I began writing about social media netiquette and ethics for blog readers and writers, but the more I saw kids (elementary through high school) using apps on their smartphones and iPads, and online on sites that I use, I realized that the conversation needed to expand. Like, yesterday. Curious, I began asking what they considered “online rules.”

At school, they learn smart password choices and what information they should or shouldn’t provide. That’s important. Yet none of them understood what I as talking about when I asked if they’d learned what content they’re allowed to upload, download or share.

There’s a missing link in online education – both at school and at home – how to respect intellectual property (IP).

I’m not a parent yet, but amongst my most-savvy friends in social media with kids, like Jessica Gottlieb and Jenny on the Spot, many wait until they are/were 13 to sign up for Facebook. I found it interesting that those most aware and realistic about what happens online shared this regardless of varied parenting styles.

Amongst various reasons, many share this fundamental belief: there are rules online. The Facebook TOS require you to be 13. We respect the rules.

We need the internet to respect us and vice versa.

Teaching kids to respect IP isn’t a lecture, it’s a dialogue, an ongoing and open one. A study released in February, by the London School of Economics’ EU Kids Online, shows that when parents are involved and aware of their kids online use, rather than placing strict boundaries upon it, they can “reduce children’s exposure to online risks without reducing online opportunities, and they also reduce young children’s (9-12 years) reports of being upset when they encounter online risks.” (via Insafe)

If Emily Posted is about ethics, not legalese. It’s about education, not litigation. And with that mindset we need start educating kids.

I’m developing a curriculum in correlation with LINKwithlove.org and hope to begin bringing it into classrooms later this year. It’s a broad subject to tackle, but you can begin with the basics, tailoring this info to age-appropriate conversation.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
Intellectual property online includes the words we read, the images we see, the videos we watch, the music we listen to. Most of it is made available to us for free. But free doesn’t make it ours.

Why does it matter?
If IP isn’t respected, people can suffer. Explain to kids that it can mean loss of income for an artist whose work is distributed and printed without permission. That is can be hurtful when someone copies a photo, even if they don’t know the person, and posts it making fun of them.

What does © mean?
-Explain that when IP is created, the person who makes it automatically has the right to decide how others can copy it. That is their right and © is a reminder of that (although the © isn’t required).
-Sharing someone’s IP online in a public forum is making a copy of it. We have to be sure we have permission to make that copy.

Why does it matter?
-You can explain the possible financial and legal ramifications, but the most important thing to stress is respect. The person who creates something has the right to decide where their work is shown. That is the most important part of copyright. Deciding over WHERE things are copied and how.
-Make sure kids know that they have the same rights. If they take a photo or write a story, it belongs to them. They can choose where it is shared.
-Remind them that placing their IP in certain social networks they might lose the ability to keep up with where copies of their pictures go and how they’re used.

What can happen if we share things that aren’t our?
-Tell them that sharing images that aren’t theirs you can be serious, but sometimes we make mistakes and we share things we don’t realize we don’t have the right to. We all make mistakes. What’s important is that we do something about them.
YouTube made this cartoon for tweens/teens to understand what they can and can’t share on the site (via GOOD Magazine)

Giving credit and social responsibility
-If your kids are using Tumblr or other social networks, show them how to add the source to the image they’re sharing.
-Remind them that they are responsible for what they post. Explain that just because an image has been shared 20, 200, 200 times on Tumblr doesn’t mean it was OK if the photo wasn’t supposed to be shared. It can still have consequences.
-Explain that giving credit isn’t the same as getting permission. If something has a Creative Commons license or is in the public domain, they can use it. Otherwise, ask.

Posting photos
-Kids need to realize that what they place on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr, unless set to private, is literally seen by the whole world.
-Remind them of their rights and why it is important to consider what they publish on various social networks.
-Discuss why they shouldn’t be take their friends photos and republish them in their feeds unless they have permission. Everyone has the right to know where things are copied.

Truth and Consequences
In 2003, a 12 year old girl was one of the first to pay the price when the Recording Industry Association of America sued her for the thousand or so songs she was sharing illegally. I don’t think she understood what she was doing, and yet she was made an example. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work. In huge part, I think, because adults were as uninformed as that little girl was.

Let’s end the cycle of mis-education and misinformation.

Let’s learn what we can and can’t share online and respect them equally.

This IEP post was featured in BlogHer Tech. For more good reads, check out these post on intellectual property:Pinterest and the Intellectual Property Conundrum by Virginia DeBolt and Who’s Digital Files Are These? by Jacqui MacKenzie

5 thoughts on “If Emily Posted – On Kids and Intellectual Property

  1. Digital Diva

    I believe the quote in the movie was, ‘You had me a hello.’ well, you had me at ‘If Emily Posted is about ethics, not legalese. It’s about education, not litigation. And with that mindset we need start educating kids.’

    I am an elementary school teacher (& occasional Tech Integrator for my district). I also present to parents on issues related to their child’s online presence.

    And yes, we must continue to have dialogue with our children, our students, & our parents regarding safety online, BUT!, we CANNOT overlook teaching them about online digital citizenship and the perils of the ‘copy/paste’ habit, especially in a world where more & more youth are remixing multimedia content.

    I see firsthand what this lack of instruction can do as I also teach numerous online graduate courses and most of my participants are clueless when it comes not only to using copyright free material, but also how to give credit where credit is due.

    I feel strongly that this needs to begin in the early elementary grades (& I have seen firsthand that students CAN learn this at an early age).

    I would be more than happy to continue this conversation via email.

  2. Pingback: If Emily Posted: On TOS and Reading the Fine Print | Alexandra Wrote

  3. Pingback: If Emily Posted: On Fair Use | Alexandra Wrote

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