Should You Share Your Children’s Stories Online?
Christie Tate’s 10-year-old daughter swooped into her bedroom demanding that she NEVER share her stories and photos in her online writing again. She was absolutely livid, in the way that only tweens have the ability to be.
How do I know all of these sordid, nitty-gritty details?
Well, besides the fact that I’m raising my very own tweens and teens, Tate also wrote about this fork-in-the-road moment in a peek behind the curtain essay for The Washington Post. The article is titled, “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t do that.”
733 comments later, I’d say that the Internet has opinions about Tate’s essay!
I’m going to be perfectly frank about why I think it is that her words and stance are striking such a chord and inciting so, so very many reactions within the parenting community:
Even if you’re not a paid essayist like Tate and I are and sharing your thoughts on motherhood aren’t your literal job, we are living in an age where our children’s stories become our Facebook posts, Instagram photos, and Snapchat stories.
What does this mean then?
Well, it seems that we’re all in the same boat as Tate is.
This is why I’m advocating that we send her a metaphorical life vest and read her words and without ever tipping a toe into Internet judging, shaming, or mean commenting.
Instead, our reactions to her story — and choices — can help us to better glean how we feel about sharing our children’s stories on the Internet and what we want to do about it within our own homes … and within our Facebook feeds!
In a nutshell, Tate’s stance is that there’s a middle ground to be found between never-ever discussing your children’s experiences online and posting their photos and stories without their permission.
This is the route that Tate and her daughter have chosen to take for now. She says,
“Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her. So my plan is to chart a middle course, where together we negotiate the boundaries of the stories I write and the images I include.”
I, personally, have found a similar middle ground in my own home.
As I’ve moved away from sharing as many of my children’s personal stories in my essays as I did when they were little, I’ve reached an interesting, and I daresay, surprising spot where my children seem almost … offended that they’re not showing up in my writing as often. I definitely wasn’t expecting that! They’re oftentimes competitive with each other if one child is seemingly more Google-able than another.
Despite their seeming eagerness to appear in my writing, my personal struggle is that they feel these ways today, but consent to tell their stories, at age 10 for example, isn’t quite the same thing as getting their consent when they’re in their 20s or 30s, is it?
And, yet …
In this day and age where our online lives are so intricately woven with our in-person lives, is there a difference between posting about my kids on Facebook or telling my book club the exact same story?
In some ways, of course, but in other ways, the ones that I suspect matter the most to our children right here and right now, not really.
It’s still their stories, told through our eyes, inviting reactions and opinions.
Besides the usual takes on this topic which include privacy, safety, and what college admission counselors and first job Human Resources workers will be able to find out about your and my children in their inevitable Google searches …
There are two things that tug at me as I make these instance-by-instance decisions.
The first is that I want my kids to learn to think twice before they post anything online.
I want them to ask for permission before posting photos of friends, to think about the ripple effects of the comments they leave, and so on.
In other words, I know that they’re always watching and learning from what I do WAY more than from what I say, and I want to be mindful of that within this topic.
And the second thing is this:
We’re the first generation of parents raising digital kids without having been them ourselves. We don’t actually know what they’ll think of all of the above when they’re fully grown and look back at their so-very-much archived childhoods.
There’s the beautiful positive to this that they’ll get to see those too often forgotten small moments that we shared. Ice cream on a hot summer day, first sledding trip of winter, getting lost in a library book on a Wednesday afternoon.
So as for me, I tread carefully, bring my kids along for the decision making, and as Tate says, I open myself up to having these conversations and making these decisions with them, giving them full veto power.
And over every other puzzle piece that I bring to this decision-making table, I always keep in mind that they will read my words one day and I use how I feel about that to guide my posting habits.