It’s a very different world that my children are growing up in now than when I was a child in the 1970’s and 80’s. As a young teenager I would be sat in my room with walls covered in posters ripped out of Smash Hits magazine and I’d be listening to the radio or maybe reading a book. If my friends wanted to chat to me they’d call the family landline and I’d take the phone on a long wire out into the hallway and sit on the stairs and gossip away for as long as my parents would let me.
Nowadays, my 13 year old son JJ could be watching a movie in his room whilst playing a game on his iPad, and chatting to his mates via Whatsapp. He has no need for posters from magazines as any image he wants to see can be called up on his computer at the touch of a button and he rarely speaks on the phone. Everything is instant and access to information is super easy.
So easy that when JJ meets a new mate and they decide to become friends on Facebook his mate can now see much of my profile on FB too and especially all the posts JJ is tagged in. If his friend wants to dig back a few years he might find a picture of JJ in the garden in the paddling pool or uncover one of him with crazy hair from a fancy dress when he was 6, and what I’ve really been pondering just recently is if JJ wants his new mates to see all this and if it is appropriate that I have shared his life online?
This isn’t an easy topic to explore, it is very emotive and I know that everything I have shared has been done because I love JJ, and because I thought whatever he was doing was cute or funny. Surely I’m just being honest and telling my story, the story of parenthood and the joy it brings me?
But now that JJ is becoming a young adult does he want his digital footprint already established from before he could even type? Was this really my story, or was it his and not mine to tell at all?
Children of JJ’s age are the first to be growing up in this new era, this time of instancey and easy sharing. My first serious boyfriend when I was 16 was only able to see my childhood images as my Mum got out the photo album and I sat next to him and cringed as he looked through, but this still gave me an element of control. JJ’s first girlfriend can befriend him on Facebook, or read my blog, or follow my Instagram feed, check out Google + or any of the other social media sites I use as a successful blogger.
Because that’s another thing, as a family lifestyle blogger I’ve shared a lot about each of my children and never with the intention of embarrassing them. Always with the aim of creating a family treasury of beautiful moments and adventures together and sometimes with the hope that I can help another struggling parent but will JJ want his future girlfriend to know that we started to have him assessed for Asperger Syndrome when he was about 6 years old? Maybe not, but as I’ve been blogging since he was four and my girls were less than one there is a lot of information about them out there for all to see.
Thank the Lord I have always been honest with my children and they know about my blog and they realise that when I say smile and hold up my iPhone the chances are that photo will make it onto my blog or social media in some form. This means they have the opportunity to say no and sometimes they do, they say ‘not today Mum’ or they feel off colour and don’t want to be on show, and that is fair enough and I respect their decision. But they couldn’t make that decision when they were a toddler or pre-schooler as they weren’t competent to do so and that was when I made the decision to share for them and now I’m left wondering if I did the right thing?
So now I’m at a cross roads and I am being much more discerning about what I share about my kids. Their health issues don’t get shared, their fears don’t get shared and their struggles in life don’t get shared and whist on the one hand I think this is such a shame as parents need resources to go to where they can feel reassured that it is normal that a teenager still has bed wetting issues (mine doesn’t I hasten to add) or that a nine year old girl has started to become a woman (no, not mine either). On the other hand it is more important to respect their privacy and allow them the dignity to live their lives in peace and to share who they wish to tell their personal secrets and struggles to.
From now onwards the story I tell via my blog and social media really will be my story and just mine. Of course they will still play a part as I’m a parent and that is probably the biggest part of my life right now but I can’t share as openly as I once did as I now know this could negatively impact their future relationships, decisions and confidence, and that is the last thing I’d want to do.
What about you? How much are you sharing of your child’s life online and have you had the conversation with them to see if they are happy about it?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found writing at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
This is something that I was talking to someone about a couple of weeks ago. The boys pretty much vet everything I post about the, now. I want them to be confident in what I share. Neither of them are active on Facebook yet, but that is something else I need to chat with them both about.
Yes, I am going down the vetting path too, so the kids can be involved in the decisions of what to share and what not to. Mich x
This is something I was thinking about. On the blog I rarely show pictures of their faces but do talk about what we got up to etc. They are too young for Facebook at the moment but do share things on there about them…..thinking to cut it down a bit
It’s a hard path to walk as a parenting blogger as our blogs are often formed on the relationship we have with our kids. Good luckm with whatever you decide is best for your family. Mich x
It is such a different world and i am getting more conscious of oversharing things about my children as they get older. I think my blog will probably take a different angle soon but at the moment Im not sure what! x
It’s hard to keep up as they change, isn’t it? I looked back at my blog recently and realised I probably can’t be classed as a parenting blog anymore as I post so little about the kids lives, except for days out posts. Mich x
Interesting subject Michelle.
That’s true we are sharing so much more of our lives (and our kids ones too) on Internet these days. I always tried to protect my private life online, talking about some episodes, without showing pictures of me or of my son. I guess when he will be old enough I will ask him whether it’s fine or not to share this or that with the world. We’d not want others to use our experiences and photos without our permission. I think it’s the same with our kids. As long as they know, they have the choice to say “yes” or “no”.
You are right, I never share my husbands stories for example and giving the kids a choice is a good thing but even then I think I’ll have to be discerning as to whether it is appropriate to share as my 9 year old’s might say yes and by the time they are 14 they are cringing and embarrassed. Mich x
Excellent post Michelle! I often think about the implications of social media and blogging too. Not so much in this aspect as I rarely write about my children but I do think about me posting pictures of them on Facebook and also how vastly different than world is than mine was. Love the images. I had all those posters on my wall too and of course the long phone line and the boom box. 🙂
Gosh, a boom box, now that really does bring back some memories. Mich x
This is something I think about a lot as my kids are 15, 13 and 10. It is something I considered when I started blogging, right back when they were 10, 7 and 5. I’ve never used recognisable photos of them on my blog or social media (apart from FB, which is people I know better and trust). I do tell their stories – for example I’ve talked in depth about my eldest’s acne and I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do. If they have a big temper tantrum or fight with their siblings, I’m not going to share that on my blog. I think we just have to judge each situation as it comes along and question whether sharing it really is the right thing to do.
All we can do is what we feel is right and best for our family. I totally get why you would share about the acne as it could really help others. Mich x
I don’t talk loads about my kids on my blog, I’ll mention bad behaviour in general because I think well it’s true and all kids can be like that sometimes but I generally won’t go into specifics if it’s something I think might upset them in the future and I’ve turned down big money campaigns before when I think it’s been too much about my kids personal lives.
I think it is a really good move to have them at the forefront Kate, well done. Mich x