by Clayton Ostler, of Net Nanny, the #1 Software for Keeping Kids Safe Online
I recently saw a blog post from two parents who had just spent over 50 hours removing online photos and videos of their children from social media and sharing sites. The parents’ given reason for the removal was not privacy or concerns about some “creepy stalker” finding their kids’ pictures. The reason stated was “identity.” Keep in mind it wasn’t “identity theft,” just “identity.”
Most people old enough to have children have not been raised from infant to adult in the digital era. Most of us have not had every detail of our lives shared online with others and most would agree that is a good thing. Unfortunately, many of us don’t stop to think how it might have affected our lives if everything that we did had been shared online. Part of the journey from child to adult is making mistakes and trying new things. This is normal. But having to share it on the Internet is not always healthy and can intimidate kids from trying something new and self discovery.
I am extremely grateful that there are no pictures of me as teen with a ridiculous haircut, a video of my tap dancing, a photo of every girl I ever dated, or pictures of me wearing matching overalls with my siblings at Yellowstone National Park posted online. I could go on for hours about things I am not thrilled to have in my past, even if they were cute at the time. Although my personal identity may have been formed from these past experiences, I am certain I don’t want to share these things with my current Internet acquaintances or worse, my employers. In the above mentioned blog post, I read a quote from a wise parent: “My wife and I do have ground rules for posting things, the most basic of which being never to post something that we’d be embarrassed about if our parents had posted something similar of us as a child.” Think of the classic image of the new fiancée coming over to the house to meet the family. Mom and Dad pull out the photo album and talk about the time when their son played soccer or went to the Prom. Sure, “Skippy” is embarrassed, but this also brings the family closer as they share who they are and how they have become this person with close friends and family. Shouldn’t the details of our lives be something we reserve for close personal relationships? Or at a minimum shouldn’t we give our kids the right to decide who they want to share their lives with and what they are willing to share?