Today, I'm wondering about how librarians talk about teens and kids in the library and when it's potentially harmful. Or, rather, what are the consequences, intended and unintended.
As I was reading Twitter this past weekend, there was a lot of talk about a recent convention where a panel went bad, things were said, then it was discovered that teens organized the panel and the talk changed to both "golly, glad social media wasn't around when I was a teen to capture all that" with a side of "what was the organization thinking, to basically approve the panel and offer no guidance or resources to make sure that the panel didn't go as wrong as it did."
I'm not linking to it, or adding to specifics, in part because a, the particulars don't matter, and b, I don't want to add to the digital footprint surrounding the teens involved.
It did make me think of a topic I've mused about, how much of the talk around teens and social media is around what the teens do and so and how they need to be taught about digital footprints and consequences and all that. Those are all good conversations to have, and YALSA has done a great job with things like its Social Media Guide for Teens. And ALA's Choose Privacy Week. As ALA says, "Through programming, online education, and special events, libraries
will offer individuals opportunities to learn, think critically and make
more informed choices about their privacy."
Informed choices about their privacy.
But, what about when when there is no choice? When it's someone else, writing and posting and sharing?
And a few things as I go further. The internet is a big place, with lots on it, and people use it in many ways. So I'm not talking about places that are private or closed. And I'm not talking about personal sharing, about family and friends where they are well aware of what's being shared.
I'm talking within the context of librarians, either sharing professionally or work-related, or with enough details that it may as well be work related.
I'm talking about librarians talking about their patrons and customers.
I'm talking about places that are public and meant to be public -- not places that are closed, or need to be joined to be seen.
And I'm talking about the types of posts where the library, and thus the patrons, can be easily identified.
In short, I'm thinking of posts that talk about children and teens that, if read by those minors, or their family members, brings about a "uh oh, I know that library, that librarian" and the details are such to then say "and I know that kid."
And has "that kid" been written about so that now all the world sees, now and as long as it's part of a Google search, particulars that, given the choice, that kid would have chosen to keep private?
Maybe it's about things the minor patron did at the library. Maybe it's not even something the librarian thought was bad. But if the story is, here is this great turnaround and shows the positive impact my library had on this teen . . . well, when did the minor teen consent to their life being shared? And, as I note, being shared so specifically that they can be identified?
Or maybe the story is about challenges the minor and the family is facing. Those can be anything -- as an example, financial. And your point may be about the positive impact of the library, and the resources the library can provide, and how the library matters in the lives of people who are struggling. Does that sharing contain types of details that if read by that teen and their family and their friends, those reading know exactly who is being talked about? Whose father lost a job, whose mother faces foreclosure?
I'm not saying not to share great, powerful, meaningful stories that involve teens. But I am asking . . . if we talk about teens, and privacy, let's also be mindful of the role we play in creating a minor's social footprint.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy