As a mom, I make the rules and I expect my child to respect those rules. Recently, though, my daughter turned the tables, and I was fine with her setting the rules, and I was surprisingly just fine with it. She declared that she didn’t want any photos taken of her on the internet, and there was much rejoicing (by me, anyway).
We were on a family trip to Fort George in Canada when I talked her into trying on one of the old British Red Coat uniforms. I was worried about what grubby individuals without hygiene had previously worn the coat, but couldn’t resist asking her to put it on as I reached for my phone so I could take a picture. I wasn’t going to miss this Kodak moment. But my tween stopped me.
“Wait. This picture doesn’t go on your blog, it doesn’t go on Facebook, it doesn’t go in the family photo calendar you make each year, it doesn’t…”
She said it with a bit more attitude than I would have liked, which led me to interrupt and ask, “ Do you have a usage agreement you’d like me to sign?” (And no, I’m not proud that I stooped to her level in a New York minute and matched the snippiness.)
She replied: “You’re the one who told me to be careful about what goes on the internet.”
She was right.
She had listened, although she had worked hard to act like was not. But listen she did. And she did exactly what I told her to do: set boundaries, err on the side of caution, and say no.
I’ve been advised that it’s my blog, she’s my kid, and until she’s self-supporting, I can use whatever material I want when it comes to her. I disagree. I need to support and respect her ability to set boundaries when it comes to her relationship with technology and the internet. I want her to learn to use her judgment when it comes to maintaining her reputation, online or otherwise. And I need her to know that I support her in saying, “No, I do not want that online.”
I know that this doesn’t prevent her from posting photos of which I do not approve in the future (I hope that I never know or see), but going against her wishes now seems more likely to guarantee that she will disregard my wishes, as I have disregarded hers.
Do you ask if your child is comfortable with you posting photos online? I didn’t before that moment when my daughter put her foot down and protected her online reputation. But I do now. I understand parents not wanting to give the child the ability to make that decision. By giving her the right of refusal, I’m hoping to help her get in the habit of asking that question herself when she does have online accounts, even though that’s a few years off. I’m also opening up the conversation about what is okay to post online. Why is she not comfortable with the Red Coat photo? Where should those lines be drawn? I get to offer my opinion, hear and respond to hers, ask questions, and applaud and positively reinforce good choices.
Eric Schmidt, Chairperson of Google, commented last week on parents needing to educate their children about digital footprints early in life. He said, "It might be when they're eight years old, you'll be saying 'don't put that online! It'll come back to bite you!' and then have to explain why."
I’m glad that my kid felt she could say, “Don’t put that online.”
What do you think? Am I giving my kid too much control? Or at the other end of the spectrum, should I post any pictures of her at all?
Other ChicagoNow moms who have younger, less sassy kids have also written about this issue. Check out Families in the Loop's Why I'm Done Posting Photos of My Kid On Facebook and Listing Toward 40's Teach kids Internet security before the sex talk says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
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