ControverSunday: Digital Privacy

ControverSunday is a collaborative blog meme, whereby the goal is to share, discuss and hear out different perspectives on parenting, society and other stuff that matters. All those who participate bring to the table a unique perspective and approach others with mutual respect. Participating is a way to build community, to learn something and to reflect and evaluate our own choices.

Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs is the founder, Kathleen is the current host, and here is the badge courtesy of Accidents:

It's got a badge and stuff. That makes it official.

So there. Okay. Digital Privacy:

I’m hardly the one to be talking about privacy online in the context of parenting. When I was a few months pregnant, Ross’ cousin forwarded me an email asking for volunteers to be a part of a provincially funded documentary about being pregnant in British Columbia, and the services / processes available to me. I put up my hand and said “So long as you don’t want to see me give birth, sure!”

The producers did want to see the money shot, so I said “thanks anyway” and carried on my merry way. A few weeks later I got a tentative email again, asking me if I was still willing to volunteer.

Most of my pregnancy can be documented both here on the Arbolog, and in that documentary. I did also keep up a fairly regular stream of pregnant lady talk on my Facebook status. Kale, it would seem, has been digitally archived since the days he was microscopic.

His full name and birthdate and all that jazz is out there for the world to see. I’ve never hidden that. Any talented hacker (okay, any hacker period) could easily obtain these things and so much more about us. Kale is not a secret. My family is not a secret.

I try and use some common sense. My Facebook feed is set to private, you need to be my friend to see anything of mine. My Twitter feed is public and so the bulk of what I post there is things I have no qualms about the world seeing. And yes, this has included photos of my child. And yes, sometimes he has been naked in those photos.

But here’s the big thing: what I post online is a fraction of what I am in real life. I don’t post things I wouldn’t be comfortable with my mother reading, I no longer participate in flame-war-infested anonymous forms (those animal rescuers / 4X4ers / X Files fans / etc can eat up your soul, let me tell you). Twitter is sort of anonymous, but then, I stick to mostly positive topics with the odd whiny tweet. I retweet things I think are interesting, but I don’t really care who is following me or if I have any clout.

In a few years (probably less than what I expect) Kale will want to be online too. It’s my job to make our computer use a public thing, a shared family activity. I don’t agree with computers in bedrooms (or TVs for that matter) and I am totally fine with sitting beside Kale if he wants to surf online to things that interest him and wants my help to find safe sites. Will he have a Facebook page? Not likely. If he does, I will set it (and his privacy settings) up and we will be “friends”.  I will watch to see that he is a careful user. I don’t want to be Big Brother, but I do want to teach Kale how to be smart and use his brain when online. I want him to be skeptical. I want him to come to me if he thinks something is weird or gets bad mojo from something.

I think as long as our online world remains a fraction of our actual world, then there is no need for fear mongering and panicking about people knowing about my child. If ever I feel that balance shift, then we get offline. Simple as that. I’ve met some fantastic friends online – some of them have also evolved into actual meet-up-in-person type friends. The internet is not all bad, but its just not the authority on my life.

11 years ago


  1. I guess it is funny to ask a bunch of parent bloggers about digital privacy around their kids… of course we are all comfortable with our children having a certain online presence! I think it is more about discussing what is reasonable to share and not share. And I wonder if any of our kids will ever really call us on it when they are older anyway? Perhaps it will be the opposite – what generation before this one has had so much of their life documented? All we got were a few pictures and a baby book.

    Great post. I’m having fun looking around the rest of your site.


  2. It is so important to emphasize that to a kid, I think. I mean, there are people our age who are addicted to the instant gratification of the web (ahem, self included from time to time) and having watched our eyes flicker to the laptop, our kids are bound to wonder what joys and perhaps actual people the computer contains.

    You seem to be rooting for balance, which is a good and admirable thing. And I agree.

  3. I am so scared about those days of having to monitor my daughter’s online activity. I agree with all the precautions you intend to take. I certainly don’t want to be Big Brother, either. I just hope I can find the balance between respecting her privacy and keeping her safe.

    I see so many fights in our future…

  4. I actually have no problem being Big Brother when Jackson gets older. Computers out in the open, friends on Facebook, and even, at certain younger ages, sharing passwords. Yep, for real.

    But, more than that, like you I want to teach him to think online, both about how he presents himself and how he views others.

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