At book group a couple of weeks ago, one of the moms mentioned that her babysitter had taken a picture of her kids and posted it on a social media site along with their first and last names.
Well, that was a good way to get a bunch of moms all riled up.
Jaws dropped. Gasps were heard.
One mom pointed out that that particular site had few restrictions on who could access pictures. Another said letting potential predators know your kids’ names is the worst thing you can do because you’re handing them a weapon to targeting and/or gaining your child’s trust. I think all of us felt a little sick to our stomachs from just thinking about these possibilities.
Our fevered conversation only served to highlight an uneasiness I was already feeling. As a relatively new Twitter user and blogger who writes about spiritual formation and parenting, how can I not share about my kids? And if I do share about them, how can I keep them safe?
My husband severely restricts who he friends on his Facebook page for this very reason. As an attorney, he says that law school so acquainted him with everything that could happen (in the real world and the cyber one) that he is reluctant to take any risks.
He certainly has a point, but social media silence isn’t really much of an option for authors anymore, especially not if you’re just getting started.
Case in point for me: A great opportunity came my way to be a regular blogger for a new site on spiritual formation for families. The founder of the site kindly asked if I’d like to share a family photo for the site. My first reaction was horror. After trying so hard to keep my kids’ faces off my own personal site, how could I put them on another site that might even get more traffic? Yet I notice other “mommy bloggers” I respect using lots of pictures of their own children on their sites and referring to them by name. And it’d be one thing if I was writing primarily about fasting or aging or marriage, but my primary focus (and the topic of my upcoming book) is practicing spiritual formation as a mom, so my kids are definitely part of the package, for better or for worse.
I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly about how many Hollywood A-listers are slow to use Twitter. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20471622_20654357,00.html
Several cited busyness as a main reason why they didn’t use Twitter, but the underlying reason seemed to be a desire to maintain their privacy and the privacy of their families and loved ones. Obviously, I am far from an A-lister, but I can relate to that. And any parent can understand that when you have children, so much of the way you see the world changes, including what you consider private.
Of course you can’t protect anyone completely. And I guess I’ve already made the decision to share some things about my children with the world. This stage of my life is very kid-focused. I’m with one or both of them almost all of the time and so if I have a spiritual insight, it very often comes from them or is about them. I truly believe that the intersection of spiritual formation and parenting is what I have been called to write about, at least for the moment.
But I have to err on the side of my children’s safety. So for now, while I’ll continue to write about them, I’m going to avoid using names and places and disable the GPS photo connection on my phone. And this picture my older son drew will have to be the public online representation of my family.
Please chime in, other mommy (and daddy) bloggers. What do you do to keep your children safe online?