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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