A new initiative called iRights has launched recently and it could mean that under-18s will soon be able to delete and edit whatever they post online. The campaign is calling for the government to make the web a safer environment for young people and allow them to delete their social media past.
In a world where your reputation online is as important as it is offline, I look at why giving young people this control is so imperative, whilst outlining the main points of the iRights campaign.
In the current online environment, it is all too easy for young people to post something at the click of the button without considering or understanding the impact it could have on their future. iRights is based on the principal that adults should not have to bear the shame of past immaturity, or have it affect their career opportunities.
The push comes after Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in the house since the 17th century, was ridiculed for tweets she posted as a young teenager, including one which read “maths is sh***”. Online and social media behaviour is now customary to the background checks that are carried out by prospective employers, so what is recorded on there is more important than ever.
As an adult, the permanent nature of the internet and the dangers it can have can be understood. But for a child, this level of understanding cannot be expected because it’s not something they’re taught.
Making mistakes is an essential part of growing up, but the internet never forgets and never corrects. It collects information and presents it without context – employers could come across something and not know how long ago it was published, what age you were or what your personal circumstances were. In this digital age, it’s extremely difficult for young people to get away from their past and move on.
Where we stand now
As things stand, it takes just one click to post something online, but trying to remove it is a different story. Most social media networks already enable users to delete personal information and posts from their accounts, but does it completely disappear once it’s ‘deleted’?
Any time we enter information on social media, metadata about that content is sent back to that network’s database where it is stored, along with any personal details you’ve provided – known as ‘caching’. So even though it’s not in the public domain, it still exists. This is something iRights wants to change for under-18s, but not initially. Their priority is to first open up the option to delete content in places that don’t already provide it.
Baroness Beeban Kidron is leading the Government plans to adopt the proposals and she wants to encourage all websites to feature ‘delete’ buttons and to introduce expiry dates for data acquired from under-18s.
“This is about bringing the option to delete up to the front of a website, making it easy and marking it clearly, but we are looking into the caching issue. We want to check ‘how deleted is deleted?’”
The five rights
- The right to remove: Every child and young person should have the right to easily edit or delete all content they have created.
- The right to know: Children and young people have the right to know who is holding or profiting from their information, what their information is being used for and whether it is being copied, sold or traded.
- The right to safety and support: Children and young people should be confident that they will be protected from illegal practices and supported if confronted by troubling or upsetting scenarios online.
- The right to informed and conscious choices: Children and young people should be empowered to reach into creative places online, but at the same time have the capacity and support to easily disengage.
- The right to digital literacy: To access the knowledge that the Internet can deliver, children and young people need to be taught the skills to use, create and critique digital technologies, and given the tools to negotiate changing social norms.
The iRights initiative gives a unique insight into how government can join with technology companies to make a better and safer digital world for young people. If you’d like further advice on managing your teenager’s personal information online take a look at my guide, or get in touch with me in complete confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org or on tel: +44 (0) 203 542 8689.