Instagram,Generation Z,Plain English,Privacy,Terms of service,Adolescence,Social media

A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use ‘in plain English’ so kids would know their privacy rights

January 8, 2017
in Kids

An Instagram employee takes a video using Instagram’s new video function at Facebook’s corporate headquarters during a media event in Menlo Park, Calif. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images) It’s no secret that teenagers love social media. Members of “Generation Z” can spend up to nine hours a day sharing photos on Instagram, consuming “content” on YouTube and talking to friends on Snapchat. (Just don’t ask them to get excited about Facebook.) But how much do these teens understand what they’ve agreed to give up when they start an account with those sites? Probably very little, according to a report released last week — and dense terms and conditions that are “impenetrable and largely ignored” are partly to blame. “‘Terms and conditions’ is one of the first things you agree to when you come upon a site,” Jenny Afia, a privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings law firm in London, told The Washington Post. “But of course no one reads them. I mean, most adults don’t read them.” Afia was a member of a “Growing Up Digital” task force group convened by the Children’s Commissioner for England to study Internet use among teens and the concerns children might face as they grow up in the digital age. The group found more than a third of Internet users are younger than 18, with 12- to 15-year-olds spending more than 20 hours a week online. Most of those children have no idea what their privacy rights are, despite all of them agreeing to terms and conditions before starting their social media accounts, Afia said. The task force, which included experts from the public and private sector, worked for a year and released its report on Wednesday. “The situation is serious,” Afia said in the report. “Young people are unwittingly giving away personal information, with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are going to do with it.” One reason for this became apparent when the task force asked a group of teenagers to read and interpret Instagram’s terms and conditions. Many of them balked at the exercise: Instagram’s terms of use in total run at least seven printed pages, with more than 5,000 words, mostly written in legalese. “Boring!” one 13-year-old girl declared during the exercise. “It doesn’t make any sense.” After 20 minutes, the same teen questioned why she...

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