Last week my 8-year-old son’s school had a professional development day so he spent the day at home with me (sidebar – don’t you love when a school decides to tack on an extra day at the backend of February break after everyone’s already been off for a week?). Anyway, we’re sitting at the kitchen table together and as I worked on a blog post, he (seemingly) absentmindedly colored on some construction paper. A few minutes later, he handed me the paper, which had been folded into a card.
I glanced at the outside, addressed to me, and briefly admired the artwork adorning the cover before opening the card. What I saw on the inside nearly made me melt.
The acrostic, written in support of The Dad Life by a child with whom I sometimes share a challenging relationship was notable for a few reasons. It was the first (and likely to be the last) time my blog was referred to as “lit.” It also marked the open acknowledgment of the blog and me sharing our family’s story, a departure from the behind-the-scenes posting I’d done in the past on Facebook and Instagram. I felt strongly about having an open and transparent discussion with my children about launching this blog and was pleased to receive both their permission and blessing.
The sharing of our children’s lives on our social media accounts has been a hot topic of conversation of late. A series of thought-provoking articles have been written on the subject recently, most notably this piece from The Atlantic which generated a considerable amount of discussion and introspection (including by yours truly). Admittedly, I have likely skewed in the direction of oversharing online with respect to my kids, although it’s certainly a wide spectrum and I don’t consider myself to be on an extreme end of it. In hindsight, there are undoubtedly things I’d do differently. Conversely, I launched this blog with the awareness and permission of my kids and an agreement to discuss the subject of posts and usage of photos which include them in advance. My son gave me the green light to use his note in this post.
I recently revisited a piece from 2014 in The Washington Post entitled, “Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of
“It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels. After all, I didn’t even learn to use e-mail until I was 19 and a sophomore in college in 1993, and only for a slightly cringe-worthy reason: a cute boy at another
I highlight this dynamic not as an excuse for any choices I’ve made, but rather to underscore the challenge faced by this generation of parents. I’d argue that most parents initially operate in “fake it until you make it” mode, to varying degrees. However, with regard to the Internet specifically as it relates to parenting decisions, we are figuring this out as we go, without much in the way of a roadmap to follow.
“When it comes to parenting, I find this middle place extremely uncomfortable, because I know what childhood and adolescence were like before the Internet, and my parenting models all came from that era.”
This naturally leads to some missteps along the way. Thankfully, we are not yet dealing with navigating the murky waters of having children with social media profiles as our oldest is 10. That comes with even more significant obstacles to overcome, most of which are unique to the social media era.
While we’re only now scratching the surface with respect to the challenge of raising responsible digital citizens, I’m thankful for the rise in tools and resources available to parents tackling this task.
For those who are curious, I learned about two great resources at last month’s Dad 2.0 Summit; Google’s Be Internet Awesome initiative and Bark, a monitoring service which gives parents peace of mind about their child’s online activity without feeling overly invasive for the kid. We’ll be teaching the kids how to be “Internet Awesome” with the help of Google and will definitely explore Bark further once the kids reach an age where they’ll be actively participating in social media. I can also recommend the book Screenwise by Devorah Heitner, and her website Raising Digital Natives, which has other helpful materials.
In the meantime, I’m perfectly content to be living squarely in the analog world of adorably misspelled hand-written notes and will continue to bask in the glory of maintaining a blog that’s considered lit by the coolest 8-year-old I know.
Are you re-thinking some of your approaches to sharing content about your children online as we all grapple with privacy concerns and/or the reaction our children will have when they discover what we’ve shared down the road? I’d love to hear your take!