Invading Our Children's Privacy on Social Media

Social media has become our platform for pride in our children.  The ability to post every cute picture and tell every funny story is nearly irresistible.  Is there anything better than posting a picture of your children and watching the “likes” number increase while people comment about how attractive they are?  It feels so good to write about something adorable your child says and have people agree with an “LOL” that it’s hilarious.  We want to share our pride with everyone when our children accomplish a goal and have everyone say, “How wonderful!”  We all do it.  I am guilty.  My children are old enough to tell me when to post something and when they prefer not but my other relatives are not.  I ask their parents’ permission and, inevitably, it is granted.  As I scroll through my social media “news” filled with pictures and status about young children, I wonder how this freedom we feel to tell their stories to the world will impact their sense of privacy.

I have one Facebook friend who lives far from me and refuses to post pictures of or write about her preschool age children.  She only posts about herself and her husband.  My instinctive reaction was to roll my eyes at what seemed like an unnecessary precaution considering the privacy settings we can use.  Then, I thought about the children.  Whether from concerns about their safety or not, I realized her children will have a different sense of privacy than most others.  She is not telling their story.  Their story remains theirs. 

I remember when I was a child before any social media existed.  I remember people taking what I thought were awful pictures, ordering wallet size and handing them out. I remember family members telling tales of the “cute” things we did at gatherings and feeling annoyed or embarrassed.   I wished my family wouldn’t do those things without asking me first and they didn’t have nearly the reach of the internet. 

Only time will tell how the liberties we take on the internet will impact the way our children define privacy and develop a sense of self-worth.  I wonder if they will follow our example and have difficulty separating their stories from those of others.  My life is mine to write about but theirs is not mine to share on the World Wide Web.  Our children are not us.  They are separate people.  They are entitled to be treated as individuals who should have dominion over their pictures, stories and PR.  Our babies and young children cannot speak for themselves or make that decision so it is our job to edit what gets released into the world.  We should make it a habit to ask older children and teens for permission to share their lives.  None of us would grab a megaphone, step outside and yell, “Hey world!  Guess what crazy thing my son just said!”  Yet, we do that every time we post on social media.  Join me as I try to remember to say to my boys, “Can I post this?” We would want that respect from them. We need to model it.

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