We all have friends in social media who use their platform of choice (often Facebook) to share every last detail of their children's lives, from the dreaded potty training details to tears over not making the soccer team to standardized test scores, percentiles and all. But when does what you share about your kids online cross a line? How much is too much?
In the New York Times this weekend, James P. Steyer, the founder and chief executive of Common Sense Media (a website I find to be a fabulous parenting resource), wrote an article entitled "Learn to Avoid the Trap of 'Sharenting.'" In it, he explains that we as parents should be aware that their sharing decisions shape their children's digital footprints.
Steyer stresses that "it's important that we remember our choices could have wide-ranging and unforeseen consequences now and in years to come."
He advises that parents utilize small, closed groups on social media that are private places to share private moments and that parents be cautious about what they share.
As a blogger who writes about both children and the dangers that lurk online, especially when it comes to our children's time and identity online, I'm acutely aware of the issues that come with sharing about children.
I feel that my blog is about my experience as a parent, not about my daughter's experiences. Here are 3 ways I try to be respectful of both her privacy and her digital footprint when it comes to blogging
1. I follow the golden rule.
If she should have a blog someday, I would want her to be judicious and thoughtful when writing about me. Seems only fair to offer her the same consideration now. I know that there's the Anne Lamott quote, "If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." But I don't think that applies to minors who are finding their way in the world and need their parents to support them as they engage in trial and error and learn from their mistakes.
2. I do not offer up her name, nor do I share photos of her face.
Her surname is different from mine, which does make the name thing easier.
Long-time readers are probably pretty familiar with the back of her head at various places around town, as I have shared those photos, but I've gotten away from even doing that lately. I shared a few photos early on and was surprised at the places they ended up (I was able to see exactly where after doing a reverse image search on Google? Amazing what that revealed.)
3. I ask her before sharing info.
I ask my tween both before writing about her and before posting photos of her on social media. She knows that she can tell me "no" and I'm proud when she does so. I encourage that. Protecting your digital footprint and image is important. I'm hopeful that if she has practice telling me no, she'll be able to do the same with friends who want to post something she'd rather they not.
When I was writing about our ride on the Banana Taxi recently, I stayed up late to finish that post. My husband asked me why, given that my tween was leaving the next morning for a week with her father and that I would have plenty of time when she was gone to finish it. I explained that she had okayed me sharing what I consider to be somewhat sensitive information in that post and that I wanted her to read it to be sure she was absolutely okay with it before I hit publish.
Protecting her privacy but also publicly proclaiming my immense pride in her is still a balancing act, one that requires constant checking and tweaking and that also involves some second guessing.
I posted several photos from her recent birthday celebration on my Facebook account, which is privacy protected, but I still worry. Was it too much? Are my friends truly trustworthy? Will she later regret approving them?
From what I can tell, when you search her online, my writing does not come up, nor do my social media shares about her. Hopefully, if things have gone as I have hoped and planned and intended, when she applies to college, goes for job interviews, or is just the subject of a curious individual, what will turn up in Google searches of her will be the things she has chosen to share, not what I have said or posted. Let's hope that, at that point, we have both made good choices.
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