SOCIALLY AWARE : PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN ONLINEAugust 10, 2014
Its been a little over two weeks since I last wrote something in this space. The lack of posting hasn’t been because I haven’t had anything to say, I think it’s obvious the subject matter I’ve chosen here is a never-ending topic, but the silence has been more so because of potential stage fright. While I’ve never focused on numbers and pageviews and the growth of this little corner of the Internet, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I looked at them from time to time. Recently, I’ve seen quite an increase in the quantity of people visiting and, to be completely transparent, it freaked me out a little bit.
I worried that I was exposing too many details of my daughter’s life, that I was posting too many pictures of her, that while I was documenting small stories I want to remember it could be at the expense of her privacy and ultimately sacrificing any potential anonymity she may want in the future. I began combing through previous posts overanalyzing sentences and photo selection searching for peace of mind and a comforting clue if I should continue or not.
Although I have no way of knowing who visits this space and I have no control over their thoughts while here, I do have a heavy hand in filtering what is seen. The stories shared are already such a small percentage of her life, of our lives, that I really don’t consider them to be crossing the line into embarrassing territory for her at any point going forward (hopefully). However, pictures are worth a thousand words and photographs have a way of telling a story all their own so I noticed myself second guessing and viewing the images we (my wife and I) capture with a skeptical eye.
In doing so, I kept referring to a set of mental guidelines that helped me choose what to share publicly and where and what to keep private (for personal photo albums or for close friends and family only). As parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children and to shield them from the dangers of the world until they’re able to defend themselves and even then we’ll refuse to let go. In a time where social media is ever present and continuing to grow exponentially at every turn, we’re in danger of being counterproductive in our efforts of documenting their lives by putting them at risk of too much exposure instead.
We haven’t had a generation take advantage of such outlets at such rates before and we’re not yet sure of the consequences of our actions. We can guess and assume, but there’s no way to be sure how the children we see through the screens of our iPhones and tablets and monitors will react to having potentially every moment captured by some form of technology and seemingly shared with the world at large. We have to be better at filtering our lives, and our children, on a personal level before running moments through the filters provided by our outlet of choice.
I primarily use Instagram and this blog when sharing bits and pieces of our lives and I run every potential post through a mental checklist to ensure I’m still protecting her before sharing certain moments. In case you’re a parent attempting to do the same, here are the self-imposed hurdles I jump through and how they’re working for now.
My Instagram account was public in the beginning, but after a few followers I deemed creepy and/or questionable once I saw pictures in their feeds I decided to make my account private. Now if anyone wants to follow me, they have to request approval in which I get to personally see who is viewing my pictures. With a public account, a notification is still received when someone new follows you yet it’s easier for people to fall through the cracks. A private account helps limit who has access to your images without your permission. That being said, if a hashtag used is searched for or someone double taps your post the image could still potentially be seen by non-followers… so being cognizant of who is approved to follow your feed or the usage of hashtags should always be considered.
While this blog is obviously very public making it impossible to determine who stops by or for what reason, a fact I’m constantly aware of, I choose carefully what I share here versus what I share on Instagram. I’ve always viewed the latter as an extension of the former and will occasionally cross share certain images, but I’ve become much more selective in what I share in this space as a result of the lack of control from the public facing nature of blogging. On the blog, bathing suit pictures are off limits at this age and older unless strategically cropped (as in the title picture at the beginning or the image used in this post) whereas I’m not as strict on Instagram although I try to limit full body swimsuit images to a minimum and/or from certain angles while pictures of her bare bottom or in underwear or topless are never shared (diapers don’t count).
I also try to limit how often I use her name both here and in captions there. As of now, if one were to Google her name nothing related is returned in the search results (in links or images)… something I’m very proud of and hope continues going forward. I would never want something I shared for sentimental purposes to be used against her with negative intentions by something found during a curious web search. I also try to be mindful in what images I use with which post. For example, in the potty training post I made sure not to include any images of her face. Sometimes I opt for an aerial shot or one where another aspect is in focus instead (like the picture above).
Make a point to look at the pictures and stories other parents are sharing, not to judge but to strengthen your own instincts. By having access to what others are posting, you’ll develop a stronger sense of what you enjoy seeing and what content you find cringe worthy. Everyone has different comfort levels and not everyone will agree on what is acceptable and what isn’t by most parental standards, but I know I’m the one that has to live with the decision of sharing or not so what may work for someone I follow may not always work for me personally. Judging by the email I received after using the picture of my daughter crying in this post where someone vowed to never read anything of mine again, I know difference of opinion is alive and real. At the end of the day, the only side eye I’m worried about getting is from my daughter herself (and my wife, of course)… unless the look she gives me is as cute as the one above then I may just have to share it regardless.