Most young parents I know swore before their baby came that they weren’t going to be “those parents” who posted pictures of their kid online. Then low and behold the baby comes, and they can’t help but post pictures of their new bundle of joy on Facebook just days, sometimes minutes, after he or she came into the world. Soon, entire Facebook albums are dedicated to a couple’s child, capturing every moment of his or her young life.
All I can say is I’m grateful that Facebook wasn’t around when I was growing up. It’s bad enough knowing that there is an entire photo album crammed with adorably embarrassing baby pictures of me getting a bath or running around naked, so why would I want them uploaded to the internet where anyone can do a simple Google search and pull them up?
I ask parents to think about their two-year-old daughter or son twelve years down the road when they are teenagers and driving and starting to date. Now think of yourselves at that age. Wouldn’t you have been mortified if everyone in your high school, particularly a girl or boy you were interested in, had access to all your baby pictures? Why would you want to subject your children to such humiliation?
When parents create albums for their children on Facebook or make a “harmless” little post about some parenting challenge that specifically mentions them, what they are actually doing is compiling data algorithms needed to learn all about them over time. Facebook and other websites and applications heavily rely on facial recognition for attaining biographical details about individuals. And we now know that all this digital information is being cataloged, but maybe people don’t understand the potential consequences of this.
As a recent Slate article states, parents are ruining any chances their children might have for future anonymity. The writer Amy Webb and her husband decided that they would post absolutely nothing about their daughter online, as it was the only way to keep multitudes of information about their daughter from being piled up and cataloged, threatening her future anonymity.
What the couple did instead was build their soon-to-be-born daughter a sort of social media, technological trust fund that she will have access to once she is “mature” enough. Note to all parents out there: social media can ruin your child’s life. Keep in mind that college recruiters, hiring managers, etc. will look at all your child’s social media accounts, and if there is any questionable content, his or her chance at getting a job or into college may be jeopardized.
What do I propose? That we all take a tip from Amy Webb and her husband:
On the day of her birth, our daughter already had accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Github. And to this day, we’ve never posted any content.
All accounts are kept active but private. We also regularly scour the networks of our friends and family and remove any tags. Those who know us well understand and respect our “no posts about the kid” rule.
When we think she’s mature enough (an important distinction from her being technically old enough), we’ll hand her an envelope with her master password inside. She’ll have the opportunity to start cashing in parts of her digital identity, and we’ll ensure that she’s making informed decisions about what’s appropriate to reveal about herself, and to whom.
The bottom line is that establishing a digital identity should be something your child decides when he or she is ready. Don’t make that decision for them before they are old enough to even process what having a digital identity even means.
By Margaret Blaha.