Protecting Your Child's Digital Image
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?
As for the sharing pictures of your children online: Sharing pictures, whether on instagram, Facebook, or otherwise, seems to fall into three different camps:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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.
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?