Raising a Private Kid in a Digital Era
I’m writing this under a pseudonym.
I don’t usually do that, but it isn’t for my sake. I’m writing about my kid, and he never signed up to have his dad yammering about him in a public forum. Lord knows we all sacrifice enough privacy every time we open up our laptops or unlock our smartphones. He doesn’t need me accelerating the process.
I came of age in the infancy of the internet. It’s a common refrain for folks of my generation to thank the heavens that things like Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist when we were in our teens and twenties. Just think about how many embarrassing and possibly incriminating things we would have tossed out in the wild without considering the consequences. I can say for sure that easy access to a network of like-minded peers who offered instant validation for my art-nerd quirks, angry young opinions, and half-realized writing exercises would have been irresistible to a small-town narcissist such as myself. And I have no doubt that today I’d be regretting some of the things I’d have put out in the world back then.
You’d like to think that your judgment gets better with age, but then you go and have a kid at the peak of the social media boom and what do you do? You slap a couple hundred baby and toddler pics on all of your channels because your brain has been melted by your budding parenthood and it seems inconceivable that you wouldn’t make a public document of all of your offspring’s formative moments.
Fortunately, my head has cleared progressively as my son has aged. Since he’s been old enough to have regular conversations with me, he’s been very clear in saying that he has no interest in putting himself out in public. I’ve tried to be respectful of those wishes, even though they’re directly at odds with my own childhood yearning for fame. Not so long ago, my timelines were flooded with “precocious kid” stories and accompanying photos. That’s all dried up almost entirely, much to the chagrin of some of my relatives on Facebook. (It helps that I now mostly avoid social media altogether… but that’s another story.) I used to write occasional blog posts about my kid’s pop culture interests and even penned a couple of daddy blogs for national publications back before I realized the kind of staying power those things would have. Now I very much wish I could have them stricken from the internet.
With all of that in mind, I’m massively relieved that my kid will be coming of age in the post-social era. He’s a grade-schooler now, so I assume that by the time he hits his teenage years Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, Kik, Snapchat and all these other current social media platforms will be replaced by something currently unimagined, and possibly more insidious.
I feel for the generation of parents who were caught off guard by the rise of the connected world. When their kids were born, things like sexting and cyberbullying were barely even concepts, let alone something they could reasonably prepare to deal with. Whatever comes next, parents of my generation – and kids of my son’s generation – will have the benefit of watching today’s young folks self-sabotage and otherwise screw up. The internet is a known commodity now, and we’re all aware, and justifiably wary, of its pitfalls.
For the time being, I’m hugely grateful to have a kid who wants to keep things private. That isn’t at all who I was at his age, and I’m certain my thirst for notoriety would have gotten me in trouble if I’d had access to a fraction of the technology the world insists on dangling in front of his face. As it stands, I’ll keep doing my best to respect my son’s privacy and let him decide when and if he wants to become a citizen of the internet.
Personally, I’m holding out hope that some kind of super-virus permanently shuts down the worldwide web before his thirteenth birthday, but I have to be prepared for the off-chance that it doesn’t happen.
Where do you stand on your kids, the internet, and their privacy?
Where does your coParent stand?
Download the coParenter app and use our professionals to help you create a custom Media Plan for your child.