"Techy" Things, Teachable Moments, and a Healthy Dose of Trepidation.
It all began a few years ago with one of my (and my husband’s) first "real" parental decisions: we wouldn’t share our soon-to-be bundle of joy’s life online.
A strange concept to some, sure, but this was important to us. And it still is. Since then, I’ve learned it’s a little (or a lot) easier said than done. Not only that, there isn't a lot of information out there about the good, the bad and the ugly of one's entire life being posted to the long-lasting lands of the World Wide Web.
Let me back up about 30-some-odd years.
When I was a little girl, my parents’ jobs revolved around computers and education. By day, Dad battled “bad people,” or hackers, who tried to break into the University he worked at and Mom nurtured young minds at the local elementary school. At night, our trio reconvened at home for things like neighborhood walks in the summer and T.G.I.F. (and pizza, of course) Friday nights in the winter.
“Techy" things were embraced in our house.
At age two I had a “Macintosh” computer sweatshirt with battery-operated lights in the shape of an apple. From the time I can remember, the family computer always sat prominently in the living room and random lamps, lights and Christmas trees were run off of an X10 remote. As soon as I could drive, I was equipped with a flip phone for emergencies only, of course (minutes cost money!). You get the idea.
Technology was also a teaching moment.
In the mid-80s, I was lucky enough to tag along when Dad journeyed to Mom’s elementary school and talked about this new thing called the World Wide Web. He pinned to the school's computer lab wall, a large map with hundreds of tiny black lines connecting one area of the world to the other. At that moment, I learned it was not only possible to connect with others halfway around the world in real-time, but that it would soon make the world a much smaller place.
Back to those “bad people" my Dad battled at work.
Growing up in the midst of the 1980s tech boom, and with parents who knew more than their fair share about technology and the Internet, I was introduced not only to the concept of the Web at a very young age but also the power of the Web. More than that, I was taught to blaze the winding Web with an abundance of caution and respect. You know, things like: Never share your name. Never tell people where you live. Never talk to people you don’t know.
Fast forward to today.
Our world is connected — and sharing every little detail — more than ever with people we do and do not know. Thanks to the evolution of technology, we’re tempted to let others know about often very personal stuff like our political beliefs, latest relationship(s), current or recent travels and exercise logged.
These days, it’s almost laughable to say, “never talk to people you don’t know” or “never share your name” when it comes to life online.
But how is this continually connecting, social media sharing, picture posting evolution impacting the youngest in our society? Especially when their smiling faces are in the crosshairs of our cell phone camera and, with a simple upload, nestled in newsfeeds for forever.
We, as adults, have had the privilege of establishing and maintaining our online presence over the growth of this evolution. But many of us have taken it a step further as we start telling our children’s stories, posting their precious pics and taking them down the precarious paths of the World Wide Web.
It seems to have become standard practice for tiny babes, many of which haven’t even had their first diaper change, to be given a digital footprint within MINUTES of entering the world. I'll admit, my husband and I joined that movement (though we tried to wait for about a day). These announcements travel around the world in the same time it takes to send/post/snap/etc. and immediately give full names, birthdays, times of birth and more. You know, info identity thieves love.
Stuff like this causes my heart to race with trepidation. Why? For one, I tend to overthink most things like what is appropriate to share online, but I also don’t know enough about this phenomenon to have it not cause alarm. Thus, I am a self-proclaimed Trepid Tech Mom.
Let me circle back to how this all began.
The issue of Internet safety and kids came up for my husband and me when we learned we would be welcoming our first child.
Before this time, I was quick to post pics of our two rescue Rottweilers wherever I could because, well, they rock (miss you, Newman).
Like many couples, my spouse and I both had issues we felt strongly about when it came to child raising. Mine was Internet safety. So I started to Google things like “how do you keep your kids safe online."
And found very little.
And so it began. Learning how to keep kiddos safe online has become my passion. As our children grow, this passion is evolving into the many ways we, adults can practice safe and thoughtful digital parenting.
How are the online decisions we are making for our kiddos going to impact THEM in future years? How are the apps our teens are using and connections they are making going to shape their lives today and beyond? How do I politely ask friends and family not to share images of our children?
These questions enchant and terrify me.
My hope for this space is to encourage people to talk about technology and how it relates to our kiddos and families ... and keep it going. As we all know, new devices and apps come out by the second, and it's nearly impossible to keep up. But it's still our responsibility. We owe it to the next generation, at least in my humble opinion.
Let me be clear. I am not saying I am an expert in this area. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't posted a single thing about the kids online. In all honesty, my approach thus far has consisted of merely limiting what is published about them online in an attempt to do the least amount of harm to them later in life (everyone loves "faceless" pics, right? Ha!). That said, I do think I've grown up with the foundation to start cruising down the information highway with the kiddos snuggly buckled in the back. We might hit a few bumps in the road, but we'll learn more about Internet safety and kids through this blog.
If you’d like to join me, welcome. We can learn together and figure out how to ...
Pause before Posting.
Maybe you already have an opinion. Maybe you're not sure how you feel about the whole thing. Maybe you haven't even thought about it until now. Wherever you stand on the issue, here's a point of view that might start some conversations: Do Parents Invade Children's Privacy When They Post Photos Online.