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Sharing Email and Facebook Passwords – Way of the Future?

Crazy kids. The New York Times reported that many teenagers are sharing passwords to their email and Facebook accounts as a sign of affection. It’s the ultimate show of trust when a young couple reads each other’s emails and text messages. Aww. The article goes on to compare this to teen sex, because both are discouraged by parents.

And because a penis and an email are like the same thing.

Seriously, this got me thinking about the bigger implications of privacy on the Web, and the difference in adults’ and kids’ attitudes toward sharing everything, including passwords. Adults may think that password sharing is verboten because:

1) the Web was once a place where you could communicate privately, sometimes anonymously. Remember those snarky comments you used to be able to make in 2002?

2) we’re accustomed to secure passwords in the workplace requiring at least 8 letters and a special character. Sometimes this is so secure that we have to write it down on a Post-It.

3) we make purchases and manage our bank accounts online.

While we still conduct a lot of business online, the Internet is no longer the private space it used to be, thanks to Google and sites like Facebook that require people to use their real names. Try registering on a new site, and you’re hit with the Open Graph, which asks you to sign in with your Facebook account, thereby sharing all your activities and comments on that site with your mother-in-law.

Kids may not think sharing passwords to email is such a big deal because they don’t use email much anyway, preferring IMs and social media. I remember once when I tried to interview a teenager for an article, he didn’t reply to my email for two weeks. When he finally responded, he asked me to message him on YouTube instead, where he was active every day.

Kids think email is for old people, and their posts in social media are public. So really, where’s the harm in sharing a password with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Especially if the messages are anything like, “OMG, did you see what Derek and Lisa did today? They are sooo cute!”

Or: “I’ve gotten my mom addicted to Fruit Ninja. My plan is all coming together now; I expect a new iPhone very soon.” (This is a real post by a girl from Albany, Calif. Not sure if she shares passwords with her mom.)

Most adults think passwords should be kept secret. But teenagers, and the evolving trends in social media, not to mention the dumb mistakes that public figures make—Oops, did I just Tweet that naked picture to all my voters?—are showing that privacy on the Web is a thing of the past. Perhaps now, instead of Elaine from Seinfeld wondering if a guy is “sponge-worthy,” she would question if he’s “password-worthy.”

In the end, if a relationship sours, you can always change the password—and then share it with your next love interest.



  1. Jonathan Teague
    February 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Penis and emails are not even close to the same thing. Emails are much longer…

    I’m 38, My oldest child is 17. He forgets his cell at home all the time and could care less about email or social activity. My most social child is 15. The 15 year old, she doesn’t even know her own email address passwords. Every time she starts the latest cool social app, ie twitter, tumbler or the baby of twitter and tumbler, instagram, she starts a new email address inputs it into her phone for notifications only, and forgets it… Forever logged in, no need for passwords.

    I could care less about her sharing of passwords. She changes email addresses and passwords like boyfriends, whats the point of controlling it? It’s not like she has credit cards or identity info included in any of her activities, other than her facebook check ins… And if someone did ever follow google maps to our doorstep… Well, I’m confident discussions wouldn’t last long.

    In the end, life is full of risk and reward. As long as identities are not at risk of being stolen and abused, it’s all good. Parents, don’t hawk over your kids so much. They’re getting away with more than you could ever know anyway. I mean really, how many McCracken’s could there really be on facebook? If you know your child has one profile, they probably have 3 more at least per social app.

    IG = faith_n_Jonathan

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