Catherine Rodie-Blagg recently wrote about a book titled “Reasons My Kid Is Crying” and how her opinion of that book was changed after taking a photo of her own daughter mid-tantrum. The post was definitely pause for thought for many, and kicked off a whole different train of thought in me.
I’m not a parent. I don’t have a small child in my life dictating things like how often I can leave the house or how long it takes me to do so (as so brilliantly pointed out by one of my favourite comedians, Michael McIntyre). So I can’t speak to what it must be like to have someone doing hilarious things all the time and no one being there to see it. I can’t understand how hard it would be not to share those things with the world. But from my non-child-having perspective, I do think this:
I am not comfortable with how much of children’s lives is online. Especially very small children who have no say in the matter. I enjoy the stories, and I can imagine myself sharing them, but I’m not comfortable about it. And the reason is simple: what we put on the internet is there forever. It never goes away. What we say about our children, especially when we say their names, is there for the rest of their lives. They have a digital footprint before they can even walk.
We lecture our children about the importance of protecting them online. But are we the ones who are leaking their secrets before they even know enough to object?
I’ve always been pretty careful about what I say about stepdaughter online. And photos of her have only been posted with her permission, now that she’s old enough to give it understanding what it means. This is partly because she is not my child, but mostly because when she grows up I don’t want her to be able to look back on things I have written and know they’re about her. I don’t want her digital footprint to be well and truly marked even before she has had a chance to leave her own mark on the world.
I remember getting on a bus one day. A girl who went to my primary school, 4 years above me, was on the bus. She said hello, I sat near her and she proceeded to introduce me to the person she was with.
“This is Tamsin. We went to primary school together. She was a right little shit.” She looks at me “Sorry, you were.”
I was mortified. Sure, we’re adults now, we can all look back and have a laugh at past behaviour. Only I couldn’t, the second my past behaviour was mentioned I regressed back to being a 6 year old, frustrated that the world was picking on me and I couldn’t understand why.
And that’s the thing. We can’t know now what is going to embarrass or trigger our children as they grow up. Stepdaughter is still humiliated the Viking centred his wedding speech around her. Even though it was a lovely story. He didn’t predict that reaction at all, none of us did, and so it is with children.
How much of our children’s lives is it OK to share online? What of their secrets, their potty training habits, their hilarious out-of-proportion tantrums is that one thing someone will be able to make them feel inferior for years down the track? What is going to be that one story too far? And is it even possible to have children without wanting to share the really funny things they do?
What do you think?