efore launching into the meat of the post it would be inappropriate not to thank Faiqa and the team over at aiminglow.com. They were incredibly gracious and saw fit to publish my earlier post “The Bowels of Hell” on their site yesterday. There is usually some very amusing stuff that comes out of that site on a regular basis (although there must have been a serious dearth of material yesterday for them to stoop low enough to publish one of my posts). It’s worth at least a click on your part.
**we now return you to your regularly-scheduled dork**
Yesterday I receive a message in Facebook land from a friend who recently started a blog of her own about the same time as I started mine.
“Quick question. Are your blogs private or public? I am beginning to wonder if I want to be posting pictures and stories of my kids on my home improvement/crafting blog. Then anyone would have access to seeing them. Actually, now I am considering beginning a private family blog.”
I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this one. I’ll be the first to admit, my chief addiction to facebook is sharing pictures, videos and stories of my beautiful family with everyone in my life who cares to see them. I don’t think “bragging” would be an inappropriate word, because there is nothing I am more proud of in this world than my beautiful family. Whenever I look at them I think “whatever competitions there are in life, I obviously win”. And so I have flooded facebook with pictures of my kids with reckless abandon – as have most parents on my facebook friends list. The temptation is to think that facebook is a “safe” place to share that sort of information because we have the illusion of control over who has access to those images and details. But it is only an illusion after all, and thinking otherwise is just naïve. Once that stuff is out in cyber-space, it’s out there forever; and anyone who’s especially motivated can get it.
But that was before I started my own blog; a publicly visible blog about parenting, and that’s a whole separate ball of wax. Like most people I’ve seen enough episodes of Law and Orde:SVU to put the fear of Elliot Stabler in me. That fear isn’t relieved by any stretch when I see what sort of search quarries my blog turns up on (a nifty little feature on this blog’s administration controls). It puts a chill up my spine when I see that my blog was tapped when someone googled (in alpha-neumerics to minimize turning up in future inappropriate google searches) “l1ttl3 g1rl 1n b4th”, or “l1ttl3 g1rl b3aut1ful p00l”, or “sw33t l1ttl3 a55 3l3m3nt4ry d4ught3r”. The notion of exposing my children to someone who would enter those terms in a google search is terrifying. I want to keep my kids as far away from those people as possible. Seeing that sort of thing can drive you to panic, and panic can drive you to bad decisions.
There’s a line to be drawn, and while the digital-age makes it so much more difficult to know where that line is, it also makes it so much more crucial that the line be clearly established somewhere. I’m certainly not one to be flip about my childrens’ safety, but I also believe you can’t live in fear either. We can’t barricade them in our homes. We can’t put them on hardcore antibiotics every single time they scrape their knees. We can’t keep them from climbing UP the slides at the playground. We can’t keep them from EVER eating a peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwich on the off chance that they may have a peanut allergy. We can’t follow them around town when they’re out with their teenage friends (as much as we’d like to). We can’t insist they wear a football helmet every time they cross the street, or keep them from climbing trees because they could fall out. All that does is teach them to be afraid of the world, when really we should be teaching them to live life, but to make wise decisions about safety as they do it.
I’ll admit, I waiver back and forth about where to set the safety threshold on this blog. There are times that I see those google quarries and I want to shut this blog down entirely and scrub any and all evidence of its existence from the internet to protect my kids. But life is about interacting with other living people, and as difficult as it is, in a civil society we have to trust the humanity that we interact with to be civil. That doesn’t mean you take unnecessary risks with your safety, but you can’t keep yourself and your family wrapped in bubble-wrap and isolated from the rest of the world in the name of safety. This is the 21st century after all, and there are certain realities to living in the 21st century that we all have to come to terms with. I believe that having your picture (and those of your children) “out there” in cyber-space is just one of those realities. But I still struggle with the right way to manage the safety of my children on the internet. I’ve recently kept an eye to this sort of thing on other daddy-blogs out there. Some dads use pseudonyms for their entire family and are very up-front about that fact. Some don’t seem to be afraid at all and use their family’s real names without concern. For my part, I started this blog to connect with other dads/parents, and that means putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable. Making this blog private, accessible only to select family and friends would defeat the purpose (after all, that’s what facebook is for, right?). So the strategy I’ve settled on is to minimize using my kids’ actual names in this blog. I’ll still show their pictures because I choose to live life, and to me they are what my life is all about. I’m sure Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson would admonish me for it, but I just can’t bring myself to raise my kids to be afraid of the world. I don’t think that’s fair to them.
To be clear, I’m not totally settled on this issue. It’s a big, scary thing to think about, and on any given day I find myself and either extreme. I would very much like to hear the opinions of anyone who read this blog. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts. I think like me and my friend on facebook, most modern parents would appreciate a constructive, vibrant discussion on how to safely and appropriately share our love of parenthood in the digital age.