Last week, an article began to circulate among my online social circle. First, a friend emailed me the link asking for my opinion. Then, another friend tagged me on Facebook and wanted to know my reaction.
Titled simply, “We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online", the article was written by Amy Webb, a data columnist for Slate Magazine. In the piece, Webb parent-shames an acquaintance who posts photos of her young daughter online. Webb then goes on to outline how she protects her own daughter’s digital future by creating a “digital trust fund” with protected social media accounts she and her husband will pass over the passwords to when their daughter is mature and by refusing to post anything about their daughter online.
I am a sharer by nature. When something good (or bad or interesting or funny or sad) happens, I want to share it. Since my children are pretty much the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me, my desire to share every smile, every milestone, every hilarious dance move is very strong.
I would be lying if I said I spent half the time Webb seems to have spent considering the repercussions of all that sharing on my children’s digital future. However, that is not to say I have not spent ANY time thinking about it.
Following the advice of online safety experts, I am careful about posting any photos of my children in the tub or without clothes. I don’t share information about our weekly routine or vacation plans. I keep the embarrassing stories to a minimum. Since I blog about being a parent – not really about my kids – I share less than others do but really that is not out of any security concerns. It’s more about my own personal writing style.
Webb argues I am robbing my children of any “future anonymity.” My children might not be anonymous but it’s not me committing the crime. We live in a global economy driven by increasingly connective technology. Short of some Grizzly Adams level action, anonymity seems more than a little out of reach.
For example, here are the image results when you search Amos’s name.
Despite my extensive online posting, there are no images of him in the first few results. (He’s a wild man but doesn’t have any mug shots I assure you.) In fact, the first actual image of him that appears is one posted by someone else.
Not to mention, the entirety of Webb’s argument seems to be predicated on some type of control and understanding over technology. I don’t know about you but I can’t keep up with the newest social media platform or next big technology advancement from the past MONTH – much less over the course of my child’s entire life.
Isn’t it a bit naïve to think you could begin to understand what you’ll even be protecting him or her from in 18 years?
I think this commenter put it best.
Although I think the REAL joke was within the article itself:
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
I don’t know how old Webb’s daughter is but I’m guessing not very old if she’s still saying things like “ensure that she’s making informed decisions.” Oh do tell! I think every parent of a teenager would gladly hand over the keys to their own digital identities – as well as cars and homes – if Webb can explain how to ensure children make informed decisions.
And really that’s the problem with “protecting” children instead of teaching them to protect themselves. Thinking you can protect your child from something as big as the INTERNET by refusing to post photos of them online seems as foolish as trying to protect them from an atomic bomb by covering them with tinfoil.
If you want your child to learn to be a good digital citizen, then you teach age-appropriate lessons their entire life. Keeping them in a digital bubble (or trust fund if you prefer) is not the answer. After all, bubbles are delicate but lessons last a lifetime.
Oh, and it took about 30 minutes for commenters to find online images of Webb’s daughter.
In fact, lesson #1. NEVER underestimate the resourcefulness of a troll.