This whole parenting thing comes with its fair share of decisions, doesn’t it? I’m only six months in and already I feel like I’ve made a nappy bin full of choices. Breast or bottle? Co-sleep or cry-it-out? Solids at four months or six?
The pros and cons of my daughter’s life are constantly listing in my mind. I might not always get it ‘right,’ but I do my research and try to pursue her best interests.
It was late one night, when scouring baby articles on my newsfeed, that I read the highly persuasive ‘We post nothing about our daughter online’.
A lump formed in my throat.
A few days after my daughter was born I posted to my private Facebook account an announcement that included her full name, date and time of birth, length and weight.
In the months since I have posted photos, videos and anecdotes to private Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’ve shared the pride that I feel whenever she accomplishes a ‘first’ and some of the little challenges that we have encountered in our day-to-day lives. In the manner that I am doing right now, I’ve also written articles about my experiences as a first-time mum.
In so doing, I have given my ‘friends,’ ‘followers’ and a segment of the broader online community an insight into my daughter’s developing personality. I’ve allowed them to be familiar with her unique traits and her face.
In opening this window to her life, have I already compromised her safety? Have I damaged her future employment opportunities? Have I violated her rights or privacy?
They are important questions – and the answers can be very strongly defended and deeply personal.
I have friends who have made the decision to keep their children ‘offline.’ Some will write posts, but never upload photos. Others will upload the occasional photo, but with faces obscured. Still others will omit their children from their social media accounts completely.
While I completely understand and respect all of the viewpoints and perspectives, after weighing it all up here are the reasons why I have decided to continue writing about my child and posting about her online.
- I don’t believe it will place her in physical danger
As a child, I was reminded “don’t talk to strangers” whenever I left the house. I knew that, if a man approached me in the park with the promise of lollies or puppies, I should politely decline and go straight home. If home was too far and I still felt unsafe, I knew to look for ‘Safety House Zones’ in my neighbourhood.
‘We post nothing about our daughter online’ would have us believe that, in order to protect our children from this generation’s predators, we need to enforce complete online anonymity.
I get that it’s sensible to avoid posting any details about a child’s place of residence, school, or regular activities – but I think complete online anonymity is a form of hyper vigilance in the extreme.
While the park was considered a danger when I was a kid, I was not prevented from going there. Instead, I was educated about the dangers and was sent out into the world, armed with knowledge that would hopefully keep me safe.
By being sensible and circumspect, and by keeping our children informed about the dangers within our online communities, I believe it’s possible to include our children in our social media activities without placing them in harm’s way.
- We don’t know how technology will impact our futures
Just like my parents could never have predicted the advent of social media, we cannot predict how technology will advance and how it will impact our lives.
In fear of the implications of “facial recognition, Facebook profiling and corporate data mining,” there is a view that by keeping our children off the internet you will be protecting them from all manner of digital perils. But it’s all conjecture.
What if, in the future, a complete digital blueprint of a person’s life is considered a positive thing? What if the results of a Google search of our children’s names becomes the equivalent of a professional reference? Or a recognisable face becomes an important form of identification?
Employers or admissions officers at universities may come to require a readily searchable digital resume for applicants – in which case, an empty search result could mean that someone is overlooked or invisible.
That might be far-fetched, but so is the idea that an embarrassing baby photo or toilet training story posted to Facebook could affect a person’s ability to get into college. In decades to come, photos and parenting stories on social media archives will be so commonplace – I’m sure the powers at be will have seen it all before, and will be able to view these facets of people’s lives objectively.
- Social media is becoming a part of our culture
Social media is so pervasive in our lives. Schools already use it as a digital playground, where they post photos of activities and excursions. Parents also use it to connect and collaborate with other parents and teachers.
When I was at school, I remember feeling sorry for the rare few families who didn’t have a television at home. The kids couldn’t join in conversations about watching ‘Agro’s Cartoon Connection’ in the morning or ‘Ship to Shore’ in the afternoon, and most new fads or pop culture references went right over their heads. Those kids might not be any worse off for it now, but at the time they were missing out on part of a collective childhood.
In the coming years, the majority of children in classrooms will be a regular feature of their parent’s Facebook accounts. They will be involved in conversations within their school’s online communities. What would the social implications be for the ‘anonymous’ children?
I know – comparing a social media presence (or lack of one) in today’s society to not having a television at home in the 90’s might be a bit of a stretch. Just because the kids aren’t posted about, doesn’t necessarily mean that the parents are not involved in online conversations or the kids will be left out of any social situations. But my point is, I don’t know what the implications will be.
I have many wishes for my child, but anonymity is not one of them. I want her to feel included and ‘normal,’ and to feel like she is a valued and relevant part of society. And the simple fact is: social media is becoming more and more normal every day.
- Connections on social media can create and grow important bonds
As a new mum of a cluster-feeding baby, I spent many long nights up feeding. One thing that got me through was a private online forum that my Mother’s Group created on Facebook. I’d login at 3am and with a palpable sense of relief would discover that other members of the group were also online – doing the very same thing and the very same time.
Whether it’s a light-hearted post about a nappy explosion, or a photo of a particularly messy lunch – social media allows us to invite an online community into our homes and share with them our day-to-day parenting experiences. The posts might be about our children, but they are just as much about us. Without social media as an outlet, the long days at home with a mute, dribbling baby could be very lonely.
I admit that I need this contact with the outside world. I’m used to working full-time in a busy office environment. I’m used to having adult people to talk to all day. And now that I’m at home with a baby – my baby is pretty much the only talking point that I have, and social media is my only forum. For my own sanity, I NEED to be able to post about her.
From the photos and stories that I’ve shared about my daughter so far, I’ve noticed that it helps people to connect and bond with her. Whether it’s family members who live a long distance away, or a friend that doesn’t have much time to visit – when they see my baby, they look at her with a fondness and familiarity that wouldn’t exist without social media. They might not be able to see her regularly, but they feel like they know her. And it’s nice.
Do you share moments online? SHARE your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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