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Is there Etiquette Concerning Sharing about our Kids on Social Media?

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If you’re living in the 21st century (check.), have kids (check.) and engage with others on any of the various social media platforms (check.), this is a hot topic. It’s not an issue that would have dictated a discussion a decade ago, but today with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat….oh heck yes! platinum rule

I’m talking about sharing stories and pictures of our beloved children on social media. I’ve written about the cost of living life on-line in a previous blog, but this blog is dedicated to our kids and what we share about them.

We are just finishing up the first week of school here in Mt. Airy, Maryland. 6AM wake-up. Not fun. Seeing all the first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook and Instagram. GREAT fun!  I love the pictures of the first day  of school, prom, graduation, new driver, sporting events and cute-babies-doing-cute-things! Since both of my daughters are in college, my 15 year old sophomore son is the unfortunate sole victim of my BTS pictures and Facebook post. A dream come true for the lucky guy.

We connect with others through sharing.  Social media gives us the opportunity to do this in a big way.

Mainstream national media has promoted stories about parents embarrassing their kids on social media. Perhaps it’s punishment for a wrong choice they made. Perhaps it’s all in good fun because as parents, we kinda like pushing their eye-rolling-buttons. These types of posts are only a small portion of the “sharing” to which I’m referring.

The parents of older kids, who have a voice and are able to articulate their thoughts on the subject, actually have it easier (yes, easier) in this case. You can ask your tweens, teens and 20 some-year-olds if they’re OK with your post. Sometimes it involves compromise, such as their pre-approval of the photo. Other times they won’t cooperate with a smile for the first day of school picture because they know you’ll be sharing it on social media, but they will humor you anyway and at least let you take the picture. Really, what teenage boy wants his picture taken? See paragraph #3 😉

What if you wish to reach out to your larger social media community to ask their advice or get a recommendation? Maybe for a doctor because of your child’s health situation that you detail out in your post. Or perhaps they are struggling with math and you need a tutor. Maybe they are having issues with a friend or teacher and you vent on-line.  Bed wetting at age 10?

Does sharing your child’s situation, not to embarrass them, but to seek advice from others, negate any ill-intent as seen through your child’s eyes?  Is it a case of TMI (too much information) when it comes to your kids and protecting their privacy as individuals?

What about sharing the parental frustrations we have with them? Oh yes. Frustration happens. Or sharing their life events like a first date, entrance into puberty via appearance of  single under-arm hair or current obsession with Pokemon Go?

This post by Elizabeth Bastos , a Baltimore-based blogger, appeared in the NY Times. Her kids were the subject of her blogs.  Until recently. Her article shares an eye-opening experience as taught to her by her dad.

I’ve been asked by parents about the etiquette around this contemporary dilemma.  Is there even etiquette? What is it?

I don’t know the answer.

What I do know about etiquette: it revolves around the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want done unto them.

So to answer that question, I’d have to ask your son or daughter their thoughts. If they’re too young to thoughtfully answer, I’d need to put on their future-self shoes and wonder what kind of image of THEM am I portraying on-line? What portfolio of posts involving my children am I creating? What’s their digital legacy as cultivated by Mom or Dad?

As always, use your pause button. We all have one. Stop and think before you post. Your kids will appreciate your thoughtfulness and consideration. One day.

I would love to know what you think! Is there a certain protocol that you follow before posting about your kids?  Please comment below. Thank you!

Mind Your Manners,

Kelly

8 Comments
  1. Such a great topic, Kelly! And no simple answers. I ask my kids for permission before I post photos/comments on social media. But I couldn’t do that when they were younger, so I just used my best judgment. I would ask myself, “Is this a story I would share in a room full of strangers?” I know I made mistakes with that at times, but I tried to honor their feelings – or the feelings of their future selves:-)

    Also, I think it’s challenging to grow up in a world where your entire life is documented digitally and permanently. The best thing we can do for our children as we post and share these stories is to teach them to be responsible digital citizens. And they learn to model our behavior. The simple act of pausing before posting, which you recommend, is a great habit to teach our children!

    Thanks for bringing this up. Great advice, as always!

    • Kelly

      Theresa, I looove the additional insight you provided re: modeling digital responsibility and asking “Is this a story I’d share in a roomful of strangers?” I knew you would based on your vast and tremendous blog posts about motherhood and kids. From my perspective, you are a person who is always respectful towards your children on what you write about. Thank you for contributing T!

  2. Kelly:
    This is a very hard topic, but I do like the Do Unto Others guideline. It does go both ways; kids can/will vent about parents openly online and will be encouraged by their peers. If the parent disregards the child’s feelings/privacy, that is the model that is demonstrated. That said, the parent/child dynamic is set very early, isn’t it?

    • Kelly

      You’re so right Jean – a very hard topic, with various degrees of “right” and “wrong.” As with most things, the more subtle situations are often the trickiest. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Such a hard subject. Many times I cringe at what I see on social media. From early on, I always ask led my child’s permission to post a pic why the 10 finger pic representing my 10th grader didn’t make Facebook the 1st day of school). I addition, rarely tag them (unless they ask me to). I ask for the same in return. So far so good in my house.

    • Kelly

      Thanks for weighing in Sherill 🙂 We have the no tag unless asked rule here too. That’s a classic good move!

  4. Important topic, Kelly. I realized this, fortunately, several years ago when I was blogging much more regularly. Seeing how some Reality TV parents went down in such public flames really gave me pause and made me think about what I present about my kids and my parenting beliefs and goals. It’s not really something I want burned into digital memory forever.

    One of my teens does not like for me to share photos of them on FB (even though it’s difficult, because I would so love to show off my beautiful child!), so if I really want to post something, I ask for permission. And I don’t tag. I also try to keep the negative reality stuff to a minimum; this also varies with the child. One kid sees it all in good fun if I post a mountain of the kid’s laundry, but a different child finds that mortifying, so I don’t. I mostly keep it to the highlights – this is the fun we had, this was my child’s awesome accomplishment (if that doesn’t embarrass this child), this is my kid being silly (if that is okay for that child).

    I had limited Social Media when my kids were little, but if I were starting with a baby now, I would be very careful about putting posts up. Definitely nothing like “Oh, ha ha, this is Junior with his diaper on his head!” I know a few moms who post nothing about their little children. It’s honestly not the worst idea.

    • Kelly

      Wow Danielle! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with this topic. I like how you recognize the difference in each of your children’s comfort level. Asking permission seems to be a sure-win/win for everyone. I’m thankful that my kids are older now and I don’t have to worry about all these digital legacy issues that new parents need to think about. It’s just another challenge in the world of parenting and trying to do what seems right…at that moment 🙂

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