When was the last time that you flipped through your parents’ photo albums? Did you laugh, reminisce, cringe? Did you vow to put that album in a fire pit and burn it the second that your parents weren’t looking?
For children growing up in the post-Y2K world, they are experiencing those same emotions, but instead of photo albums on the top shelf of a closet somewhere, they’re online. Mommy blogs, Facebook posts, Instagram pages are full of the lives of these children. As we grow into adults and have families of our own, we seamlessly document the day-to-day minutiae of adult- and parent-hood. It’s our lives, we reason, and we want to tell our stories. We share those moments of our kids goofing around, learning something new, or being complete asshats.
But something on the internet is there forever. And what happens to these children that grow up with their entire lives documented publicly? How much of what is shared should be shared? How much of the story belongs to the parents and how much of it belongs to the children?
Many people who post about their children do so to invite people into their lives and create communities of solidarity. When talking about mommy blogging in particular, Jen Westmoreland Bouchard says this:
“At best, mommy blogging is a way for mothers to connect with others by sharing articulately rendered experiences during what can be a particularly isolating and challenging and/or joyful and inspiring time (and a range of experiences in-between) in one’s life. At worst, mommy blogs provide a forum for child exploitation: using shocking or vulgar written imagery (often accompanied by photos and videos) of one’s children intended to provoke a strong reaction, thereby gaining a larger readership and more notoriety for the blogger herself.”
So there is a trade-off here. Building this community means that you must be vulnerable, honest, and open about your experiences as a parent, but then you open up your children to the prying eyes of your readership, which may not be as benign as it appears.
When posting about children, you have to be mindful. Would they consent to this post if they were old enough to do so? Would this embarrass, humiliate, or otherwise harm them now or in the future? After answering these questions, you have to decide, how much do you tell?