I saw on a blog site last week an inquiry about whether to use real names of our children when we write publicly about them. I answered that I use pseudonyms for my kids: Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3. I use those names because my children are still minors and I don’t think they always want me writing about them. When I started this blog, its primary objective was to show them slices of my thinking, and to perhaps paint
lovely moments for them as a retrospective once I’m dead and eaten by worms.
What I didn’t say in that reply was that I also don’t use many full-on photos of them. I also don’t talk about where they go to school and talk about their teachers’ names. I give pseudonyms for their classmates like Japser and Helga or Otto. Their teachers are often referenced by names like Mr. Hoffnalagenar because there’s likely only one of those in the world. Sometimes the names represent people who don’t even exist.
In fact, I’m not an earthling. My ship, a flying Xamfrag, is coming from planet Rastrag in the Cloaticox galaxy on Dreistal 13th, two days after what you call “National Limerick Day.”
I’ve said things like this (nothing like that immediately above) before. I know many people try to protect their children, consider themselves child advocates, and warn their children about the dangers of the Internet… but what if one of the dangers of the Internet is … their parents?
We have the best of intentions. We don’t mean to harm our kids, but when we blog about their lives, report on our blogs or Twitter feeds about their travails at school with teachers or bullies, show pictures of them in the tub or when babies during their nursing bliss or tell stories about their natural moments of self-discovery, we’re sorta harming them. We’re sorta saying, “Hey Cinderella, you might be in preschool now, but sooner than I’d like because time flies so fast, you’ll discover a locker in a school hall somewhere waiting for you to be shoved into it because of this post I’m writing about your
bedwetting bullying teacher hairstyle dental problem.” You know why? Bullies are everywhere.
Maybe deep inside we feel left out. We want the attention. Ever heard of Munchausen by Internet? If we weren’t blogging we wouldn’t have any attention. We wouldn’t have
innocent strangers caring for us and thinking of us and praying for us… to me, that’s sorta creepy. If I blog about my kid’s stuff, I better be damned well sure that I’m not making this about me. If we weren’t putting this out there, no one would know about us… gasp! Horrors! You know what? That might not be so bad.
The thing is: the Internet is public. Smaller bloggers may not have a gazillion followers, well, you might not — me with my dynasty back on Rastrag, I’m covered. They’ve got a 45-clutink high statue of me in the Commander Dryflog Room in the Hall of Galaxies.
Back to my point: the photos can wind up anywhere. Anyone can read your blog and anyone can pick on your kids. When we think about protecting our kids, we might need to include ourselves in their list of unintentional and possible offenders. When we have anyone anywhere with access to a smart phone, not even having to buy a computer, to be able to surf and download pics and all sorts of stuff… people on house arrest, people on parole, people at the pizza joint around the corner, people on other planets… (just sayin’) we should be more careful. The world has changed TONS from even three years ago.
Here’s what I’m not: perfect, the best blogger, the safest parent and the sage of all things. But I do try to be consistent. I have friends who show pics of their kids and that’s their choice. I don’t cringe when I see the pics because I do believe that the earth, your planet, is largely populated with good people. It’s the dark dark dark woo-woo creepy 2% that has no boundaries, whose wrath knows no limits and whose predilections have no definition. On Rastrag, we have a place for those life forms, it’s very much what like you all call the ball pit at “Chuck E. Cheese” here. They can’t handle it.
I know I’m taking a little step into “Judgemental Judy” -land with this post. I just hope I’m wrong. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m totally paranoid. Who knows? I just know that when I writing something and my kid comes in and says, “Is that about me? I hope not.” I better take notice. Everything in moderation.
PS – if you think this post is about you and you’re mad, don’t get mad at me. You’re not mad at what you’re mad at.
UPDATE: consider this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/15/pam-van-hylckama-vlieg-attack-agent-author_n_1886696.html
I have had to dial it back a lot for those reasons. I’ve seen those with bigger followings have to deal with creepers.
exactly. and i know i’m super small potatoes (except for on Rastrag), but yeah… people on house arrest can look up anything on a smartphone now.
I used to use pseudonyms for kids until they became teenagers. Then I started using their names when they came onto the internet. However, I do keep an eye on what they do and where they go.
I agree about the age thing, but I still try very hard to not write about their personal stuff; and yeah – they don’t know what they’re doing, so we have to protect them from themselves as well. My oldest is a teenager, but he doesn’t want an FB account or a cell phone… he’s from 1812.
LOL He’s odd. But good on him 🙂
yes, it’s when he keeps telling me about the settlements out west that i get a little twitchy. 😉
Now that’s more than odd
I only have hypothetical kids.
good for you!
I agree and have taken a similar approach in writing about (or not) my children. Plus, especially once they’re not babies anymore, it’s not really my place to tell *their* stories. It’s their place. And they’ll tell them when they’re ready, in whatever way they choose.
Hello When I Blink! I love your avatar image! I agree about the babies part…once they get older it’s not that they’re not so cute anymore, it’s that they more like us. I like what you said about leaving it up to them to tell their own stories. Smart.
I have some rules I follow about using the Internet. For example, I put my last name out there, but my husband and daughter have a different last name from me (I didn’t change mine when we got married). I don’t use my daughters real name. This cuts down on google-ability. I don’t tell people where I live beyond my state. I try not to post pictures or talk about things that would embarrass or hurt anyone in my family. I run things by my husband to check if I have gone too far. Privacy is a real concern and it is difficult to navigate as a blogger who wants to be real and honest. It is so important, however, to take other people into consideration. Future employers will be googling your child. So will future life partners. Don’t do things that may follow them around for life and ruin opportunities for them.
Good point about the maiden name. I think it’s wise and maybe something I should have considered… that goes back to that “I’m not perfect” part. Living and learning. Trying to be real and honest is an issue. I have a friend who blogs, but she has it attached to her personal website and then it’s not followable. She did it all as a scrapbooking thing for her kids and I admire that. I do worry about my kids’ futures. My oldest doesn’t want a Facebook account for that very reason and I wonder if my account could become an issue for him? I doubt it though as I seldom speak about them there. As I’ve heard countless times: “Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want printed across the front page of the New York Times.” (Do people still read newspapers anymore?) 😉 I do. -M
I think about this constantly. I want to be so honest and real that I do (over)share our lives in Instagram pictures, curse words, and tweets. Since my life started as an online mom, I’ve now a private twitter account, never sharing our real names, and also realizing that the creep yahoos will be creep yahoos no matter what type of photo I post. I’m sure they’ll creep a picture of kids sliding or posing with other kids because creeps do that and not necessarily a bathtime or bum flash, ya know?
With that barfed out, I still appreciate the anonymity as a multicultural family because my son and I have very unique first names that can be googled in a jiffy and have the blog-arazzi show up at my door. HA. Jokes.
Thank you so much for your comments! This post has gotten the most “likes” ever – 14 or so. I realize I am touching a nerve and I also see that despite its most likes, it was not recommended on Facebook the way many or some of my more benign or health-ish pieces have. That makes me think that people don’t like being told what to do. We all do it; we all have this strange idea that if we go online then suddenly we are famous or “known” but we’re not. I subscribe to numerous journalists and bloggers and save for a few that are regulars to me or that I’ve gotten to know personally, I don’t know if if I’d be able to crank out anything they’ve written that has struck me. That’s probably telling you more about myself than their content. I loved this: “and also realizing that the creep yahoos will be creep yahoos no matter what type of photo I post.” So true, there’s always a yahoo somewhere. People will be jacks anyway they want and for any reason. Should that scare us? Probably not. It’s the yahoos who know who we are, the yahoos who we vex and itch that might not be the ones we want to be known by. Do some people, mostly amateurs (meaning not paid or professional) write controversially? Of course. Do some do it with experience? I certainly hope so!
The thrust of my post (which you got) was to make sure we protect those who can’t protect themselves: our kids and their privacy and their lives and travails. Just because we might be having a hard time with things they’re doing, it doesn’t mean we should always talk about them. They have yet to truly be in this cyber-influenced world. Someone on this thread mentioned that their employers, friends and future life partners will be searching info about them. Yeah. That sorta bums me out and makes me want to rethink this entire blog of mine. Someone else commented that their stories are for them to tell not us. Yeah. That’s true too. They’re young yet and they have no clue about people’s weirdnesses. I hope they don’t have to learn the hard way. I know I still haven’t learned the hard way and for that I am truly grateful.
I appreciate you stopping by. Come back sometime, I’m not usually this provocative. I’m much more absurd.
Molly, I totally agree with this post. After reading the article in the Washington Post about Facebook collating so much information on it’s users, it gave me great pause. I actually thought about deleting my account. I do not put pictures on my account, because once they are out there in webland, they are there forever……..I have lots of family, with kids. I do not think they care about this and I wonder if they really take time to think about long term consequences. I am very cautious for many of the reasons you cited and never really thought about the bullying issue until you mentioned it. My biggest fear was the one on yahoos. You never now who is lurking around the corner! While, I believe that most people are truly good, it just takes one jack hole, to disprove my theory. I do not ever want to regret something that I did online, that could negatively impact my family. Life is too complicated as it is! Thank you once again for a great post!
Thanks, AC. Facebook does not care about us. It never has and it never will. My life was a lot less complicated before FB. I enjoy it, but I do not regard it as a positive thing anymore. It is a time suck for me. I will say this: I have exposure to many things I wish I’d not seen on FB – too much crassness and vulgarity (I’m no prude and you know this), but there comes a time when, as you and Theek said (above your comment) that yahoos will be yahoos. And jack holes will be jack holes. I wonder if people of this e-generation still get a rush out of what we used to: first kiss, seeing a live performance, seeing amazing art with your own eyes — the first time I saw a Monet in person … I almost collapsed. These mini screens have a way of effing up our lives into capsules of “good enough for reality” when the screens are never good enough. SO much more to say about all this. But the bottom line: people need to be more careful. I am amazed by the amount of fellow-blogger likes and the lack of sharing on FB. As I said in a previous comment: people don’t like being told what to do, especially when it comes to parenting. I just hope their kids don’t have to live down whatever their parents couldn’t keep to themselves for their own personal gain. xo
No, I do not think the e-generation will get it until they are much, much older. Technology is a wonderful thing, but has many drawbacks…..They may not get it until there are books you can no longer purchase in book stores, newspapers to subscribe to or art that is not made in China…………….I met an artist yesterday who had a very successful ceramics/pottery business, wrote three children’s books and she is now struggling. In part due to the economy, but more so due technology. People more than ever are not purchasing as many paper/hard backed books, and with the internet and smart phones, people can easily copy your art and mass produce it in China for much cheaper than she could ever do here in the states. Her business supported 14 people; she had to lay off for these reasons………sad, very sad……….Thankfully, my guy has not gotten sucked into the whole technology thing and right now has no interest in a cell phone or social media. He has an Itouch and does not have one song downloaded on it………for now at least, he only uses it to make and watch Lego stop motion videos……..truly an old soul 🙂
old souls are beautiful; they come back to teach us. i’m trying to listen. sometimes the lessons are slathered in teenage angst and sarcasm though… 😉