If you’re anything like me, you’re probably both amazed and perturbed at the ability of companies to target you with advertisements on Facebook, Google, or Amazon. In some ways, it has proved remarkably helpful, especially when I have to search for odd items occasionally for Children’s Ministry lessons. (So, I’m gonna need haggis, build-your-own gummies, and flash paper. Target doesn’t have those? Huh?)
Anyway, the reason they’re so good at pointing me in the right direction is my digital footprint. In my travels across the far reaches of the internet I have left a digital trail, whether I meant to or not. Phone companies, internet providers, and many websites have data that tracks what I look at and when. If this sounds creepy, it is. But, it’s the world we live in and the world we’ve allowed to be build around us. The amount of effort it would take to change it is greater than we realize, too. (There’s a ton of lobbying money in meta data tracking.) But the key here is that my conscious choices have created this digital crumb trail for me.
But what about your child? Hear me out. I’m not saying that posting pictures of your child is wrong, morally or otherwise. I’m not advocating for less or more of anything, per se, except thought. Consider the idea, if you will, that your child may already have a digital presence without their knowledge. As that child ages, that data will continue to accumulate until when they emerge onto the internet scene, suddenly they realize an environment exists just for them that they had no hand in creating. Advertisements are targeted toward them in an oddly specific way that gives them an uncanny sense that they’ve been here before.
Sounds even creepier than the scenario where they’re tracking you, right? Considering what and how you post pictures and details of your children does impact them later in life. Remember, many, if not most, companies look at social media now as a way to determine whether or not a candidate gets hired. Some children (I’m not saying yours) have had Facebook profiles created for them. That account’s data is now part of the internet. It’s there, and searchable, forever. Remember when we could just completely erase something from history with a shredder or a match? Not so much anymore. Data exists in this massive cloud-web-shared-mind-thingy and erasure isn’t so easy anymore.
Don’t be scared of the internet. Do be aware of what and how you post. Check privacy settings and who can view your account. Be aware of using names and other specific data when posting to social media. This is stuff you’ve heard before, just put into the context of considering your child’s digital presence as well as your own.