A decade ago, the blogosphere was the sole provenience of parents, mothers largely, who started blogging about their personal lives as a way of giving themselves perspective on the often messy, joyous, maddening job of child-rearing.
It started quietly, unassumingly really, but over time some blogs caught fire because the writers spoke a truth that hadn’t been heard much before. As their communities grew, more traditional media outlets began to realize these parent bloggers had stories that would resonate with the rest of us.
In the blogosphere, everything about child-rearing became fair game: Babies who cried incessantly, toddlers who refused to nap, the frustration of managing daily demands on way too little sleep — nothing was too minute or mundane to be examined in detail.
Many bloggers found the unvarnished truth-telling liberating. But of course, writing about one’s home life involved others, namely the children we habitually kept under the microscope as we wrote.
Now, as that generation of kids edge into adolescence, they are becoming more aware and vocal about having their lives broadcast for the world to see. A recent New York Times story, “Don’t Post About Me On Social Media,” highlighted the multi-faceted dilemmas that exist as children become teens and discover their history isn’t exclusively theirs.
If you are a parent who blogs or uses social media extensively to talk about your private life, perhaps you’ve considered this. I know my son and I wrestled with it. While I didn’t wade into the blogosphere, I’ve always had a monthly column that’s been devoted to my life as a parent. Naturally, as a writer whose job it’s been to examine parenthood, my son became my muse, his childhood a way of considering myself, and the choices I made as I raised him.
Seeing through their eyes
While I always tried to be measured about what I shared, I remember at around fourth grade, my son began to ask more pointed questions about my writing, particularly if I was quoting him or using his antics as a way of making a point.
What was interesting was that the things that angered him weren’t always apparent to me, at least not at first glance. I remember one column that centered on the moral dilemma of fessing up about how a new cell phone got ruined (it was dropped in the toilet). My son became upset when I described a scene in which he cried. It made him look babyish, he said, and that was unacceptable.
His comment made sense when he told me, but his being potentially embarrassed hadn’t occurred to me. As I wrote the column, I simply told the story as it had unfolded. I wasn’t trying to be dismissive of his feelings or his privacy; I simply failed to see the event through his eyes.
It was a wake-up call, though, one of several I would receive as he became more vocal about of my work as a journalist. I think many parents have written about their lives as a way of finding solace and support. You can hardly blame them; the wonder years are a challenging time in life. But ultimately, we also have to consider what we share and how it impacts our family and children.
The question we have to answer is this: How do you write your truth as a parent without jeopardizing your child’s right to privacy?
Not everything should be shared, would probably be your kid’s response. I typically limited my writing to issues I thought would resonate with others and tried to reflect our reality in a way that wasn’t too embarrassing. But the fact is, publishing detailed information (which includes family photos) does leave your children vulnerable. Furthermore, it leaves a lasting digital footprint over which they have no control.
There is a new social site called Just10 (just10.com) that gives users a safe place to post whatever they choose. No information is ever seen by the public and all data disappears within 10 days. Since you can only share with 10 friends, your information and photos are confinded to a select few.
No, it’s not the community-building blogs have traditionally offered, but it does consider others in the equation of truth-telling. And it gives your children the right to determine their own digital footprint on the infinite landscape that is the web.