Why an internet that never forgets is especially bad for young people

As part of the Screentime Research Group, I’ve been thinking a lot about our digital literacy practices, and how youth will be impacted by these tools in their futures.

Kate Eichhorn, an Associate Professor of Culture and Media at The New School suggests that people are now forming their identities online from an early age, and in the process are creating a permanent record that’s impossible to delete.

This incessant documentation did not begin with digital natives themselves. Their parents and grandparents, the first users of photo-sharing services like Flickr, put these young people’s earliest moments online. Without Flickr users’ permission or knowledge, hundreds of thousands of images uploaded to the site were eventually sucked into other databases, including MegaFace—a massive data set used for training face recognition systems. As a result, many of these photographs are now available to audiences for which they were never intended.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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