Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Protecting Your Child's Digital Image

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Last week, a coworker sent me a Slate.com article entitled We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online. This is a very interesting topic and something that I think many people either think too much or too little about. You should read the article but basically, the author does not post a single picture of her child anywhere online, ever. In addition: her and her husband chose a name solely based on the fact that it wasn't previously associated with anyone who had an online presence, and already created email accounts, bought a website domain in the child's name, and:
"On the day of her birth, our daughter already had accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Github. And to this day, we’ve never posted any content. All accounts are kept active but private...
...When we think she’s mature enough (an important distinction from her being technically old enough), we’ll hand her an envelope with her master password inside. She’ll have the opportunity to start cashing in parts of her digital identity, and we’ll ensure that she’s making informed decisions about what’s appropriate to reveal about herself, and to whom. "

The author refers to this as a "digital trust fund." While it's an interesting concept, I personally, think it's overkill. By the time our children are old enough for this stuff, who even knows if Facebook, Twitter or instagram will still be a thing. They'll be the new "myspace" and your child probably won't care whether or not they have accounts on them. Also: are they creating these accounts using the child's full name? What if your child wants to remain anonymous - my twitter and instagram handles don't have my name in it at all. What if your child wants to be cupcake305 because he or she likes baking?   
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As for the sharing pictures of your children online: Sharing pictures, whether on instagram, Facebook, or otherwise, seems to fall into three different camps:
  1. Those who share every waking and sleeping moment of their child's life - I understand you're proud and excited but sometimes, this approach can be overkill.
  2. Those who occasionally post a photo here or there of their adorable child doing adorable things - And why shouldn't they feel proud when little Johnny takes his first steps? Why wouldn't you want to share that moment?
  3. Those who have never and will never post a single picture of their child to the internet. Ever. - I totally see why and respect parents who are able to do this one. I get it, there are things out there that we haven't even begun to understand - but not sharing a single moment, milestone, or picture of my child would be very challenging for me.
There are pros and cons to each scenario listed above. One isn't "right" or "wrong", it just all comes down to a matter of personal parenting choices between you and your partner. You both need to be on the same page about what is or isn't allowed to be shared online.

Reading this article led me to think about my blog, and how much I will share/blog about after our child is born. Obviously, I love blogging. I love the personal documentation of things and events that are meaningful to me in my life, and I love sharing that with my family and friends. An extra bonus just happens to be that it has allowed me to connect with a community of other like-minded individuals, many of whom are going through the same thing. This community has been extremely beneficial to me as we learn together and share new and interesting things with each other. I also get certain perks through advertising, or freebies that have been helpful and exciting. So you can imagine that after all of this blogging, weekly bumpdates, and almost daily posts on pregnancy, the thought of not posting anything about my baby just to protect his/her digital image seems a little bit anticlimactic and frankly, sad, to me.
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So, I will be posting about my child. I will post about life as a mom, and life post-pregnancy. All I can do is continue to instill as many safeguards and privacy settings I can to make sure I am not over-exposing or harming my child in any way. This will include keeping our last name and address off the blog, checking all search engines for my name periodically to see what comes up, protecting my tweets from public view, and being picky about what photos and videos I post. Sadly: It's the bath-time photos that can make any pervert out there take an innocent moment and make it not-so innocent. I acknowledge that. I spent a great deal of time cleaning up my online presence this week. Every once in a while, I'll google search my name and see what comes up. You'd be surprised what websites have gathered your information without you even knowing it. A simple email to a company asking to remove your profile, will usually work.

We grew up in an age where online social media was new and so we, as mostly adults, were able to create and manage our own digital footprint. It was solely up to us to be as discreet or non-discreet as we wanted. But, by sharing your child's life, you're creating a digital footprint for them from the time they leave the womb. What repercussions could that have down the road? These days, facial recognition software is the new thing, and lord only knows what that will lead to and what else will develop in the next 5, 10, 15 years?!

When your mom wanted to embarrass you to your prom date in High School, she invited him over and pulled out the old photo album. Now, we may start to see our teenager's prom date pulling up a plethora of embarrassing photos and material on his phone before he even arrives to the front door. Think about it.
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Even with all that, I like watching my friend's children grow up on facebook. It allows me to still feel connected to them and their families even if I don't get to see them as often as I'd like. It makes me happy to see their families grow, and to see a picture or two of their weekend apple picking adventure. As long as we keep strict privacy settings on our accounts, and show some discretion with certain photos, I think we can all find some balance in this digital media world.

So what is the line? Is there a line? And how do you decide what you want that line to be?


Do you have any rules or guidelines about what you will or won't share of your child online? Do you ever worry you're sharing too much, or too little? What safeguards do/will you implement to protect your child's digital footprint?

15 comments:

  1. What an intelligent and timely topic. You know my thoughts on this. I love that I can stay connected to you on a daily basis but I also worry about WHO is out there more so than what. It is not the bath time pictures you need to worry about. It's any pervert who decides your child is the commodity they want. You underestimate the mind of a pervert if you think it's a certain child/pose/ etc. Delve into it-even just a little- and I guarantee you will be sickened within five minutes-if you have a healthy mind. It is like all things in life-those who want to use if to do good, will. Those who want to use it to do evil, will. God bless all of our children and keep them safe! Amen!

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    1. good reply mom - but I'm not sure where your stance is on my questions - what I'm gathering from you is you think I shouldn't post any pictures at all. Is that correct?

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  2. I've really thought about this too. I blog about our life because we don't have family near us and it helps them to kind of stay up to date on what's going on in our lives. I do plan on blogging about our baby, I've already shared his name, but I will try to keep him as safe as possible when I do share things. I don't watermark our pictures for the blog now but I will when it comes to him. I want to be able to keep track of his milestones each month as he grows and just see how our journey unfolds as first time parents. I think it's all about finding a balance when it comes to sharing things about him!

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    1. I started blogging for the same exact reason - and it has really helped keep my family up to date on things. I am considering the watermarking thing as well. Finding a balance is def. key. I trust we'll be good at it!

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  3. I love that you're already thinking about this! So many parents just don't. I'm of two minds on this one. On facebook, I post only the big moments or particularly adorable things. I know my friends and family around the country want to see Abbie and get enjoyment out of those pictures, but I really don't post a lot of her - after all, I get annoyed when someone's profile becomes JUST pictures of their kids.

    As for my blog? I feel like it's mine, so it's fair game. If people didn't want to see Abbie, they probably wouldn't be looking at my blog, and they're free to leave. Since July, I've been watermarking every photo I post of her, and I have on the agenda to go back and watermark all the old ones as well. I love the blogging community and sharing my life, and right now that life is Abbie. I try to walk the line right in the middle between too much and not enough.

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    1. Love your comment Jess - and I plan to follow pretty much the same guidelines - Facebook: Only particularly big milestones so people don't get super annoyed with me. Blog: those that want to read it are there. I will look into the watermarking (what program do you use to watermark? picmonkey? something else?) I think you walk a very good line and it's one I will closely follow for myself!

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  4. My brother and his wife are in the 3rd camp, they never wanted us to post any photos of their kids on myspace/facebook etc personally I thought they were overly paranoid. I know photos can be stolen but the odds are most people don't really care about your kids pictures. I've made a point not to post my son's full name except on Facebook when he was first born but my account is private and I try not to ever post pictures or stories that would embarass him when he's older. Frankly this is becoming so normal that when our kids are older the ones that don't have any photos ever posted on the Internet will be in the minority.

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    1. That's probably very true Shannon. It may just be so normal that no one is really going to be spending 4 hours on a Saturday night trying to dig up dirt...but as long as we don't provide the embarrassing photos or "dirt", we should be in the clear! Out of curiosity - do you ever feel judged by your brother and his wife for sharing photos of Hunter on your blog or facebook?

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  5. I think you are absolutely right that what those people did is a little overkill. And I think you are taking the right approach to it. You can't worry yourself to death about these things. All you can do is take as many precautions as possible. And I am in the same boat as you when it comes to blogging about that type of stuff. I share a lot about myself (but not too much) and I have learned a lot from others posting, so I will definitely be posting when I get to that point in my life. Great post today!

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    1. yes - take precautions and be aware. One example in the article was that someone she knows posted a picture of her daughter in a bikini with her house number and street sign in the background with a caption that said "Heading out on vacation for two weeks!" These are things that should be thought thru!

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  6. I know, this is definitely something I've thought about. I feel like it's one thing to post whatever about myself, but to also post it about my future kids? I like the idea of going down the middle - posting some stuff, but not everything. That and I agree, I love watching my friends' kids grow up on sites like Facebook!! It's a nice way to keep tabs on them when you don't get to see them in person very often.

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    1. Yes! I hope that I can find a good balance between what I share and don't share. It's also good to maintain a sense of my own identity with the blog as well. By still trying and update with new recipes and book reviews, rather than just making it completely about my child (however hard or easy that may be!)

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  7. I think it sounds like you'll be taking a responsible position, Laura. I need to think about this more before I have kids, but I would most likely take the same basic route as you.

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  8. I've definitely thought about this. I have young children in my life (little cousins, finance's niece and nephew for example). I try to be selective as possible with what I post. I remember after my youngest cousin was born last year, her dad says to me after her birth certificate came in, "you're not going to put that online are you?" He's a different generation from us but I still laughed. He must think we are that bad that I would post something like that! Lol.

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  9. I am so with you on this. I said "I'm NEVER posting our baby's pic up!!!" Now we post her everyday :P

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