Wednesday, June 5, 2013

parental overshare in the information age

So yesterday I was browsing Pinterest and came across a blog post about elimination communication (EC).  If you're not familiar with EC, it's basically potty training from a very young age (i.e. 3 months old).  The mother discussed how she used this method with her children and how much success she had.  She also shared pictures.  In fact, the "pinned" image was a picture of her naked baby daughter held over a bucket with poo in it.  I'm sure that the mother meant no ill harm to her daughter.  But I can't help but cringe when I see that kind of over-sharing.

I've written before about why my husband and I decided to make a private blog to document our son's life.  And perhaps people are sick of reading about those reasons.  But I am convinced that this is an important topic that parents need to take more seriously.

Recently I read two other articles on this topic.  The first was from The Atlantic entitled "The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing About Their Children".  Here's an excerpt:

"While serious revelations pose a greater threat to a child's reputation, humiliating stories may be more likely to destroy a parent-child relationship. A child might sympathize with writing about his illness, but not about that time when he was three and wet the bed. And a story of everyday parenting challenges could still reflect poorly on a child down the line. Between two equivalent candidates, who would hire the one who once begged for $600 jeans?"

And the second (which is mentioned in the first article) is "Thanks, Mom, for Not Telling the World I Pulled a Knife on You" from the NYT parenting blog "Motherlode".

"In this Internet age, children deserve to struggle into adulthood with some degree of privacy. If my mother had publicized that moment when I cut my arm, it could have devastated my future in incalculable ways. My college applications or job prospects might have been affected. New friends, classmates or colleagues could have judged me based on momentary mistakes that happened years earlier."

As always, this is an issue of balance.  And perhaps it can look different for different families.  We know people who make sure that there are NO pictures of their children on the internet.  Our approach is a little more liberal.  We post most pictures privately (preferably with watermarks) and try to limit the pictures that other people post of him.  When I write, I try to keep stories about Hadden to a minimum, respecting the fact that he is more than simply my son - he is an individual, deserving of my respect and honor.  It's not easy and sometimes it feels like we're being overly cautious about nothing.  Articles like these encourage me that I am doing the right thing.  And I hope that some day my son will appreciate and recognize the respect we have tried to give him.

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