When you walk into any store on the street, it is easy to see that there are products on the shelves, and you are the customer who they hope will buy them. Online shopping is pretty much the same, but what about the rest of the online world? Online services and platforms are presented as products for us as customers to use, but when a “free” service like Facebook is reporting single quarter income of over 12 billion dollars, it’s time to start asking questions.
If most of Facebook’s income is coming from advertising revenue, revenue that is made by selling our user data to anyone willing to pay the price, then we are no longer a user or a customer, we have become the product.
As adults, we may be okay with giving away our data, and being shown products based on our likes and interests. We may be willing to give up some privacy for convenience, but we should be aware of exactly what we are giving away and how it is being used so we can decide for ourselves.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS ABOUT WHERE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY SPEND YOUR TIME ONLINE:
IS FREE ACTUALLY FREE?
We live in a consumer-based society where free doesn’t necessarily mean free. When someone wants to give us something at no cost, we have a tendency to say “look at what this product does.” Instead, our first reaction should be “what is the catch?” because there often is one. In digital media that catch is usually a combination of one or more of: our information, our loyalty and our time.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU INFORMATION IS BEING USED FOR?
Our information belongs to us, but when we sign up for new accounts, we’re choosing to trade some of that information away. We should be aware of the types of information that will be collected and what it is going to be used for. Is there a chance that your private information will be used in a way you don’t agree with? Is content being fed to you based on your actions while online or is it neutral? What, if any type of personal data are you leaving behind in these spaces and what happens when you delete an account. These are all things we should consider before we create a new account and allow new programs into our lives.
DO THE POSITIVES OUTWEIGH THE NEGATIVES?
Platforms will provide a service to you, usually in the form of tools, interactions, or content. We should be cautious about whether or not these services balance out what we are giving up. Are you happy to provide all of your personal information in exchange for targeted ads based on your activity? Do you feel good during and after being in these spaces? Check in with yourself regularly. Make sure you are enjoying a net positive experience. As platforms change, so might your feelings about them.
WHAT ARE YOU GAINING FROM THE SPACE?
By learning which boundaries and values are most important to you and your family, you can make decisions about where and how you would like to spend your time online. Is the space enriching to you? Do you believe that you are gaining any real value from using the space? If yes, keep using it! If not, it’s time to reconsider how or if, you continue to use it at all.
ARE MY CHILDREN SAFE HERE?
As parents we worry even more about digital spaces. We hope that our children grow up in spaces that are loving and honest but we are seeing the negative impacts social media can have on them. Issues such as depression, bullying, and phone addiction have been on the rise. Do the platforms they’re using have a plan in place to protect users, especially vulnerable children and teens? Do your children enjoy these places or feel peer pressured into using them? It is hard to go against the grain of peers, but there are other options for safer, more welcoming platforms for children and teens.
At Mazu, we are building a positive digital village where you are not the product or customer. You are a member of a community of people who share the same values. At Mazu you get to make the decisions and shape your own experience to fit what you need. You can be part of a movement of parents in the building of a new online space built by and for families of all ages. Join us!