Are you sharing too much of your kids online?

Are you sharing too much of your kids online?
I came across an article from The Wall Street Journal titled The Facebook-Free Baby—Are you a mom or dad who’s guilty of ‘oversharenting’? The cure may be to not share at all. Author Steven Leckart discusses the circumstances leading to parents sharing everything about their kids online, as well as potential repercussions for doing so.

We post about our kids for several reasons:

  • We like to update our friends and families about our kids, from first baby pictures to a recording of their Christmas recital. Particularly for parents who live far from families, social networking sites like Facebook are the primary means relatives can catch a glimpse of the little ones.
  • Parenthood can be lonely. Taking photos, writing blogs and posting on mom boards offer parents a chance to fill the day. Parents with no close physical ties to other parents can also turn to the online community for support and camaraderie.
  • Kids are just so darn cute. We’re proud of them. We love their jokes. And we want our friends and family to know how ridiculously amazing they are.
  • We actually want a digital record online. With technology at our fingertips, sharing on Facebook or blogs actually serves an easy way to record and retrieve memories and milestones.

Amidst all these reasons, the author isn’t as concerned with why we share, but the consequences of doing so. He writes:

[…] the more of our lives we put online from the beginning, the more there is to contend with later on.

Publicizing our kids has been done in the past, but the internet age poses something new: a chronological order of everything you post, so much so that children born these days will have a public, digital record of their lives.

While most of our posts and pictures are harmless, there may be some instances that could present a problem for kids in their future. Photos are public, available for anyone to use for whatever purposes they want. The public record of our kids may be used against them as adults. I also worry about safety, and wonder whether providing too much information will invite unwanted attention.

I try to find a balance. On Facebook, I post a few photos and blurbs about my toddler and adjusted my settings accordingly. Even though I don’t have many friends on Facebook to begin with, I still set my privacy setting to narrow down the “circle of friends” who can view the pictures. I’ve also posted funny blurbs about my toddler, but each time I do, I ask myself whether doing so can embarrass, harm or cause problems for him in the future. If it could, then I don’t share.

However, all this may seem ridiculously hypocritical coming from a blogger whose entire site stars my supposedly private toddler. This blog highlights many aspects of his life and includes details of normally private scenarios (ahem: anything to do with bowel movements). How do I meld my desire to minimize his online presence with posts about him on the internet for all to read?

These were the questions I grappled with when I initially launched Sleeping Should Be Easy. For nearly two years, I wrote the blog for family and friends and kept the settings private so that only a few people could access the site. Even with the privacy settings turned on and names and photos omitted, I wondered whether I was still sharing too much and why I was turning to the internet to share his stories to begin with. Would my toddler come back as a 25-year-old and regret that his mom had posted XY and Z about him for all to read?

Clearly, I have since publicized the site to extend beyond family and friends. I wanted to create a balance that allowed me the privacy I sought while creating a site that could help other parents and offer me a way to document my own growth as a parent. I decided not to post too many photos of him on the blog, and for the few that exist, all are obscured or show only a hand or the back of his head. I’ve also omitted his name and rely on the ever-so-original pseudonym of “LO” instead. And while I provide general information about him, I make sure they remain vague enough as well.

I’ve also been more mindful of how I present my toddler. I’m comfortable sharing less-than-pleasant behavior such as tantrums and potty training because these topics seem typical enough for any toddler to share and wouldn’t necessarily vilify him in his later years. On the other hand, you may recall a post I wrote describing how I had written an amazing, thought-provoking post but ended up deleting the entire thing for fear that I would stigmatize my toddler by labeling him too much.  The label itself wasn’t negative, but I was afraid that blasting it out to the world might unfairly categorize him too early and limit his potential.

So far, this balance has been the happy medium that works for me. For the author of the WSJ article, complete anonymity and no photos of his kid online are preferred. For others, “oversharenting” may not even be an issue at all. We all do what works for us. Given the wide range of comfort levels, beliefs and parenting methods we all have, I’m not surprised that there remains no clear cut guideline as to how much is too much and which method is “right.”

How about you—how much of your kids do you share online? What swayed your decision whether or not to post photos, names or moments of your kids on social network sites or blogs?

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28 thoughts on “Are you sharing too much of your kids online?

  1. Very interesting indeed. I have written a post for tomorrow about my choice to never share pictures of my child. I was planning on posting it today, but decided to go with something else. We all have our choices, but since I have worked in the security field, I will always want to protect my child.

  2. I struggle with this A LOT. I started my blog as a personal place to work through the difficulty of dealing with infertility and trouble getting pregnant. Although it had to do with my future child, it was really all about ME, and I felt comfortable oversharing because that’s why I was writing it in the first place. I didn’t use my last name and didn’t share with people in my real life until I was prepared for that info to be “public”. But once my son was born, the blog has morphed to be all about him, and every day I wonder if I am doing him a disservice by putting him “out there”.

    I think about every word I write, and if I would want him to read it someday. But what worries me even more than the info I’m sharing about him is the crazies out there. The stalkers and people doing disgusting things to his pictures and being able to figure out where we live, even though I choose the details about that very carefully. Recently a reader reached out to say that she thought I was putting my family in danger by blogging, and she showed me just how much information she had found about us after a bit of Googling.

    It was terrifying.

    As you know, I haven’t stopped blogging, but this is an incredibly important topic and I really don’t know where I stand. It’s so complicated, and I realize more and more every day that these are not necessarily my stories to be sharing. It’s definitely something that I think about often.

    • Kate, that’s one of the scary issues that I try to steer clear from. I know some people make it a game to see how much info they can extract from a blog. I would have felt terrified too. I’m not sure how big-time bloggers handle it, because I’ve seen some popular ones where all their info is out there and I’m sure they get thousands more views than the average blog.

      I also like your point about whose stories these are. Were we to only write about ourselves, our work, our hobbies, then clearly it’s about us. But so much of parenting involves, well… the other side of parenting: the kids. It’s a tough balance of trying to maintain our stories and desire to express our own journeys with potentially writing our kids as characters in a story that may not be ours to tell.

  3. I don’t have kids but I think I’ll share some of their lives when they’re around (lol). I’ll put pictures up on facebook but I will be (and AM now) very aware of what could possibly be embarrassing and I wont post those.

    Someone I went to high school with actually posted a picture of her son on facebook while he was ON THE TOILET! Never, never would I do that to my kids!

  4. I post pretty much all of the pictures I take of Eli on Facebook and on a private Shutterfly site… but I am very careful to keep the settings private or on “friends only.” Most of our family is pretty scattered across the country, so this is for them to keep up with our little guy. As far as my blog goes… except for the general area where we live & obviously the photos of my family, I keep everything else pretty anonymous. My first name is on there, but there are no last names and no mention of where exactly Hubby & I work. If we get to the point where Eli is embarrassed about what I write, then I can always take my blog offline. I am a pretty open person, so I don’t worry a whole lot about sharing too much. If it ever becomes a danger, again, I’ll take my blog down.

  5. I post photos and names on my blog. (Are the names real? Ooooooh!) But I don’t share anything that I wouldn’t share with another parent at the park. I want to reach out to other parents out there, and I love to share things that are our happy moments smattered with the insane days. Everything that I write would be okay for my kids to read when they grow. I even try to avoid profanity! I worry, but I’m hoping the precautions I’ve taken are enough.

    • Now you’ve got me intrigued, coffee powered mom!

      You bring up a good point I initially wrote on my post (but edited out because it was getting too long): pretty much everything I write in my blog are things I’ve discussed with coworkers or other park parents. When I feel comfortable sharing it with people who aren’t necessarily close friends, then I feel like it’s okay to share it on the blog.

      Like you said, so much of what I’ve learned come from other parents’ blogs, and I love how the internet has provided us an opportunity to learn from, cheer on, vent with and otherwise build a community, however digital it may be.

      • That’s exactly what I love about it! I’m very paranoid about the whole thing, but then I log on and read something inspirational, see a beautiful family photo, or most importantly of all (for me!) read about another blogger’s TERROR of a child who used to be so sweet, and I feel better. It’s not just me who’s kids Jeckyl/Hyde (sp?) me, or who has those days where you just are so overwhelmed that you lose it. Sanity, sobriety, hope…lose it all, hahaha.

  6. I rarely post pictures of my daughter on fb. I rarely even post status updates for myself on fb. My husband prefers it that way. I’m not as private as he is but I respect that. I do keep the privacy settings as high as I can on fb because I don’t want just anyone to see everything I share. No creeps.
    I take a ton of pictures of her but those we share just with family.
    As far as writing about her on my blog, it’s mainly because it’s just what I am going through as a parent and need a place to talk about it. I don’t write it with an intent to embarass her but I try to keep it light and with a sense of humor. If she’s offended, she can start a blog about changing my diapers when i’m old…oh dear!! Ha ha!

  7. I mostly avoided blogging about Baguette, and I took a break from blogging to think about why I had a blog and what I wanted to do with it. Part of that included determining how I wanted to talk about Baguette and our family. Here’s what I concluded:

    1) I was already using pseudonyms, so I continue to do that. Except for the dog. I think the dog has no expectation of privacy. After all, she poops on the lawn.

    2) I had never been comfortable with posting photos of my husband and me publicly. That’s not to say that they don’t exist anywhere. but they’re not on our blog, and they’re not connected to that pseudonym.

    3) But it seems weird to never post a photo of my child when I write about her. Yet I want to let her have some privacy (note: I am not concerned about evil-doers finding her via a photo on my blog, because that’s exceptionally unlikely–I am talking here about privacy). I don’t want her to feel bad about what’s out there when she’s old enough to be aware of it.

    4) So on my blog, and related social media sites, I only post pictures of her that do not show her face.

    5) I do post photos of her on my personal Facebook profile all the time, but my photos are only visible to friends–and I even block a few of them.

  8. I think that you’re right about balance – and I also think that there’s a difference between openly blogging about your child/sharing their images publicly and sharing them via sites that allow you to dictate a chosen audience. We use FB a lot to share photos of our child but we do not open the images up publicly and keep careful reign on who we allow into our friend circle. We use Flickr, as well, but only keep our child’s photos open to the public for a short period of time before changing the permissions to “family only” (we keep them open at first because some of the members of our family have never gotten the hang of signing onto their accounts to view pictures). So again, balance. And also chose “audience.”

  9. You know I had never really given this topic too much thought. But now that you bring it up. I originally signed up for FB just so that family and friends could keep updated with general life. I do share pictures on FB of my kids, but not on my blog unless its the back of them. You have really given me some food for thought. thanks!

  10. My husband and I had a long talk about this before our kiddo was born. Our family is very FB friendly and wanted us to post pictures of our Baby to share like they do. We came to the conclusion, though, that it didn’t make us feel comfortable to do so. It can be rough sometimes to stick with this decision! Our family hates that we don’t share online, and when I see other people posting photos on fb and on blogs it really makes me want to share too!

    I am hoping though that Baby will someday tell me thank you for not posting pics haha that might make it worth it. 🙂

    • I signed up for Facebook when my kiddo was born not to post pictures, but so that I could monitor what others posted about him haha! I was very strict in the beginning but sadly have become more lax. It’s scary because my friends have their own FB friends, people whom I don’t even know, and they’re all seeing pictures of my son. I hate policing everyone especially, like yours, my family who is very FB friendly.

  11. Thanks for the balanced information. Maybe I’ll number my grandkids rather than tell their names.

  12. I do post pictures of my family and children on facebook, with the privacy settings on high. But in my blogs i try not to give very many details about them. In terms of embarassment, to my mind the facebook photos aren’t much worse than parents hauling out the huge photo albums at the slightest provocation!

  13. As others have done, I use pseudonyms for my family members. I use my own first name and last initial, mainly because when I started it didn’t occur to me not to. I try not to include any identifying information or stories — for example, I’ll talk about the city in which I live, but not what part of it. I don’t include an email address or phone number, either — if people want to contact me, they can do so through my fan page or by commenting. Maybe at some point I’ll get an email address specifically for the blog, that’s not connected to my personal information. And whenever I use pictures of my son (or, in the future, any of us) I obscure his features, at least a little. I don’t want people using his image for anything without my permission, and I don’t like the idea of random people being able to find me or my family. As for my personal Facebook page, it’s almost all set to “Friends Only”. I might be a little guilty of oversharing there.

  14. Prior to deleting my Facebook, I had my settings adjusted to only friends and sometimes even “Friends of Friends,” which I was never too comfortable with anyway. I never share my family’s name on any of my social media sites and probably never will just because my and my son’s name are unique and can pop up in Google quickly! Yikes!

  15. I share A LOT of photos on Facebook and none on my Blog. The only picture on my Blog is a back view of my kids. I have had many people tell me that i over share on FB and that it’s too much. Even though only my FB friends can see my pics, maybe I should be a little more careful about what I’m putting out there. Thanks for sharing your thought, great topic!

  16. I share a lot. I believe the more we know about one another, the happier place the world becomes. I also think the digital tracks are unavailable now. If you live in a major metropolitan area, most every street you walk down you are on some camera. I also think sharing helps. I do think there is a line were certain things shouldn’t be shared about your kids. But most things I don’t see the problem. If they haven’t outlawed googling candidates by the time my 3 year old is apply for a job, I don’t think the HR pro is really going to care that he hit is brother.

  17. I have wrestled with this as well. I don’t post photos of my son or his name on the blog. I keep all photos for family on FB. It is a tough call, like many things in parenting, I am just hoping I am making the right choices!

  18. I’ve definitely thought a lot about this topic but still haven’t come to a conclusion. But more and more, I am veering toward being more private and sharing topics of discussion vs our life. So yeah there may be some changes to my blog in the next couple months to achieve more anonymity.

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