ControverSunday: Digital Privacy

by Ginger on November 7, 2010

in Mom Thoughts

ControverSunday makes its glorious return! And there was much rejoicing! If you’re new around here, I’ll make things easy and post the mission statement of ControverSunday:

ControverSunday is a collaborative blog meme, whereby the goal is to share, discuss and hear out different perspectives on parenting, society and other stuff that matters. All those who participate bring to the table a unique perspective and approach others with mutual respect. Participating is a way to build community, to learn something and to reflect and evaluate our own choices.

If you’d like to participate, please, join us. All you have to do is write up your thoughts on the topic du jour, grab the badge from Accidents and head over to our hostess amoment2think to get linked up!

So, let’s get to it. The topic of the day is digital privacy, which for me was prompted by a statistic I read that said that 82% of kids under two have an online presence. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Flickr, etc., it doesn’t take long to figure out how that number is so high (it’s actually higher in than that in the US). So given that, what of digital privacy for your children? Is it possible? Is it something we can even accomplish? Is it an antiquated idea?

I think the starting point though, has to be different–is digital privacy for ANYONE even possible anymore? We’re in a rapidly changing world as far as information and digital presence goes. What would have been unthinkable 10-20-30 years ago, as far as what we put out to the entire world, is now considered normal. Who KNOWS where we’ll be in another 10-2o years? Because of that, I often feel like we’re on a slope where the idea of digital privacy as it exists today is impossible to try and maintain as we move forward.

To that end, what of our children? Well, for one, our children will grow up in a digital world. There are all kinds of studies and statistics about what teenagers are comfortable sharing online, the age at which a kid is getting online gets younger and younger–heck, my kid has a toy called my first laptop. Our children aren’t going to know a world where digital isn’t immersed in every single part of their lives. To try and imagine what “privacy” will mean when they are older is something I prefer to leave to the futurists (side note: did you know there are actually futurists? I’ve actually met one–it’s his job title. He’s brilliant.)

So, what then? If I think that digital privacy is a difficult, if not impossible, thing to try and wrap our hands around, what then? Should we not even worry about it?

Well, no. Because, as parents, it’s obviously our job to help protect our children, to the extent we are able. So, for example, while I have and will continue to post pictures of Jackson online, there are certain kinds of pictures I won’t share. There are some obvious ones–no nekkid pictures–but then there are some others that I won’t post because *I* think they might embarrass him later. Those are more subjective, but as his mom, that line is my call (with my husband).

The same goes for stories of Jackson. My general goal on this blog (and even on Facebook) is to speak to MY experiences, rather than to tell all of the stories about Jackson. Part of that is because RambleRamble is supposed to be a place for me to explore and talk about my own thoughts and experiences more than a place to talk about my kid’s thoughts and experiences. But the second part of that is that I believe he deserves to not have every single thing about him put online by his mother. I don’t want this blog, or Facebook, to be the equivalent of nekkid baby pictures in an album shown to his high school sweetheart. It’s a fine line, and one that shifts and changes, but it’s there.

As Jackson gets older, we’ll have to teach him responsible online usage, just like we’ll have to teach him responsibility in all areas of his life. The difference being that we’ll have to teach him that technically, what you say and do and post online never goes away. It can be found, and it can speak for you long after you have changed thoughts on something. Those party pics posted today can come back to haunt you later, that comment you posted in anger can continue long after an argument is over, that stupid remark you made can be found after you’ve smartened up .

That being said, I sometimes think the claims of “what if a future employer finds this?” and the like are a bit overblown. Frankly, I’m an employer now, and I’m smart enough to do two things when I’m hiring: 1)do a google search on a candidate, and 2)use my reasoning and logic to determine whether I think what I find about someone from 10 years ago will matter at all today. By the time Jackson is in the workplace, I fully expect that employers will be able to tell the difference between baby stories posted online, or the stupidity of a high schooler or college kid,  with who he might be as that time.

Digital privacy is something that is an evolving, changing idea–one we really can’t fathom the future of. For today, I’m comfortable with Jackson’s “online presence”, because I actively think about things before I post them. Just like I do for my own online presence.

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Mama Tortoise November 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Hi Ginger,

Great post. I think that you are so right about the idea of digital privacy – is it even possible? It sort of makes the topic null and void if it is an impossible idea. We all have an online presence whether we like it or not. I guess the issue is more of what that presence actually looks like – image management vs. privacy. The fact that you keep certain pictures of your son off the internet is exactly that. The kids are just going to have to eventually learn what is acceptable.

And then technology changes so fast! I love that your son has his ‘first laptop!’ Ha. My four year old asked her Dad for an IPhone last week. And neither of us have one. How does she even know what one is?

-Laura

clara November 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I hear you on the “my blog is about my experiences” thing. I had a blog before I had kids and I still aim to make it all about me – for one thing, it’s one of the only things that is totally within my control! and for another, because they will speak for themselves when they are able, you know. Everyone has a right to tell his/her own story. They are part of mine but not the driving force behind my words, generally (crappy day rants excepted)

Megan November 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

You and Kathleen both brought up the point about teaching our kids to manage their own online presences, and I can’t believe I never thought of that! I was so wrapped up in the here and now, I never even began to ponder what it will be like when Charlotte has her own Facebook and blog, etc. Scary stuff.

Jen November 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Good points. I have posted naked pictures of Kale – although only bum shots or chests when the nekkid-ness is not the focus (for example, I posted a picture of him running naked in the backyard with is bubble mower). Is it fodder for a pedophile? Mmm… probably. But it’s not a picture that would be terribly embarrassing I don’t think, because in our family it’s not a big deal to see baby bums. Others might find it embarrassing. But I did think twice and I still do wonder if I should take it down. But good points!

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