Digital footprints..

The debate on whether it is right to create a digital footprint for your child is one I have thought upon quite a lot. I set this blog up almost four years ago, originally to showcase my illustrations, then as a online diary of sorts of mine and Tom's life together. When I became pregnant I featured my ever growing bump weekly along with letters to Wilf to remind myself of the time and to show Wilf in future years of how I was feeling and how much he was loved already. Apart from checking to see that Tom was ok with having snippets of his life on the internet I never really worried about how much I was sharing (although Tom quite rightly pointed out once that I had divulged in a photograph the address I worked at and I deleted the image straight away).

I've never had any concern over the content I have shared about my life on the internet but thats the thing, it's my life and my decision, what about when I am sharing Wilf's life and he is not yet capable enough to make that decision?

Generally, we’re becoming more internet aware. We worry about viruses and spyware, phishing scams and identity theft – and take steps to protect our online activity...and yet there is a whole wave of internet bloggers sharing the lives of their children, me included. 

A blogging friend of mine who's baby was born just weeks after Wilf took the decision not to publish any photos of her child on her blog. Her reasoning being that as a child her parents had a photo of her on their wall that she hated, that all her friends saw when they came round and she loathed for them to look at it, yet her parents loved that photo. She made the very valid point that although she would think every picture of her daughter was beautiful her daughter could not make the decision to allow complete strangers to view photos that in years to come she may be embarrassed of. I think about this from time to time and think that when in fact I actually agree with her point I'm not sure that simply not putting pictures of Wilf on my blog would stop him having a digital footprint. Parents share photos on Facebook, via email and Flickr accounts, I think in this digital age there wont be a child born now that wont grow up to have had their image out there on the internet. 

But all of the networks and sharing channels are looking for new ways to make money.

For example, Instagram retreated in December 2012 from potential changes to terms of service that raised questions about who owned images on its network and how they might be used. I admit I was scared images of Wilf could be taken and used without my permission but of course this could have always happened with the images I put on my blog without my knowledge (the difference being Instagram were saying they would own these images).

On the flip side I honestly believe that having a blog has encouraged me to take more photos, record those moments and feelings I may well have forgotten. Before the internet, family albums were filled with pictures of a different kind: birthday parties, holidays, posed portraits taken by a school photographers. There needed to be a reason to make the effort to get out a camera. Pictures were private – glued to a page in an album on a bookshelf.

Today, no event is too small. Nothing too informal. Nothing that’s really private in the same way. Google even made a virtue of how parents can keep a digital journal of their children’s lives in its “Dear Sophie” TV ad campaign in 2011-12.

My hope is that my blog and these posts will be a positive remembrance for me and something for Wilf to read back on and discover what we did and how much he is loved.

How do you feel about sharing like this on the internet? I'd love to know! 


Jess said...

I can see the difference now between Freya and when my own kids were born (I didnt have internet till they were 4 and 5) I was quite paranoid at first of putting pics of them up,and now my facebook updates are generally pics of Freya ;)

tbh I think everyone has photos on their parents wall etc they hate - my kids do - I have one of Rach in a wetsuit with a surfboard aged 3 which she dislikes and I love - 'its my house' is generally my answer - or 'stop with your first world problems' ;) when she gives a half hearted whinge but seriously though if they were REALLY upset by a photo I would move it to where visitors couldn't see it.

it lovely to have a record of thier whole lives - although i would still do it the old way and get a load printed in a book or something as well

Rachel said...

I've had these same concerns, Fritha. I try to take some precautions, like I watermark my photos, close to her face so someone can't try to claim her as their own...and I don't divulge our last name on the blog. Doesn't make it foolproof though...and I do worry about Lillian's feelings someday, but like you, I hope it's something she can take pride and joy in, a sort of family diary, and relive fun memories she might never have otherwise heard about.

Kate Pirouette said...

Funny, I've had the same thing on my mind lately. Part of me thinks that I shouldn't have to be afraid of marking the existence of my children, that the media forces us to be excessively cautious. And then part of me worries that I'm being naive and somehow courting an unknown danger.

I don't know what the answer is, I talk myself in and out of every argument. I do try and restrict the amount of personal information I give out. I'd never divulge my children's names or where we live. I might look into watermarks as well, just to err on the side of caution. But somehow even doing that makes me feel a little sad that I should have to...

Just Pirouette and Carry On...

Julie said...

Fritha- this is a terrific post. I think about this so, so much. When Gus was a baby I found it easy to share. But, as he's gotten older and developed his little personality and become an individual I've had to really think about what I put out there.

I don't have any great formula for how I'm protecting and respecting him but I do try to be thoughtful about what I share. When my online writing turns to him I try to write from an angle of what it's like to be his mom, how much I love him.. you know, MY experience with him. I keep a really close watch on sharing my stories vs. sharing his stories, if that makes any sense at all.

I think it's a really hard balance to strike between being open and respecting a person who is not yet fully able to voice their stand on whether or not they want their life online. I tend to err on the side of being less open.. In the end I would rather the internet think my stories are bland or lacking than have my child feel that I gave away what was his.

Just for the record.. I think you're doing a great job striking that balance!

Red Boots said...

My problem is that life for me as a teenager was hard. And it was hard for my boyfriend too. And even now, aged 31, those memories are still quite raw.

Sometimes when I see blog posts from women showing their babies on a potty, or weeing by the side of a road, or breastfeeding (although I am totally pro breastfeeding), or naked in the bath, a part of me always thinks will that kid be happy with those images out there in the public domain when they are a self-concious teenager?

I know I wouldn't have been happy with that. I would have been mortified if I found a picture of me having a tinkle on a potty that my mother had posted on the internet at the time.

Many parents put their baby's full name on their blog, so these photos are only a google away. Although the photos are cute now, who knows who is going to find these photos in the future?

Kids can be cruel and I guess I just want to protect my daughter from that as much as I can.

Children also can't give consent to their lives being put on the internet and to me it seems unfair to take that liberty away from them. I'd much rather wait until E is much older and able to understand the consequences of putting your life out in the public domain, and letting her make that decision for herself.

I'm in no way criticising any mummy bloggers: everyone is different and each to their own. I totally get that it is really lovely to have an online record of family outings and everyday life, with thoughts and feelings captured in words. And I do think it will be lovely for the kids to go back and read these when they are older but I just don't think it's for me.

Essay over now! ;) xx

Cara said...

Lots of different reactions on here but here is mine:

I don't share nude photos and if I share the bath photos they are super duper covered (one time I was reviewing bath toys and a few of the pictures I took looked cute but they weren't appropriate to share as they contained some butt) and I'm leaning towards NOT sharing bath photos any longer on my blog or Facebook. It's getting to the age where it's not appropriate, I think, and that's okay.

I think blogs and such will move on by the time our kids are grown up so they won't be a target for bullying through blogs but I do plan on being more guarded just in case. I have felt like pulling up the draw bridges lately but that's not the answer (for me), either.

If people want to share things about their children then I think it's fine :) but I know some parents don't and that's okay, too.

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Jess (btw why I have a been calling you Lil all this time, sorry!) I know what you mean and I REALLY need to print out some pictures as at the moment I only have one printed picture of Wilf! x

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Rachel - I thought about doing the same with watermarks (on my artwork mainly) but whilst it is a worry about who could be using my images of Wilf I think my main worry is him getting to an age where he is upset to find the internet have seem all these pictures, like child models I guess? I'm still not 100% sure I am doing the right thing!

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Kate - yes I agree, watermarks would make me feel sad, but I understand why people use them. You're right about the whole media terror thing. But I think the thing I am more worried about is Wilf's feelings xx

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Thank you Julie! I think you are too and I totally know what you mean with thinking about it more as Gus has got older. I feel the same, with babies they all look pretty similar (most of us looked like bald, chubby, old people ;)) but I've thought of it more now Wilf is saying a few words and generally becoming more of a 'person'

Like you I think I like to think of this being my experience of being his mum. xx

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Wendy - The thing is I actually agree with you and in many ways I think you are the better person for it. I enjoy sharing our life, taking pictures, writing stories. In an ideal world Wilf will get to an age where he will see these and love them but there is a huge part of me that is terrified I am doing something that will cause him embarrassment in the future.
Like you I found being a teenager horrendous I wouldn't let me parents take a picture of me for about 3 years, I had terrible skin, was awkward and bullied. My parents have billions of photos of me before then and they have shared lots of them on FB and I love seeing picture of me and my family, I find it funny when my friends comment on them and reminisce about something we shared in a 90's childhood.
Totally agree on the nude/potty/bath shots, I do find that a bit odd
Hope this post didn't offend you I actually wanted it to come across that I thought what you were doing was commendable :) xxx

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Cara - I feel that was too like by the time our kids are in school it will be really rare that any of them wont have some digital footprint. I also think blogs will be the norm as FB is now. Agree with you on the bath shots too xx

unfounddoor said...

Hi Fritha
This is an interesting topic - I think, for me, it is about balance. I've been thinking about it recently after the online furore over a massive mommyblogger's naked picture of her three year old daughter on instagram and a lot of discussion as to the right of the child to have their privacy respected.

For me, I make a halfhearted attempt at privacy by referring to Mister G as ...Mister G, obviously! and not using my last name -- on the basis that if future employers or schoolmates were to google him it would not be in the top search results.

I also don't share pictures of him naked or in the bath as I feel these are moments suitable for a family photo album but not facebook or the wider internet.

I think that as G gets older it will feel different how much is appropriate to share.

Maybe I'm just particularly narcissistic, but I loooved looking at pictures of me as a baby and toddler when I was a kid / teenager / still now.
I do like the way that having a blog encourages me to preserve moments that pass pretty quickly, that are easily overtaken by stresses or new milestones, and photos are a part of that.

I sometimes wonder what attitudes toward privacy will be like in ten, fifteen years since so much of our lives are archived online -- will G's generation demand redrawn boundaries?

Mum2BabyInsomniac said...

It is scary to think that kids these days are going to have such a big digital footprint by the time they are old enough to realise what one is, but like you said even if you don't blog about them then most people still upload photos onto Facebook etc. I started blogging using Iyla's name and photos of her before I was even aware that some people didn't reveal their kids identities online, I totally respect peoples decisions either way but it's not something that I am overly concerned about. I have certain rules like I would never post a photo of Iyla naked and of course once she is old enough to know what I am doing then I will speak to her about it and see if she minds but I couldn't imagine my blog without photos, it just wouldn't be the same and the same goes for the blogs I read xx

The Stork and The Beanstalk said...

It's such an interesting debate. I went back and forth with this before I started The Stork & The Beanstalk. Sharing too much still makes me nervous. I always think of people in my past that I could give a shit about that could be potentially following my life and that erks me. It's hard to imagine my boys having a problem with being on the internet, but I suppose I could always take it down in the future if they have a problem with it. It erks me too that someone could steal my photos. For the most part, I try to block all that out since I enjoy writing my blog so much.

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Patricia - yep totally agree with you on many points. I think as I had a blog before Wilf was born the whole choosing his name and celebrating it at my baby shower etc, I was so excited to let people know what we had decided to name him, I never thought about hiding his identity. I guess also as until I had had him and he had grown into his own little person I had never thought about it as being an issue. Like you I would never post naked/potty/bath pics and like you I also LOVE looking and sharing photos of me as a child haha! xx

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Jess- I agree if Wilf ever started to take issue with it or I saw any of his class mates were using it to to mean to him at all I would shut it all down in a instant! But I'm sure by then you could pull up a picture of anyone of his classmates on the internet!

Tigerlilly Quinn said...

Ashley - Like you I like to forget it could ever be an issue because hey it might never be an issue (hopefully) and if thats the case then I know I will be proud of documenting how much we love him :) xx

Cathy said...

Really great post Fritha, very thought-provoking. I know parents who do not share pictures of their children, or even their children's names, online for this reason. If I'm honest that strikes me as very precious, but each to their own.

I share pictures of my daughter and her name, like mine, is easily accessible. I honestly don't see that she would mind when she's older as I can also show her that there's pictures of Mummy, and Daddy, and her cousins, and all her friends - so she's not alone. Like you say, we share pictures of our children in so many ways few have no digital footprint.

I also think that a child being embarrassed when they're older isn't exactly the end of the world - if Cherry sees a photo of herself that embarrasses her, whether online or printed out and framed on our wall, then I would probably try and explain to her that she doesn't have to take herself so seriously! I mean, part of being a parent is that you will embarrass your kids - it's character building for them :)

That said I don't post pictures of her naked or on the potty or weeing or anything like that - I mean, I wouldn't post pictures of myself naked or on the toilet! It's the same as any information you share online - don't post pictures of your new debit card or your home address then advertise when you're going on holiday, that kind of thing. Common sense is required! Ditto my blog, like yours, is more my feelings about being a mother than endless tales of what Cherry did and where she pooed and silly things she's said and done. Anything you publish in the public domain is just that - public, forever.

On a slightly related note i feel really sad when I read moany blogs and Tweets from mums confessing that they find their children boring and they don't always like being a mum and they wish they could just run away and hide and so on - I mean, your kid is going to read that one day! That's the sort of stuff you should be telling a counsellor not the general public!

Red Boots said...

Not at all Fritha! I didn't get that impression!

As a mother it's easy to compare yourself to others and always fall short. I wouldn't call myself a better person for not sharing photos - it was just the right choice for our family. In that same vein, I could call you a better person for being a stay-at-home mama. In some ways I'd love to be a stay at home mama but it wouldn't be the right choice for me, but it is the right choice for you.

Hmm, I seem to have lost what I'm trying to say here - just that there are no right or wrong answers! ;)

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