They want the right to be ignored by the people who they see as being “in their business.” Teens are not particularly concerned about organizational actors; rather, they wish to avoid paternalistic adults who use safety and protection as an excuse to monitor their everyday sociality. (Boyd, 56)
This chapter, and in particular this section, reminded me of a disagreement I’ve had with my parents time and time again – If I’ve got nothing to hide, then I should have nothing to fear, and therefore my parents should be allowed to access my digital communications without me protesting.
Parents often assume that if teens are being secretive, it means they’re doing something illicit, and by monitoring communications, they are protecting their child from harm. Sure, it’s true that teens do things that break house or school rules, or even laws, but if that’s the case, it would make sense that they would use forms of communication that minimize the chance of later incrimination, meaning their messages would still be difficult to access even if their phone was confiscated. And of course, many teens are innocent in all these respects, and yet still want to maintain their privacy.
Kids (usually) don’t want to keep their texts secret out of fear of punishment for illicit activities from their families, schools, or governments. As Boyd mentions throughout the chapter, it’s simply because there’s a certain level of privacy expected from what is essentially the digital form of a private conversation. Even if it takes place on social media- such as a comments section of a post – its still considered to be the equivalent of a private space, in which only certain members are allowed. If you had a group of friends over in one room, it would be considered rude for someone to eavesdrop on your conversation even if they can technically access that space or a space adjacent to it.
This leads me to the second flaw in many parents logic – when a parents reads their child’s texts, or looks through their social media interactions, they aren’t invading just their own child’s privacy. My parents, for example, often argued that as my parents, they were entitled to the right to invade my privacy. However, by looking at my texts without my permission, they are also invading the privacy of the other party in the conversation. Even if the information being shared isn’t illicit or even that sensitive, it’s awkward and socially odd for someone to have knowledge of the private conversations of people they only indirectly know. The discomfort in these situations doesn’t arise from fear of punishment – rather, it’s the fuzzy boundaries and awkward relationships that can result from such surveillance.