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Today we are happy to present a new guest blogger, IT security specialist, Johanna Mannung. Joanna has written a very wise and thought-provoking post about rewriting and posting pictures of her children on social media.
When writing something on Facebook, you should keep two things in mind: 1) anyone can read it and 2) it will stay for as long as the social media outlet wants.
If you write about your child on Facebook, you should remember that what you write, may be read by your child or your child’s friends in about 10-15 years. Nothing you do can 100% guarantee that this will not happen. What you post is governed not only by what you yourself do, but also by what your friends do. There are thousands of examples of when information has ended up on other sites, copied and ended up completely out of the control of the person who first uploaded the image or text. For example, an acquaintance of mine tested a seemingly innocent application that caused all of his friends’ status updates to be copied to an external site.
Posting flattering pictures without consent or complaining about another person online, is bad. And children are people. Posting flattering pictures or complaining about your children is as bad as doing the same to an adult. Or perhaps even worse, because a small child can neither understand nor defend themselves, and must also have their parents as their protectors. Therefore, it is extra important to have positive online knowledge and stick to positive content when writing about your children.
Just like adults, children and teenagers often want to be quite restrictive with what negative images they publish for the entire circle of acquaintances. Pictures that you post on Facebook also need to work in a completely different context. A picture of the child on the potty may feel cute and charming when the picture is taken, but that picture would not be as funny in 10 years when a nasty school friend digs it up and sends it around the class.
When children defy or do not want to sleep, it is easy to want to complain. Facebook can also be very supportive – if you write something about how hard it is, many will often offer a digital hug. Sometimes it can be tempting to write a joke online, such as “I can’t sleep tonight, anyone want my child?”. It’s probably funny which many parents can empathise with. You’ll probably even get a lot of likes. But even those statuses must be put in a completely different context. What if the children themselves read through their mother’s or father’s Facebook statuses? What would they think? The ability to understand sarcasm often comes after the ability to read. For a child who is completely dependent on their parents’ love, it can be really hard to see how parental love is questioned and joked about. And regardless of whether the sarcasm is understood or not, it is not fun to see their parents complain about how difficult you are in front of hundreds of others.
Sometimes you complain to show people how really difficult children are. There is a point in reacting to the very make-up and arranged image that many have on Facebook. Being real and not constructed is a choice you have the right to make about your own Facebook presence. However, it’s not a right to show someone else’s worst sides. You should have that person’s consent. And children cannot give that consent.
I believe that a certain caution is important for things that concern negative aspects of one’s own life. Writing about depression, for example, is twofold as a parent. On the one hand, there are issues that are important to talk about. Mental illness is one such thing. On the other hand, it is neither easy nor straightforward to tell that a child is growing up with a parent with a mental illness. There, the adult and the child may have different perceptions of who the information is about and what should be shared. I think that choice should be carefully considered, and after recognising the risks. If you think that what you write is worth the disadvantages that may be put on the child, it may be OK to write about the matter. But remember to write it entirely from your own perspective and leave the child out of it.
So when you write about your children on Facebook, think that what you write or the picture you post should be content that you are prepared to defend when the child is a teenager and has a really bad day. Texts and images that is a show of love and respect, I think will never be difficult to defend. With everything else, you should be very careful.
Another piece of advice I want to give, is to periodically go through things you posted about your children. What felt good then may not feel as good six months later. Things that are deleted early have a much lower risk of popping up in awkward situations in the future.
/ Johanna Mannung