The End of Youthful Indiscretions

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Once upon a time, we all did things in public that quickly became simple private memories.

We appeared in grade-school choir concerts, scratching ourselves awkwardly or finding our noses with our fingers. As feisty teens, we wrote angry manifestos for college newspapers. As young adults, we kissed our sweethearts on busy street corners, thrilled by the private publicness of it all.

Those public moments were fleeting, and rarely had any bearing on the rest of our lives.

But young people today, who live in an age of reality TV and security concerns that led to the Patriot Act, likely won't have that luxury. While most adults have a Web presence that dates back no further than 1994, today's kids will enter adulthood with far more of their lives in plain view. This could impact their interactions with college-admissions officers, prospective employers, even love interests.

Those children's choir concerts that used to be relatively private affairs? They now air repeatedly on school-district cable outlets, allowing any channel surfer to focus on your child's familiarity with his nose.

If our teens write political screeds, their words can end up posted forever on Internet Web sites. Every time someone Googles them, their one-time activism will pop up -- even if they no longer hold those beliefs.

As for stolen kisses: Several million surveillance cameras mounted in public locations now feed footage not just to the police, but also to thousands of community Web sites for all to see. These days, nothing public is private anymore. New parents can now build customized Web sites through OurBabyNews.com, posting photos and details about their baby's young life. The Web sites cost as little as $14.95 a year, and just 10% of customers opt for password protection -- the other 90% are open to anybody to peruse.

"Camp cams" provide online video and photos of kids' adventures at summer camp for their parents and others to examine. "Hopefully, 30 years from now,...
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