Parenting in an Interwebs Era

Thinking about this subject a lot lately, what with ripping video to share and gearing up for the stretch run of the pregnancy.

How much do you share about your children online?

I know a couple friends who obfuscate their kids’ real names, but talk about them openly. Rich (@rmanalan) told me today he dialed down his public sharing of photos and videos years ago, prior to the rise of Facebook.

I plan to keep my daughter’s name and photos of her as scarce as possible in public and Facebook forums, if only because she might not appreciate it later in life. Sure, my intentions would be pure, but who can tell how employers will view internet content in 20 years?

I suppose people of my age are lucky; we’ve always been adults in the age of interwebs, which limits the exposure of embarrassing mistakes everyone makes early in life. The Millenial generation and those after them aren’t so lucky, and we’re already seeing the fallout that errant Facebook statuses and foolish Twitter updates can have.

Facebook is especially tricky, since any given person’s network contains a wide range of people, all with different levels of connection. Do you know exactly what friends of your friends can see of your News Feed?

Plus, Facebook’s privacy is ever-evolving to suit their business needs, not your child’s longterm interests.

Obviously, that my job as a parent. So, I need to think deeply about the implications before making choices that could affect her later in life.

And I’m sure you all have thoughts on this subject, so please share your thoughts in the comments.

Speaking of kid’s and the internet, how about these eight-year-olds who published a study on bees in a legit scientific journal. Huzzah for them.




  1. Intentionally, very little. I’m uncomfortable with Facebook. Most personal stuff is email’d.

    But once they start wanting to use the NickJr website and similar, then they want registration etc. In theory at least, they could be determining reading age, aptitudes and preferences. Multi-user games come in at a later age, but they’ll start drawing lines between friends there and there’s been some research on what you can learn about someone from their social network connections.

    Before you get to talks about birds and bees, they’ll be one on tweets and stings.

  2. Good way to put it, Facebook also makes me uncomfortable. Of course email is a false refuge for me bc I use GMail.

    I don’t even want to begin thinking about when she begins using a computer. Ack.

  3. There’s a ‘useful’ time when they can play simple computer games but can’t yet read or write. So whenever something comes up on the screen that needs data entry they HAVE to ask Mum or Dad. That’s when you teach them that sometimes that means they can’t play that game or that you use a throwaway email address. Oh, and it is very important to have an Ad-blocker
    My kids play a lot of Flash games on the net, mostly as a ‘passerby’ so you wouldn’t actually buy a game that only got played once. That’s the main reason I’ve got no interest in an iPad. I just see that their reaction would be that they simply can’t do anything with it. And their pocket money would barely buy an app a week. As HTML5 games build up, that may change a bit but it will take a few years.

  4. I’m a little more cavalier than Rich and Gary. I don’t use my daughter’s name consistently on the ‘tubes, but it wouldn’t take much searching to find it. One of my Facebook use cases is family-targeted microblogging (I figure I might as well embrace the fact that my relatives are using it), so photos and short blurbs about her antics wind up there from time to time, as well as on Twitter and the family blog. Our “digital scrapbook” is far more robust than anything we have in meatspace.

    I try to be conscious of the type of photos that I post of her (no running around sans clothing, for example), but I’m not overly concerned about future embarrassment, because 1) She *will* go through a phase where my very existence is embarrassing, so why fight it, and 2) before she gets to that phase, she’s likely to embarrass *me* plenty. Some optimizations aren’t worth the trouble.

    Regarding computer usage: K is four and a half, and doesn’t get much internet time, mostly a few flash games, and she’s so far pretty good about not clicking ads, because they would interrupt her game play. Youtube/Netflix videos are still parent-driven; she prefers to let us drive the UIs because we’re more proficient (not that she phrases it quite that way). She also enjoys Skype calls w/ far-flung relatives, but again, has not shown an interest in initiating those processes herself. The point about iPad (iPhone in our case) games is well-taken, though…there have been a few times when we’ve had to interrupt a downloadable content transaction before it was too late. 🙂

  5. A couple points against the iOS devices have come up: 1) no Flash games and 2) in-app and app purchases. The Smurf game in-app purchases are the latest outcry I’ve heard, although that feels a bit like user error.

    Interesting approach. I’m pretty sure we’ll have to create FB lists (ugh) for sharing stuff, although I hesitate to provide FB with any more data about me. It’s inevitable.

  6. I try to be careful about what I give to Facebook, too, but I temper that with the sure and cynical knowledge that privacy is dead anyway. 🙂 I’ve also been somewhat selective about the size of my FB network, and try to keep on top of the privacy settings, though that certainly can be a tough target to chase.

  7. FB has become such a social obligation that it’s tough to maintain without rigorous curation of lists and study of the privacy implications.

    For me, I accept that privacy is dead. For my daughter, I want to preserve the option, should she freak out later in life. The future will hold interesting developments though, so maybe it will all magically get fixed.

    Or not.

  8. I don’t share pics of my kid online. Even when he was born, other side of the world, I didn’t send immediate pics of him through e-mail. It just didn’t seem right, even though I was over the moon with his arrival. I printed out pics and sent them with a little card through snail mail. Boundaries thing, but I also didn’t want something so precious cached and stored on anonymous servers, forwarded by e-mail to whoever, lost from me and him. I wanted to preserve his privacy too, or at least give him the option, as you say. Ultimately, its someone else’s image I was distributing, someone who couldn’t make a judgement, so I made it for him. When he’s older it’s a discussion we can have and if he wants to rescan his images and tip them all into flickr that’s for him to decide (but he won’t be distributing any digital pics of me!).

  9. The golden rule for years has been: Never write anything in an email/IM you wouldn’t want posted on the company bulletin board. (ie Assume everything can become public)

    In the age of social networking, I wrote a corollary: Never post anything online a malicious 16 yr old could use against your child. (ie Assume everyone is eventually going to have someone creative and nasty looking for someone to use against them.)

  10. Wow, you went the no digital route. Interesting choice, and I wonder if it’s not a better one. Usually, in cases of online privacy, only the binary choices live. Participate and get none or don’t participate. The middle ground usually gets lost in the shuffle.

  11. Agreed. The irony of the current era is that the absence of an online presence could also serve as fodder for ridicule. So, you’re pretty well screwed either way; haters gonna hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.