The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seeks to give individuals stronger rights to compel the behemoths which dominate the world of social media to delete personal data. The Government also stated in its election manifesto (and again in the Queen’s Speech) that the Data Protection Bill would provide young people with specific rights to have content removed upon turning 18.
The “generation of too much information” seemed to so readily accept the abandonment of their right to privacy.
Yet the consequences of doing so, the embarrassment and torment when intimate images or the imprints of intemperate behaviour are posted by others, seems to have taken them by surprise.
And the impact of our dependence on social media on family life cannot be underestimated.
It is common place, when relationships breakdown, for the internet to be scoured for evidence of slights, real or imagined. The obsession with the tools of social media, the tablet, the ‘phone and the laptop have almost become a “third hand”. One can only wonder whether generations to come will evolve limbs which can more readily “click on”.
And what of the more subtle impacts on family life? Previous generations agonised over how many hours children watched TV. Parents now agonise over how many hours children should spend on the internet.
But, what of the profound impact on the ability of young children to form attachments to their parents?
It is no longer commonplace to see a young parent, singing nursery rhymes into the buggy or engaging in the incoherent toddler babble which is the medium of the fledgling raconteur. But it is commonplace to see those parents staring blankly instead into their tablets, and babbling equally incoherently into earphones as their toddlers crave attention and affection elsewhere.
Few would argue that young people’s teenage misdemeanours should not remain indelible stains upon their future. As one commentator on the Bill glibly remarks:
The copywriting of one’s shallow existence. How very quaint. I like it.
But there is perhaps a greater threat than that of embarrassment or internet ignominy.
Our ability to form relationships, to function as empathic and engaging, socially effective individuals depends upon the manner in which we are nurtured as young children. Our engagement with social media may be a bigger threat than we imagine.