doesn’t work retroactively.
Teaching online etiquette
It would be more useful to teach kids online etiquette and social skills: having an online presence is becoming more and more important, especially in the working world. Even YouTube is taking an active role in managing online etiquette with its new comments features, allowing for better comment moderation and control to encourage a more positive community on the video streaming site.
Learning how to be smart and respectful of yourself and others online could be more beneficial than an emergency, fail-safe ‘delete’ button. After all, as kids will certainly find out, not all bad decisions in life are that easy to eliminate.
What do you think about this new law in California?