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.
When I was a kid, people tried to keep their identities hidden online. It was an act of trust to show someone an actual picture of you, tell them your real name, or mention where you lived.
Those rules shifted over time, of course. Now it’s incredibly common to reveal all kinds of details about your life on various websites. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I like getting to know people through their real names instead of thinking of them as Snowflake3485 or as a mental picture of whatever cartoon avatar they happen to use.
However, it does appear that the rules governing the Internet are shifting again.
I noticed this with my nephew long before the above article came out.
He was born in the Internet age and has never known any other way of living. Pictures of him as a baby and toddler were emailed and texted to relatives all over the world. As he became a child, he started to have strong opinions about what should and should not be posted online about him.
It makes me cringe when people share graphic details about the lives the children they love in public places on the web. A story about potty training woes or preschooler tantrums might be cute to some readers when the kid is little, but the Internet has a funny way of holding on these anecdotes forever. In hindsight, I’m glad that all of the stories shared about my nephew when he was too young to be asked were the innocuous kind.
Once any story is out there, they can’t be taken back. It will exist forever, and there is a high chance that someone who wasn’t supposed to know about it will stumble across it anyway.
If it’s a kind story about a baby taking her first steps, it probably won’t be a big deal. There are a lot of things that kids don’t necessarily want the entire world to know about, though.
This is the biggest reason why I almost never share stuff about my nieces or nephews online. When I do mention them, it’s rarely by name or with a photo of them attached. Even then I never say anything embarrassing or too identifying about them.
Kids deserve privacy just as much as adults do. When they turn 8 or 10 and start setting up their own social media accounts, their Internet histories should only include things that they were okay with being shared.
If it wouldn’t be an acceptable thing to say about your spouse or your best friend when they’re having a hard time, it shouldn’t be okay to say about a kid.
The kids profiled in the article above are giving us a glimpse into the future. Ten years from now, I suspect it will be much more common for parents to keep all references to their young children off of the Internet. I know a few people who are doing this now, and I predict that it will only become more popular as the generation that was raised on the Internet grows up and tells us what it was like not to have any say in how their early lives were recorded online.
If you have children in your life, how much do you share about them online? Where do you think the line should be drawn? If you do tell stories about their lives, have you ever thought about how they’ll react to that once they’re old enough to pay attention?