Nothing says back-to-school madness like a Facebook feed full of smiling faces holding sweet signs exclaiming, “First day of 2nd grade!” or “I’m in preschool now!” And today, as my boys are off enjoying(?!) their first days—one in kindergarten, one in 3rd grade—my page is quite obviously missing that milestone picture. Not because I don’t post my kids’ pictures online, but because, quite honestly, I didn’t get a great shot. And, well, we all want to look like we got our kids to dress in matching clothes and comb their hair for the first day of school in Facebookland, right?
In all seriousness, I’ve been thinking a lot about kids and what I post online since I was interviewed for this AP article about families who refuse to post pictures of their kids on Facebook. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait here patiently while you do…
No photos: Parents opt to keep babies off Facebook
I know. My Facebook friends are all whispering under their breath, “Why on earth would someone interview Miss Overshare for such an article?” But the truth is, I do give what I post online a lot of thought. (And because I’d spoken to a colleague at Common Sense Media about some of these things, she introduced me to the reporter researching the subject. So, yeah, I’m totally famous now. Well, at least 10 whole people have clicked through to my blog from the article and now know way more about my kids than they think I should be sharing online. Oops. See? It’s so very complicated!)
When I started this blog, I was extremely fortunate to be running the Yahoo! Mother Board. We held a conference call for the bloggers I was working with, hosted by Yahoo! Safety and Common Sense Media—a wonderful not-for-profit that helps parents navigate the digital world with kids. These experts gave a lot of great insight to our kids’ digital footprints, and that every piece of information we share about them becomes part of who they’ll be online as they grow up.
I’ve thought what you’re likely thinking too. “How on earth will a future employer be able to pull up that embarrassing photo of my kid’s #fail years from now?” The truth of the matter is, I don’t know. But based on the progress technology has made in the past 10 years, I can only imagine what capabilities facial recognition software and search will develop in the next 10 plus.
So I was lucky. Because that conference call years ago gave me pause about starting a parenting blog. But it also gave me the tools to be smart about how I approached it. From the start, I promised myself:
1) I’d use non-descript screen names for my kids (and husband).
Almost every article of mine that’s shared by another outlet gets outraged readers commenting that I’ve named my kids such horribly offensive names. Pink? Pink?! But I use Big, Little, Pink, and Lenny (which I promise is not a reference to my husband’s intelligence based on a famous literary character as many people like to assume) for two reasons. One, because I don’t want people to be able to search their names later in life and easily find a post I wrote featuring one of them—even if it’s the most lovely thing ever written on the planet. They didn’t sign up for that. Two, because I want them to read like characters in my story. Because that’s what this blog is. My story. I know that and I hope when they read things I’ve written that make them laugh, blush, and cry later in life, they’ll know that too. I can’t wait to read their stories and get to know the them they discover as the years go on.
2) I wouldn’t use identifiable pictures of my kids…or anyone else’s.
I stuck to this for a long time. But then, well, I just felt like I was robbing the world of some outrageously cute faces. (I’m kidding. Or am I?) Frankly, I was having a hard time finding photos that I felt emotionally connected to my words. So I caved. (Just wait ’til Pink’s future agent gets a load of the Cheerio up her nose, right?) Plus, along came Instagram, and well, forget about it. Though I still absolutely ask before posting pictures that include others’ kids—on my blog or on any social media platform.
3) I don’t use specifics about where we live or where we are at a given moment.
I don’t geo-tag pictures, I don’t hashtag my kids’ schools…I don’t make it easy for people to find us at any moment in time. I know anyone who really wanted to could track us down, but that’s just a level of information I choose not to share.
4) I’d ask Lenny before posting on a sensitive topic, for fear that it might make him uncomfortable.
My husband is a private person. He doesn’t use social media. So, when I’m writing about topics that seem especially personal for our children, I ask him first. He’s always been game, but I think it’s important that both parents agree about what’s being shared.
5) I’d think about how my kids would feel if they read what I was writing.
Ok, I definitely I have work to do on this one. Goodness knows there have been laughs along the way that may have been at their expense (though I really and truly always try to make myself the butt of the joke), but I really try to tell stories that are relatable about being a mom. People relate to real—to raw honesty. And now, as Big is getting older, he does actually read the posts I write about him. So far, he hasn’t asked me to stop. In fact he even seems to love being the subject of my writing. But when he does say enough, I will listen.
Yeah, it’s true. I’m a bit more loose on Facebook than I should be in terms of using names and other identifying information, but it’s not because I haven’t thought about it. I encourage you and your family to think about it too.
In my opinion, there’s no wrong or right—my way may not be your way. And I’m ok with that. (Not in all cases, I’m a very opinionated person. But as far as social media goes do as you will.) I respect people on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. I just think it’s important to really take a moment to think about where you stand every now and then—to be sure you’re being true to your family values.
If you want some more food for thought, check out Common Sense Media’s Privacy and Internet Safety page.
Where do you stand? Do you share pictures and other personal information about your kids online?
Have you subscribed to receive my posts via email (right down there below this post)? I’d love to continue connecting and
oversharing with you.
Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri says
Amy, this is an important topic. Sometimes I am hesitant on what to post, but have set certain boundaries for myself. I don’t use names of my loved ones, but have used pictures in the past. As my daughter gets older, though, I will probably stop posting pictures. It is such a delicate balance and each writer defines what works for her (or him). Thanks for bringing attention to this subject.
Amy, Using Our Words says
Thanks for reading it, Rudri. It sounds to me like you’ve put a lot of thought in to it, and that’s what’s important. It’s great that you’ve set boundaries that work for you!
This is an important subject, Amy. As you know, I actively follow RSO issues, which have taught me that protecting children is the parents’ job, and not law enforcement’s. The measures you are taking are critical to their overall safety. There are a lot of sick people out there who can target children with little information. I also believe that parents should ditch using their smart phones when in public with their kids so that all eyes are on them. Forget backpacks, hats, shirts, and jackets with the kid’s name on it. These are open invitations to predators who know how to lure children. Just sayin….
Amy, Using Our Words says
Great reminders. Thanks, Linda!
Michael Lombardi says
I actually came here through Common Sense. (:
I’m a bit on the extreme side when it comes to this. It doesn’t bother me that other parents post their kids. In fact, I’m a bit jealous. My kid is damn cute and I’m proud to have a cute kid!
It’s not child predators or even future employers that keep me from posting.
I feel like if there were pictures of my awkward years on the internet or even pictures of me with a bare butt as a toddler, I’d be embarrassed. I wouldn’t want those pictures circulating in high school because someone thought making fun of me would be a good time. And kids do that more than ever these days.
So it really just comes down to The Golden Rule. I treat my kid the way I’d want to be treated. I don’t post her name or her face. She has a nickname and I will occasionally post a picture of part of her that isn’t uniquely identifiable. On my blog I don’t post the name of my wife or my two dogs either. On Facebook, my wife and I are connected as being married, so I don’t refrain from using her name or picture. But she has the ability to view what I post and object. My daughter wouldn’t really have that option.
Anyhoo. Sorry, I tend to ramble. :-b
Amy, Using Our Words says
Thanks so much for connecting here–I’m glad Common Sense helped you find this post and engage in the conversation. That’s a great standard, Michael. Your kids–who are, no doubt, darn cute–will surely thank you one day.