On the Social Media Divide

The generational divide regarding how social media users define privacy in their online forays on Snapchat and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, is something that many folks may not even realize exists.

But illuminating that concept is among the topics that will be discussed on Sunday during Social Media and Privacy for Parents, a free forum at Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library from 1 to 2 p.m. 

Arielle Hessler, John Jermain’s emerging technologies librarian, will conduct the session.

“One of the concepts we’ll be discussing is how teens and younger people view privacy more as the image you project on social media — they’re not protecting something as much as they’re concerned with the image they choose to show,” Ms. Hessler said. “Older people tend to think of privacy more as something you hold onto, protect.” 

Ms. Hessler also plans to touch on the ethics of monitoring teenagers’ and children’s social media use, safety tips, and ways that visitors can tweak the settings on their accounts (or help their kids to) to make sure they’re achieving the privacy levels or images they want to project. 

A lot of information exists on each site — Instagram, for example, had a privacy manual for parents even before it was acquired by Facebook, Ms. Hessler said. “But it’s one of those things that unless you know it’s there, you wouldn’t know to look for it. We’ll talk about that, and things like the default settings that exist on each of these programs, and how you can go in and change them to be very, very private, if you want.”

Ms. Hessler also plans to provide some common-sense advice (don’t post information about family trips while you’re gone so opportunists aren’t tempted to break in), and she expects some discussion about how adults view monitoring what their children or young friends put online. 

“You get some parents who have very strong opinions about social media and their kids, and they say, ‘I have a right to see whatever my kids post,’ ” Ms. Hessler said. “Well, that might be fine for you, but not everybody else.” 

Many parents, for example, don’t know that if they’re the owner of the cellphone plan their kids are using, they can get copies of all text messages on each line from their service provider, Ms. Hessler said. But how far do parents want to take that? And what is their obligation to inform their children — and by extension their children’s friends and the other children’s parents — that their texts aren’t necessarily private? 

Noting that she’s not all that far removed from college or even high school herself, Ms. Hessler said, “My parents never watched me like that, but if they did, it’s something I’d expect them to tell me they were doing. The questions of what’s appropriate and what’s not do come up a lot, and I don’t want to act like I know all the answers, because I’m not a counselor. Anything I said would just be my personal opinion. But to me, it shouldn’t be a secret thing if you’re spying on someone. If you’re not open with your kids, you can’t expect them to be completely open with you.” 

In addition to Sunday’s event, John Jermain will offer programming on April 28 to kick off Screen Free Week, a national effort from April 29 to May 5 to get families to reconnect by ditching the use of cellphones, tablets, and TVs. Gary Osborne, a Waldorf educator and art teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, will host the event from 1 to 2 p.m. He plans to give families fun ideas and strategies for things they can do together while they’re screen-free.