I'll be the first one to admit that a teenager can figure out all the new shortcuts in iOS7 faster than I can — which, like the joke about teenagers being the only ones able to program the family VCR so many years ago, makes them more intuitive about how the newest electronics and software work. This, however, does not make them more "savvy" about the implications of technology, privacy or the staying power of information the Internet. Few 13-year-olds are contemplating the repercussions of a Facebook faux pas on their job prospects after college.
But whether it's the teens who trashed former NFL player Brian Holloway's house and posted the evidence for all to see on social media sites, or the sad story of Amanda Todd, who was bullied by classmates on Facebook to the point of suicide after taking a topless photo surfaced, there's ample evidence that the technological skills of teens have little correlation to their ability to accurately assess the long-term consequences of their online actions.
While Facebook has repeatedly denied a financial motivation behind the privacy changes, it's clear that the move is motivated by a desire to retain an audience thought to be abandoning the platform, and whose business model is accessing eyeballs and data for advertisers. You would think Facebook would think twice about the implications of allowing underage kids' information, pictures and words to be part of the public record. After all, the people running Facebook aren't kids anymore.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.