It’s strange, but it’s true. Just because we aided in the creation on another person (because, let’s face it, complex carbon chemistry had a lot to do with it too), does not mean we always get to take part in actions which will taint the potential of that person in the future.
We do it all the time. That is part of parenting. By teaching our children good table manners, we are ensuring they will not be embarrassed with a multiple course table setting, and will not be shunned for eating with their mouth open. By making sure they say “please” and “thank you”, we are ensuring a positive reaction to their general manners in the future. We do everything we can, or should be doing so, to ensure they have the best possible chance at making good impressions in their adult lives.
Why then, do some of us seem so intent on ruining all that good work by plastering baby pictures all across the internet and web? Potentially embarrassing photos, pictures that may not paint them in a positive pictures, photographs that will stay around in digital format online forever.
That’s a very long time indeed. We seem to forget that once published online, the images and words we think are transitory reflections of moments in our lives have far reaching ramifications into the echoes of the future. They may not get picked up by search engine bots some time down the line, but they can always be found. Always.
I happened to read this article this morning, while attempting to wake up. I will grant, it took me a couple of goes. It is written from the perspective of a parent writing to the future version of their child regarding the ways they have reduced their potentially damaging digital identity production through online gloating. Not publishing photographs online of your children is not “just” a safety step against potential abuse, but it is also a conscious decision to allow your child to grow into the person they want to be, allowing them to become who they think they are.
As parents, we work on building their self-esteem, making sure they don’t bow down to peer-pressure, don’t feel they have to be the same as every one else, and try to combat the lack of desire (sometimes) to outshine their contemporaries. Why then, do so many of us feel that documenting our children’s lives online for all and sundry to see it alright? Surely it is counter-productive, and counter-intuitive? What might be the fall-out of a prospective employer seeing your teenaged child in something entirely unfashionable, if they are applying for a job in fashion in their twenties? It’s a somewhat shallow and superficial example, but if that is what your child is aiming for, who are you to ruin that opportunity?
Your facebook photo album is not a digital version of the photo album you pull out when your child’s dates come over for the first time. It is not a personal account of your child’s formative years. It is a very public domain which, even with the closest of “security” settings, can be viewed by pretty much anyone.
I have taken steps to ensure I do not damage my child(ren)’s potential digital identity. Despite her now being in double digits, and me leading a very “connected” lifestyle, I can count the pictures I have published of her online on my fingers. I ask that people ask me before they put up pictures of her on facebook or the like. I do not call her by name, and ask that others do the same. This was never to “save” her from potential child molesters. It was, first and foremost, because I was very aware of my actions potentially impinging on the future identity, on and off line, of others. You will find that any partners I may have rarely get referred to by name. This is a further step to not have my actions reflect on their built identity.
I think it boils down to the single directive by which I think all should conduct themselves:
You do not have the right to have any of your actions damage anyone else.
Simple as that.