Friday, January 31, 2014

How to Respect Your Children While Using Social Media

Anyone else completely torn over how much of their children they should put on social media?

 I love sharing pictures of my children, I love sharing their cute stories and things they say.

I know my friends and family like to read it.  I know my friends and family like to see it. I know cute kid pictures and posts gets tons of comments and likes and views. 

Everyone wants to show off their kids, and share their funny sayings....because well, it's fun.  We love our children.  We're proud of them.  Everyone thinks their kids are the cutest, the smartest, the funniest.

We want to share it and people like to read that.  And, that is a good thing. 

But, the thing is, children are people too.  And they don't stay small forever.   They grow up, and then they have to live with whatever their parents posted about them forever. 

And, I'm really, really wondering how this generation of children is going to feel about having their entire childhood blasted over social media.....blogs, Facebook, Instagram, etc., etc, etc. 

How are they going to feel about the fact that we may spend a considerable amount of time, talking and writing about them, in a public forum.   Even Facebook and things like that are more public than we like to think.  Nothing is really private anymore.  Nothing. 

Laura wrote about this a few months back, and I really appreciated her excellent post, but it dealt a bit more with safety issues.  I'm talking more about how our kids will feel.  I don't want my kids to ever look back at this blog and cringe or feel violated by the stories or photos I post of them. 

Some bloggers avoid talking about their kids at all, some bloggers don't call their kids by name (using things like #1), and some bloggers, like Jessica, come up with totally super awesome pseudonyms for their kids. I honestly wish I had thought of that before I started this blog.   But, I didn't.  I use my kids' real names, which are great names, if I do say so myself. 

I'm not saying this is perfect, but, I've come up with 7 rules for myself, to respect my kids while still sharing them on social media.   If you feel differently, that's okay.  And, I apply these rules to all social media....blogs, Facebook, Instagram (not that I use Instragam, but if I did, I would apply them). 

1. The older they get, the less I talk/post about them.  This blog probably has the most pictures and discussion of my one-year old on it.  Why...because she's just a baby/toddler and it's hard to imagine anyone being embarrassed by baby/toddler pictures or funny stories.  Everyone knows babies/toddlers do cute/funny things, and things that could be embarrassing when a four year old does it are not that embarrassing for a one-year old.

2. With my older kids, I ask them before posting pictures or stories.  Usually they are all, yes, yes, post this picture or share my story on your blog. I want to be famous!  Well, this blog is far from famous, so they may be waiting quite a long time for that to happen..   But, sometimes they say no, don't post that.  And, I don't. 

3. I only post flattering pictures.  Before I post a picture, I think about if I would be okay if this picture was printed in the newspaper.   The printed in the newspaper thing is my personal gauge for if a photo is okay.  So, pictures of my kids playing chess...totally okay.  Pictures of them half-naked, covered in marker....that personally crosses the line for me, even for toddlers.  

4. Only fully clothed pictures.. even with babies and toddlers. I'm just not comfortable with naked, half-naked or semi-naked pictures.  Goes back to the whole printed in the newspaper thing...would not want a picture like that (even of a cute little baby) in the paper.   My only exception to this would be birth pictures of total newborn (as in just exited the womb within the last 30 minutes) babies. 

5. I don't post naughty or bad stories.   Okay...maybe a  few of the young toddler/baby (goes back to the whole age thing)...but the older they get, the less likely I am to post their escapades.  By older I mean even like 4-5.  I feel that a teen or adult is more likely to be more embarrassed by their 4 year old self than by their 2 year old self. 

6. I don't post anything that could be embarrassing in the future.  This is just me...but I try to steer clear from talk about bodily functions, potty-training mishaps, or things like that.  I know that stuff is funny, but I'm just personally not comfortable with it, and I have no idea how my kids will feel about it in the future. I don't want them to ever feel violated in the future by what I wrote/shared about them. 

7. I try to avoid talking too specifically or too much about my frustrations with my kids, how they drive me crazy, how I can't wait until bedtime or how I want nothing more than to ship them off to boarding school (if you are reading this children of mine, rest assured, I don't/didn't want to send you to boarding school). Some venting is okay..but I try to stay away from mentioning specific children or giving the impression that I find them a burden (I don't for one thing).  And, I don't want future kids to come back and read this someday and feel badly about themselves...that they were too much of a burden, that they drove me crazy or anything else.  I do vent sometimes and try to be realistic, but I also try to keep in mind that someday my kids might read this.  I don't want to make them feel badly in the future about what I'm writing now.  

Navigating social media is a new thing for all of us.  Sometimes I wish the internet and social media had existed when I was kid (there would be more of a record of my childhood, more pictures, more stories, etc.), but sometimes I'm awfully glad it didn't.   It really does remain to be seen what the effect of all this public documentation will have on our kids.   This is what I do, to try and prevent it from having too much of negative effect on them.   Maybe you do it differently...and that's okay.  No one really knows what the right way is, because it's all uncharted territory. 

And, since there are 7 rules I try to follow, I'll link up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday

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  1. Good tips. Some of my kids are more comfortable than others being featured on my blog. I try to embarrass myself more than anyone. When they see me laughing at myself, they usually like joining in the fun. But for the majority of pics, I always get their permission.

  2. Good ideas and definitely worth keeping in mind for the future!

  3. But they are more interesting to talk about when they get older.

    It is hard to respect their privacy, when I want to let the world know that children are not perfect.

    One of my kids tried to pull off a lie, and and it almost got him in deeper trouble then the thing he actually did wrong!

    So do I like talking about children when they are bad? Yes. I need to go about it through with charity though, a lesson for other parents on how to handle lying for instance.

    Teaching them the importance of integrity, instead of accidentally calling up the school thinking he stole a book from the book fair; only to learn he used his own money after we told him he couldn't.

  4. I really appreciate hearing other blogger's reflections on this. When I first started blogging I had pseudonyms for my kids, and it just…didn't work…didn't fit…wasn't me. Now I'm ok with sharing names, but I think you are right about the how-they-feel factor. There is a line between presenting real life (i.e. not-perfect children) and recognizing that childhoods are broadcast much more widely than they ever have been. I really admire the mothers who share the joys and struggles of motherhood, all the while letting the love of their children shine through. Come to think of it, those are the only mom-blogs I put in my reader!

  5. Thanks for this. Something I have not considered, though seem to naturally stick to your guidelines...except I the potty mishaps, it's been a struggle (I'm sorry Owen!!!) Owen is 4 almost 5 and I really need to start thinking about what I'm posting. I don't want him to resent me in the future when I truly love being his (well all of my kids') mother.

  6. Good points to make. I think this is also a generational thing to some extent. My mom and grandma have both pointed out in their own ways (and over private media like email and phone calls) that in their day such stories about everyday life with toddlers would never be shared as publicly as my blog posts are now…but does that make it automatically wrong now that the world has broader platforms than it did 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago? I think not, but certainly caution and prudence is even more warranted now in the digital age than before. So, good guidelines and thanks for sharing!

  7. I very much appreciated this down to earth wisdom, thank you!

  8. I do not post a lot about my teenager to respect his privacy. I agree that as my children get older I have a responsibility to ask them if they are comfortable with me sharing pictures and stories of them. I have the same rule for my husband. If he is uncomfortable with it, then I do not post it.

  9. I especially like your comments on number seven. That's a point I haven't heard anyone else make before, and it rings true (although I know that some bloggers do pull-off the humorous venting angle, just as comedic memoir writers did before them, without appearing to complain about their kids).

  10. I really like this post. B/c I don't post my kids' names, I wonder if I share too much about their quirks. Esp the difficulties with my eldest. . . . Good to keep this in mind.

  11. I think these are wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing them!

  12. Thank you! It's great to bring the privacy issue out and to identify your children as human beings who may be uncomfortable with their personal information "out there." Too many parents/grandparents are clueless. Way before the Internet, my grandma told me to ask myself "would I want this printed on page 1 of the New York Times?" Invariably, the answer was "No!" and I'd adjust my behavior!

  13. Definitely food for thought as I start my blog! I wonder how we'd feel if we were a main attraction in someone else's blog?

  14. I don't know how I missed this but these are great tips. I think I abide by all of them. I'm even getting uncomfortable with my This Month in Boys thing that I do. When it was just for me, it felt fine but now that there are actually people reading, it feels weird. I suppose I'll need to make a decision about that soon...

  15. Thank you for sharing this post on my Facebook thread, Amelia. This is very helpful for me in thinking through these issues myself!


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