ICQ was the big thing when I was a kid. It was one of the Internet’s first live chat rooms, very popular with the kids in the early years when it was still referred to as “the Worldwide Web” and your dial-up modem took 10 minutes at minimum to connect, so you had to really want it. Every single kid in my junior high class had ICQ and squealed to each other about how exciting it was over recess.
My parents forbade me to have it. It was a rare moment of evolutionary foresight — my parents saw just how dangerous the “Worldwide Web” could become. At the time, the primary concern was that I would connect with someone who was not the 14-year-old schoolgirl they claimed to be, a legitimate fear considering the opportunities chat rooms presented for lecherous older men. Despite their good judgment, I don’t think anyone could see just how awful the Internet would become.
Sometimes I look at what teenagers do over social media and I feel a pang of loss for the simplicity of that archaic chat room. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and countless other platforms offer teens the opportunity to share information with EVERYONE. Think about that: if you stop the part of your brain that takes technology for granted, you realize that literally every single thing you post on the Internet can be revealed at one time or another for either good or evil.
You can have your privacy settings at the highest level, and there are still people who can access that information. Teenagers, who don’t always have a reputation for being cautious (I was one, once upon a time, so I know), don’t always realize what digital eternity can mean for them.