Information is Forever
There are two basic ways content lives on forever in cyberspace:
- Well, peers and strangers, but more likely someone a teenager knows. Teens can lose control of their words and media in way too many ways, e.g., a comment, photo, or video emailed, uploaded, IM-ed, or shared on P2P file-sharing networks or in old Internet technologies like newsgroups. Once something's in a Web site, shared via P2P, or sent to a friend by cell phone, IM, or e-mail, anyone can grab it, copy 'n' paste it, pass it along, or upload it to a myriad of sites and services. It may be something a friend shares unthinkingly, or it might be passed along "as a joke" or maliciously, by an ex-friend who somehow got the originator's IM or email password.
- If it's in somebody's personal website somewhere, it could be there forever, accessible to anyone's favorite search engine.
- A somewhat strange example is a Kansas City dad's apparently well-intentioned attempt to alert local parents to kids' risky online behavior by creating a website that lists and links to local kids' Xanga and MySpace profiles, in alphabetical order by their first names (see IRL section, below).
- Even after personal Web pages, blogs, and social-networking profiles are deleted, they can live on. Founded in 1996, the nonprofit Internet Archive “was founded to build an Internet library... offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format" (295) —not to preserve teen socializers' content, of course. But if a page has a URL (its own Web address) and it was on the Web anytime after 1996, it's very probably in the Archive (which contains more than 55 billion Web pages, continuously "crawled" by the Archive's search-engine-like spider bots)
Want to learn more? Join Ms. Katie Koestner, a national expert on student safety and “teen relationship culture” for a special evening session “Parenting Skills for Cyberspace” on Wednesday, January 4 at 7pm in the Janet Root Theatre.