Yesterday I shared an article about the invasion of kids’ privacy on my Facebook page. Kerri Sackville posed the argument that ‘there is a huge difference between being a proud parent and denying your child the right to live a private life’.
Privacy is something I think about fairly constantly, which may sound strange coming from a blogger. Like most bloggers, I’ve developed my own ‘rules’ about what I will and won’t share. I use pseudonyms for my sons and my husband and I don’t post photos which could be used to identify them. I do write about them but as my eldest approaches his fifth birthday and gets ready for his first year of school in 2016, I’m questioning even that.
I’m not saying my rules are the right rules. I’m so used to relying on evidence gleaned from mass studies of child development, psychology and health that I feel a little lost: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even blogging haven’t been around for long enough for anyone to be able to study the long-term effects on children of having their entire childhood documented online.
Then again, oversharing is not new.
When I was 10 years old I went to my best friend’s house to jump on her amazingly incredible in-ground trampoline. No nets, no mats, just a massive expanse of material and springs over a dug out pit.
The first thing that struck you when you walked into her house was a larger-than-life photograph which hung on the wall about their lounge suite. It was a photograph of a smiling toddler. Naked. On the toilet. It was my best friend’s brother, 10 years earlier.
I don’t remember him inviting many friends home. I can’t imagine why. But at least back then he could control his parents’ invasion of his privacy by keeping friends away from the house.
Today it’s not so simple. Digital footprints have the potential to follow kids throughout their lives.
Today oversharers have greater opportunities, new media and the practice is normalised.
Against this backdrop we have a confused sense of entitlement to privacy. We seem to have a general assumption that privacy is good and anything which encroaches on it is bad – an invasion. However, we’re pretty happy to chip away at our right to privacy for a perceived greater good, like national security, child safety and intellectual property (you’ve heard about the new metadata retention laws, right?).
Part of what has kept me sane as a new mother is reading about the experiences of other mothers through blogs, Facebook and forums. Because people talk about everything from sleep deprivation to projectile vomit to postnatal depression, I know I’m not alone.
If I stop talking about my children I stop talking about a large chunk of my life. If I don’t write about my experience as a parent how can I expect to be able read the experiences of others?
I’m not saying I’ve got the balance between privacy and ‘telling it like it is’ right. Only time (and my adult sons) will tell.
I am saying that we need to have a conversation as a society about what privacy we actually want and what we’re willing to give up – for ourselves and on behalf of our children.
Privacy is a double-edged sword. In the name of privacy, domestic violence and child abuse goes unreported, grief goes unspoken and mental illness is misunderstood, to name just a few.
But just as importantly, in the name of privacy would we also miss out on the joys of life? I love this quote from the BBC series Call the Midwife (series 3, episode 9):
For what is joy, if it is unrecorded? And what is love, if it is not shared?
What do you think? How much privacy is enough? How much privacy are you willing to give up for the sake of sharing the good, the bad and the ugly?