At this point, none of my kids have social media accounts, not even the teenagers. Call me crazy, but I feel like the disadvantages FAR outweigh the benefits at this stage in the game. I want them to gain a healthy level of self-confidence before they dive into the world of comparison and competition that social media often creates. I want them to be old enough to understand that the things they post online may never go away. I want them to fully grasp Internet safety and the implications of online bullying, and be mature enough to be the same person online as they are in real life. Plus, they need to learn a few things about etiquette and restraint before I turn them loose to post a thousand selfies on Instagram.
When our oldest turned 16, we gave him the green light to explore the social media avenues of his choice, but he has chosen not to jump on board just yet. I will not complain about that, but I assure you that some of my other children are chomping at the bit to get on Instagram just like “EVERYBODY” else. They are deprived, I know.
Even though they have no social media accounts of their own, my kids do have a presence there, thanks to me. Over the years, I have shared pictures of them, experiences that I have had with them, funny things that they have said or done, and whatever else I felt like sharing. I am their mother, but does that make it OK for me to post things about them on a public forum without asking their permission first, especially if they are old enough to care, or if those things could potentially embarrass them, either now or in the future?
That is the question that has been swimming around in my mind lately.
Even though I have been posting about my kids at will for years, I have started to wonder about the wisdom of that decision in recent months. Perhaps that is because I now have teenagers who are very much aware of what I post about them. One of my boys is a subscriber to my blog and reads every post faithfully. The others also enjoy reading what I write, and are especially interested in what I write about them. When I pull out the camera, sometimes they ask (with a look of dread) if I am going to post the pictures online. Although I have refrained from posting highly embarrassing photos or experiences, they would be absolutely MORTIFIED now if I had ever done anything like that when they were younger.
I am beginning to realize that when I am publicly talking about my kids, whether on this blog or other social media channels, their feelings, thoughts, and opinions about what I say matter.
A whole lot.
Maybe they don’t want their lives to be broadcasted to hundreds of onlookers, most of whom they don’t even know.
Some of them are naturally private people who do not like to be put in the spotlight, and I need to respect that. Some of them, as they work through the insecurities of adolescence, are very concerned about what other people think, which makes it even more vital for me to be sensitive in the things that I choose to post. Even my six-year-old gets embarrassed when I tell others about silly things that he does, which means he would probably not appreciate it if I told hundreds of online friends about those things without his knowledge. While he and my younger daughter don’t really understand the implications of social media right now, they will eventually reach that point, which means that I need to be aware of how they might feel about the online presence that I have created for them when they look back in later years.
This is a big responsibility – one that I have undoubtedly approached too casually in the past.
However, you can rest assured that, from this point forward, I will check with my kids before I post anything about them that includes their names or pictures. (I am comfortable sharing experiences without using names.) For those who are still too young to understand or care, I will be much more careful about the online trail that I am creating in their behalf, not only for safety reasons, but also because I want to respect their privacy until they are able to decide how much or little they want to share about themselves.
Maybe the things that I feel compelled to share about my kids should be reserved for a small group of family and friends. Maybe their online presence should be largely of their own creation at this point, which is the all the more reason to withhold those social media reigns until they are ready to take that responsibility seriously.
This is a tricky road to walk, especially being a blogger. I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Do you worry about how much you should share about your kids online? How do you approach their online privacy?