Working in digital and social media means you are often drawn into quite personal conversations with people. And by “conversations” I don’t just mean “discussions” or “chats” – but one way broadcasts where your only interaction may be to virtually “nod” (via a “Like”), acknowledge or amplify a situation (via sharing or a retweet). For while social media allows us to “engage” or interact with others, the vast majority don’t. Most of us are “lurkers”.

Lurkers are the 90% of people who use social media to observe. Watch. Listen in. It’s only 1% who create this content. We call this the 90-9-1 rule – or the “1 percenters”.

Participation-Funnel

You may only be “Friends on Facebook”, but this can expose you to a vast insight into a person’s life. For example, lurking you will learn about:

  • Private details – birthdays, relationships status, holidays, workplace, friends and networks
  • Lifestyle – favourite restaurants, foods, cafes, sports, hobbies, games
  • Travel – holiday destinations, desires, interests.

Social media reveals the pattern of your life

Now it all sounds innocuous enough, but think about all these pieces of information put together. What does it reveal? It reveals the pattern of your life. Every item that you post, share, click, promote and comment on can be found in your own feed. Perusing a Facebook profile page essentially provides a glimpse into your private world. For while you may feel that you are just sharing an inspirational quote with your loved ones, it generally means that you are sharing that quote with the friends of your friends. And in isolation you can easily ask – does this tell the “story of me” – and do I feel comfortable with strangers thinking that?

In fact, researcher Sam Gosling and author of Snoop – what your stuff says about you, uses his psychological framework, observation and analysis to explain how our small objects and personal spaces reveal a great deal about ourselves. While his research methodology centres on the analysis of personal bathrooms – his OCEAN framework has also been deployed as a Facebook technology to generate insights from Facebook profiles.

So when you see that 50 people have Liked one of your posts, the 1 Percenters rule suggests that more than 10x that number have “seen” it. And while this doesn’t mean that your update or profile has gone “viral”, it is far from private.

Think of the children

As an adult, this is not that frightening, right? But think of the role modelling that is taking place here. Especially for those who are parents – or who have high levels of interaction with children.

Telstra’s Cyber Safety – Balancing Screen Time Survey asked 1348 Australian parents of children aged 3-17 about their own use of devices. They also surveyed these parents on their children’s use of technology. The research revealed:

  • 65% of parents don’t think they’re good role models when it comes to device usage
  • 77% of parents considered putting controls on the device but 33% didn’t know what is available or HOW to implement it

It is that second bullet point that concerns me the most. Telstra provides Cyber Safety information available via their website, including links to:

  • eSmart – a cyber safety behaviour-change initiative of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, aimed at schools and libraries
  • Smart Controls for customer mobile accounts that can create restrictions on devices
  • Online Security – tools for broadband customers designed to keep your family safe

In the survey, when children were asked about perceptions of their parents’ device usage, 12 per cent said the amount of time their parent spends on their device impacts how well they look after their family, and a further nine per cent say the amount of time their parents spend on their device takes away from their family time.

Telstra’s Cyber Safety Manager, Shelly Gorr, said:

The results are a reminder to parents that they’re a key influencer on their children’s online behaviour.

Moving beyond screen time

There are plenty of additional insights coming from the survey – especially around the often vexed subject of screen time. How much is too much? How do you manage it? Why should you? Most of this is subjective – and dependent upon your own style of parenting. And while there is a real risk related to screen time – there is also much hype, conflicted and skewed research supporting both more and less screen time for kids. But surely this is not  a question of technology – but a question of “what kind of family” and “what kind of adults” are you preparing for the world.

If it is time for parents to step up as digital role models, there’s also a need for support for those parents. We are currently putting together a simple online course for parents interested in protecting their family online – and managing the effects of screen time. If you are interested in this, sign up below and we’ll let you know when it is available.

Register your interest in cyber safety course