At this point, none of my kids haveÂ 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 ofÂ self-confidenceÂ 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 implicationsÂ of online bullying, and be matureÂ enough to be the same person online as they are in real life. Plus, they need to learn a few things about etiquette and restraintÂ before I turnÂ them looseÂ to post a thousand selfies on Instagram.
When our oldestÂ turned 16, we gave him the green light to exploreÂ the social media avenues of his choice, butÂ 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 onÂ InstagramÂ just like “EVERYBODY” else. They are deprived, I know.
Even though they have no social media accountsÂ of their own, my kidsÂ 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 onÂ a public forum withoutÂ asking their permission first, especially if they are old enough to care, orÂ if those thingsÂ 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 kidsÂ at will for years, I have started to wonder aboutÂ the wisdom of that decisionÂ in recent months. Perhaps that is because I now have teenagers whoÂ are very muchÂ aware of what I post about them. One of my boysÂ 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, sometimesÂ 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 beginningÂ toÂ realizeÂ 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 toÂ 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,Â which means he would probably not appreciate it if I toldÂ hundreds of online friendsÂ about those things without his knowledge.Â While he and myÂ younger daughterÂ 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 ofÂ how they might feel about theÂ online presence that I have created for themÂ whenÂ they look back in later years.
This is a big responsibility – one that I have undoubtedlyÂ approachedÂ 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 creatingÂ in their behalf, not only for safety reasons, but also becauseÂ I wantÂ to respect their privacy until they areÂ able to decide how much or little they want to share about themselves.Â
Maybe the things that I feel compelled to share about my kidsÂ 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 theirÂ online privacy?