As I finish my last course for my Masters of Adult Education, I find that my learning is only just beginning; this is not the end although learning will look different to me as I leave formal education. While I close one chapter, a next one opens in a few weeks.
For my final project, I wanted to look at the concept of “share-nting” and how parents post about their child(ren) online. My key concerns were:
1) What is acceptable to post about children?
2) What right(s) do children have regarding content posted about them without their consent?
3) What platforms are my peers using to post about their children and why?
4) What are the long term effects of children growing up with a digital footprint, sometimes starting from a pregnancy announcement?
5) And most importantly to me, what is going to be right for me and my little family?
As I do with almost everything, I started with excessively googling the topic. You can see some of my favorite articles here There are many opinions on the topic, some with polar opposite views. I have found this to be true of almost anything I search for pregnancy or parenting related so I better get use to it!
I also wanted to gain some insight from my friends, family, and colleagues so I created a short survey you can see here. I wanted people to be anonymous so they would answer honestly and I would not be able to judge any of those who have answers that I disagree with (just being honest!). I had 23 participants so I was pretty happy about that! I summarized the results of the survey here. I am a big believe that we can learn from each others experiences and sharing is part of the learning process so a survey was a must for me!
Note: When I was sharing my survey with friends and family, I truly saw how quickly one is not in control of their content once published. I had friends asking if they could share my survey in their parenting groups, with their family, friends, etc. I said no every time and appreciated them asking but it really brought home the point how quickly we do not have any control of info once we put it out there. I didn’t want to have so many participants that I could not summarize the data, and since the survey was not officially approved, I thought it would be best to say no to these well meaning requests.
My Overall Takeaways This Semester
1) General consensus from my survey results as well as articles is to post nude or embarrassing photos of your children. This was not shocking to me yet I certainly have seen some photos like this posted on social media. Others mentioned not using the child(ren)s face or full name on social media. That seemed like a good pointer to me! In terms of what they do post, birthdays, milestones, sporting events, holidays all came up multiple times. Interesting to see that one of my friends believes nothing should be posted on the internet about her child. Given that I have one friend who has made that rule very clear, I can identify who responded that way and I appreciate her standpoint.
2) It seems in Canada and North America, there is no clear laws set up in regards to children’s rights about what is posted about them on the internet or the ability to “clean up their image” later if they show wish. This is happening in Europe and I would expect we won’t be too far along. You can reach my post on the topic here. Since there is no formal law at this time to protect children, I think it is even more important parents talk about these issues in a safe environment with one another. We don’t always need government intervention (sometimes they make it worse!) but we do need community, support, and the opportunity to hear various perspectives.
3) It appears many of my survey participants (and myself had I filled out the survey) seem to use Snapchat the most. Although I don’t know for sure, most of the people I asked to fill out the survey are under the age of 35 so right in the age of millennials so this wasn’t super surprising to me. However, I do sense we have a false sense of security as snapchat has admitted the photo is never truly gone.
Facebook seems to be popular as well as many commented it is the platform their friends and family are already using and familiar with. I certainly respect that for simplicity sake but with all of the privacy issues going on regarding Facebook, it sure makes me hesitant to let them make a product out of me.
I agree with many of my participants who said they prefer Instagram for sharing images of their children as they have a smaller friend base and feel more in control of privacy settings. I have way less followers on Instagram than I have friends on Facebook, and my Instagram followers are intentional while my Facebook friends may be professional as well as friends and family. I will guess my first photo of this little one will go online via Instagram. Just a guess!
4) Long term implications of having your childhood posted on the internet is hard to find. There are lots of suggestions but no real research yet that I could find. Time will still tell as these children who are now likely preteens or early teenagers (some of the first to have their whole life Facebook-ed about in Canada) go on into the workforce. To be honest, this is the part that worries me the most. I don’t want to make the wrong call. Will it be normal to have your entire upbringing online and weird that some kids don’t? Or will children (by then adults) be judged by the decisions of their parents two decades earlier? Will social media as we know it evolve to a place where Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are obsolete? So much uncertainty!
5) I have no idea what the answers are! I won’t lie, I was hoping this project would help me to lay out exactly what I wanted to do once my babe is born. If anything I think I have more questions and more things I know need to be considered. This is the beginning of my parenting journey isn’t it?!
I started this project assuming the least you post the better. And then my 7 year old niece helped me to see another viewpoint. Another possibility of the positive side of social media. Another way to view sharing your parenting journey and child’s life. I am hoping when this little person arrives in 5 or less weeks, I will trust my intuition and do what feels right for us. Once I decide what this is, one of the best piece of advice I received from the survey way to share with your friends and family your expectations about the Internet, your children, and social media.
Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to create a project that is both meaningful to me and related to the content of the course. I will also be forever grateful that I finished my Masters program before my first child is born! Barely, but I did it! While my learning is going to change from what is has been for the past two and a half years, I know learning is a lifelong journey and this is still just my beginning.