Reflections: The Risk Of Over-Exposure
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” Audre Lorde
Recently, university researchers asked children and parents to describe the rules they thought families should follow related to technology. In most cases, parents and children agreed — don’t text and drive; don’t be online when someone wants to talk to you. But there was one surprising rule that the children wanted that their parents mentioned far less often: Don’t post anything about me on social media without asking me. NYTimes
Are You At Risk of Over-Exposing Your Kids On Social Media? About a month ago or so, one of my kids sent me a link to a long overdue topic of discussion in the NY Times: Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say. I jumped on the link, read it, and like the 100+ other respondents, left my comment on this highly charged topic that always manages to trigger strong emotions on both sides of the parental fence. As a parent of two young adults, I’ve always had a rule to not post photos or stories about my children without their permission. I’m their mother, yes, but they deserve the right to tell their own story how and when they please. Given the many dangers that we encounter on the internet from predators, to bullies, to scammers and identity theft, why do some parents continue to expose their kids and family life in ways that make it easy for them to become targets? I know you enjoy the instant social media attention but, how does it benefit the kids?
Let’s be clear about the distinctions here: I’m not talking about the run of the mill type stories of family outings, trips and such mundane subjects that some parents post. If you read across the blogosphere, you’ve come across the full spectrum of stories we get to see and you know what I’m referring to. Why do some parents resist the temptation while others barrel ahead spewing endless tidbits and tales of their children’s lives? Perhaps it is that illusion of safety that some parents feel when they think they are sharing their business with a select group of “friends” on their posts, on Facebook, Instagram or other sites … when the reality is that they are not. Even with the strictest filters, information seeps out and, frankly, we have ourselves to blame when we refuse to weigh the long term risks of creating digital footprints that expose our kids in ways they might not appreciate; It is just not worth the risk and we cannot blame our social media sites. The decision to post or not to post lies with us, and our kids shouldn’t be pawns in our race for social media attention.
“If you don’t have a voice that forces you back to basics, you’re a dangerous person. Or to put it another way: You’re at risk, and the people with you are at risk. I’m not a daredevil. I don’t fly without a safety net.” Steve Wynn
Those early posts from parents linger, not just online, but in our children’s memories — and the topics may be things we don’t see as potentially embarrassing. The son of a friend (who asked that I not use her name) still brings up things she wrote about his picky eating when he was younger — years ago, she says. NYTimes.
Have you thought about the digital footprint you are creating for your children? As the article points out, there is a disconnect between what parents think is acceptable and what their poor kids would rather have them do. Unfortunately, the most egregious aspect of this issue is that, quite often, the victims of this behavior are younger kids who can’t read or see what their overzealous parents are posting. What is forgotten in this zealotry to overshare is that information shared on the internet stays there forever and as those little kids mature, all the stories, photos, and embarrassing moments shared about them become part and parcel of their digital footprint on the internet. Your younger kids deserve some modicum of respect and privacy when it comes to events going on in the privacy of your home. Just because we are parents and make decisions about our children’s daily exchanges doesn’t mean we should make those private, intimate moments fodder for social media consumption. We need to get back to common sense decisions and back to basics by offering our kids a safety net that protects them from such unnecessary risks and exposure.
Where do we draw the line? Why do some parents think it’s okay to put their family business out there? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care what you choose to write and say about your life – You are an adult and are responsible for the stories you divulge about yourself but, your children are not in a position to edit you or hit the delete button when you start yammering on about the details of their lives. We must stop playing chess with kids lives, and instead, create filters that minimize the risk of overexposure and unwanted exposure for our children. Why? Because we’ve seen way too many parents cross the line from what is acceptable sharing to just TMI – too much information. When parents write about family matters, and especially about their children, without checks and balances, it becomes easy to cross that line. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and stay silent or foggy about the dangerous implications of this practice. While taking risks in our lives can be a good thing, we must think twice before jumping in feet first to take risks with the lives and future of our children and their ability to tell their story as they deem fit.
“The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.” Edmund Burke
s a society, says Ms. Steinberg, “we’re going to have to find ways to balance a parent’s right to share their story and a parent’s right to control the upbringing of their child with a child’s right to privacy. Parents often intrude on a child’s digital identity, not because they are malicious, but because they haven’t considered the potential reach and the longevity of the digital information that they’re sharing,” said Ms. Steinberg. NYTimes.
Whatever happened to enjoying family time without the presence of voyeurs? Social media has turned us into voyeuristic consumers waiting for the next shot and story; the scary part is that it is very addictive. Often, on all the popular social media sites, I see folks go into overdrive once they get a few responses to their initial postings. But, people forget that these are public forums that attract both the curious and the crude. Just as many of us know to not talk about the dates of our planned trips and other private/personal matters on the internet, we must include our children in that category of topics that are best shared privately. I can understand an adult making the decision to discuss his/her personal struggles as a way to help others… That is fine because you are making an educated/informed choice to expose your life to the world. However, your child/children have neither the maturity nor the decision making capacity to do so and this is where we must draw the line. Part of the problem is that, for some parents, the line between what is private and what is public is blurred. Because some of us have minimal filters about propriety, we extend the same expectation to our interactions with our children and what we write/say about them. While that explosive diarrhea, bed-wetting story or naked photo might be funny to your friends, down the road, it could cause much pain and embarrassment to your child.
As parents, we are our children’s first and most trusted advocates, and protecting their privacy should be paramount on our what-not-to-do on the Internet list. Cut the risks and be judicious about what you share. Respect your child’s right to privacy; Our children deserve better. What are your thoughts?
This post was inspired by a WordPress Prompt: Discover Challenge: Risk – For this week’s Discover Challenge, take a chance. Take a deep breath, publish, and see what happens next. To help other participants and new fans find your response in the Reader, tag your post #DiscoverWP.
And The WordPress Daily Post : FOG Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.
Positive Motivation Tip: Respect your child’s right to privacy; all children deserve better.
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