Parents are feeling pressure to post pictures and publish details of their child’s early life on line, and as the first generation of digital natives (born after 1990 who cannot imagine the world without WWW connectivity) becoming parents, it will be interesting to see how this decision is handled. A recent New York Times article about the pros and cons of creating a webpage for your baby poses the question: if you do not create a digital webpage recording your young child’s early life, will he grow up to feel slighted because most of his friends have them?
A more germane question that might come to mind when contemplating a web page or profile for your baby is: what constitutes your child’s identity in the first place?
And then I wonder how can you know what to post for your baby, and whether it is something your child will want posted?
For me, the problem with focusing on the cyber identity with our babies and young children is that it can become a distraction from the things that really matter like experiencing bonding as humans do in the flesh, instilling character, and imparting wisdom. I have found that this is not possible to do in a genuine way unless you are first willing to receive your child and let him show you who he is. Nobody wants to be overridden or edited; at least I don’t believe it is a healthy thing to desire.
Just witnessing how quickly children gravitate to the screen, do we really want them focusing on how they appear on line at early ages? How will that help them grow and mature into secure and confident individuals? Especially since there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that having an on-line presence tends to make people anxious and depressed.
One of the most common temptations of the modern parent is to be confused about the meaning of private. Private is keeping personal information from the world, but the world is telling us that it is safe to share intimate details in the cyber realm – which is not necessarily private. And forming an identity has to first do with your inner world, the beliefs and values that make up your character.
One rule of thumb might be, if you handle the photos and mementos like you would an old fashioned photo album –something that is stored privately even if it is in “your cloud” storage – that seems like it would not be a boundary violation. Creating a social media page, however, is more of a boundary violation in my mind because it really is a personal thing to present the world; it should come from the person not from someone approximating the person – or so it would seem.
Family on-line identity management policy
Whether you decide to launch your child’s on-line presence as a baby, or make it a rite of passage by preparing them for it when they become a teenager, an on-line identity management policy is a good idea.
Tips for parents:
Establish a family motto and house rules for maintaining privacy on and off line.
Have conversations about your identity as first being formed around being a trustworthy human being which does not require an on line presence. And yet the cyber realm encourages us to focus on the outer world of appearances.
Have a clear on-line identity management plan for your child, that would include:
- Have a plan for “screen names” on social media that protect your child’s identity
- A list of personal data that is not shared such as where you go to school, where you live, and where you are going to hang out.
- Encourage your child to coordinate details about where she is meeting with friends via phone or private texting, or email.
- Explain that having an identity management policy is important to thwart identity thieves
When kids understand the strategy your family employs to overcome the manipulative agendas of others, they will have greater sense of purpose and empowerment about your inherent authority to govern the home.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)
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- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.