Many startups are primarily staffed by 20-somethings that want to save the world... or at least enable you to use your smartphone to make that food truck purchase. While millennials bring a great deal of creativity and energy to a startup, there's one area they lack: experience. While this isn't always a negative, in the area of social media it's almost a deal-killer.
At least, if you're an old fogey parent like me.
Millennials Create A World In Their Image
As Courtney Boyd Meyers, 28 years old and founder of Audience.io, highlights in a Huffington Post article, "We have a lot of stupid apps out there that are all about finding next best restaurant--products geared toward 20-somethings--and I think we’re missing out on products that the rest of the world can use." Sadly, one of those "products that the rest of the world can use" is also the type of product millennials are both best- and worst-suited to create.
Social media applications.
Don't get me wrong. Millennials are the perfect age to figure out how to move social networking off a distinctly a-social device (the computer) and onto mobile phones, snapping and sharing photos while enabling a constant stream of data chattering back and forth. Millennials were born online, and a particular kind of "online": mobile. This experience of growing up mobile is essential to developing the future of social media applications.
But it's also a hindrance when it comes to securing those applications.
Parenting In The Social Media Age
Given the trend toward delaying childbirth - the average age of the first-time mother in 1970 was 21, but in 2008 was 25.1 - this means most millennials have no real concept of parental controls. Including the 30% of millennials who still live at home with their parents.
For those who think that parental controls don't matter, perhaps you've missed the ethics of game developers like Candy Crush. Such games depend upon "coercive monetization tactics" that are designed to prey upon those most likely to pour money into an obsessive game. Perhaps it's fair to suggest that adults can take care of themselves, but what if it's not an adult being pwned by the game? What if, as I've written before, it's my 13-year old son?
And what if my son and others his age are constantly barraged by porn on Instagram and other social media? Still fair game?
Instagram Gives Parents The Cold Shoulder
You may think so, but I don't. And guess what? I'm the parent. However, the parental controls on apps like Instagram are nonexistent. In response to parental concerns about child safety on Instagram, here's the best it can do:
We appreciate your concern for your child's use of our application, but unfortunately we cannot give you access to the account or take any action on the account at your request. We are generally forbidden by privacy laws against giving unauthorized access to someone who is not an account holder.
How comforting. Instagram is happy to set up a Wild West of photo sharing, with porn a simple search or hashtag away, but is unwilling to allow parents to gate access to that content. Perhaps because not a single one of its employees appears to have teenage children. Whatever your views on pornography, a growing body of evidence suggests that it's highly addictive. Given that teen brains are still forming, inflicting an addictive influence on her at that age is hardly fair.
Letting Kids Be Kids
So parents like me simply want ways to enable a safe experience on Instagram and other social media, sharing photos and other elements of their lives. I'm not looking to micromanage my children, but rather to let them grow up without having to grapple with adult issues while still processing them through a teenage brain and body.
This really isn't too much to ask. In the early days of the Internet, all sorts of software was developed to help parents keep the good of the Internet in their homes while sifting out at least some of the bad. But such software was built by an older generation. Today's millennials are creating social media in their image. I just wish some Parental Guidance was involved.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.