Only just beginning…

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?
baby documentary GIF by SundanceNOW DocClub

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Survey Results

As part of my final project, I wanted to survey friends and family who have children to gain their perspective and learn from their experiences on raising children in the social media age.  You can see my survey here.

Here are the break down of my results:

I had 23 friends/family/colleagues participate in my survey.  Names were not attached to survey answers.

Age of child(ren) (select all that apply, number will not equal 23 as many participants have multiple children)
Still Pregnant: 2 participants
less than 12 months: 4 participants
1-3 years old: 9 participants
4-6 years old: 6 participants
7-9 years old: 4 participants
10 years old +: 6 participants
I was happy to find a wide range of parents with children various ages.

How often do you use the following social media or online channels to post pictures of your child(ren)?

Never A few times a year Monthly Weekly ALL. THE. TIME.
Snap Chat 26.1% 21.7% 21.7% 17.4% 13.0%
Facebook 17.4% 52.2% 21.7% 4.3% 4.3%
Instagram 30.4% 21.7% 21.7% 26.1% 0.0%
Blogging 91.3% 4.3% 4.3% 0.0% 0.0%

Please explain your reasoning for preferring some platforms more than others? Open ended question but major themes include:
– Most familiar with Facebook
– Most of my friends and family use Facebook (3 participants)
– I have less followers on Snapchat
– I can pick who to send a Snapchat to
– Too many “friends” who are not real friends on Facebook so rarely post
– I have more control over who my Instagram followers are (2 participants)
– Snapchat not permanent

What sort of things do you post on social media about your child(ren)? Open ended questions but major themes include:
– Birthdays (15 participants)
– Achievements or accomplishments (6 participants)
-Vacation or holidays (7 participants)
-Random or anything cute (6 participants)
-Nothing on the internet (1 participant)

What sort of things are off limits to post online about your child(ren)? Opened ended but major themes include:
– Bath time/nudity (10 participants)
-Things that may embarrass them (5 participants)
-Complaining about child(ren) (3 participants)
-Account private/only have close friends so anything is OK (2 participants)
– Nothing (1 participant)
– Everything (1 participant)

At what age do you think children should be able to have their own social media accounts?

10-12 years old: 5 participants
13-14 years old: 14 participants
15-16 years old: 2 participants
17 years old: 1 participant
blank: 1 participant

Any tips for a momma-to-be on navigating the digital world with children? Open ended question
-Make sure to have access to your child’s account when they do get one
-Talk to your children early about internet safety and privacy
-Model good internet behaviour early
-Set technology boundaries.  When they do get an account, be sure to have the passwords and monitor frequently.  Make sure they know they do not have the right to technological privacy
– Keep your accounts private.  Maybe delete or remove people when baby arrives
– Don’t overpost! You may regret it one day
– Do what feels right to you
– Talk to your family now about your expectations of what they can post (or not post) about your child
– Your choices will be life long for your children.  Think about this when you are posting.  It is  a big responsibility!

 

 

 

 

Just when you think you know…

I work with adults so do not generally spend much time with children, outside of my 7 nieces and nephews, and a few of my friends’ children.  I am sure my teacher friends would know this happens to them often, but just when I thought I knew the direction I was going, a 7 year old took my mind for a spin…

For our nieces and nephews birthdays, my partner Cody and I like to invite the child over for a sleep over in Regina with us.  They pick the activities, the food, basically we just do whatever they want to do. It’s a hit and as their birthdays approach they ask us if they are coming to sleep over again soon.  Hopefully I can keep this tradition going once our own little one comes but I guess I will play that by ear 😉

During Family Day weekend, Cody and I had our seven year old niece, V, over for a sleep over.  When we got home from our activities (Wok Box, the Peter Rabit movie, and a trip to the dollar store) and hanging out on the couch waiting for supper to be ready, V says to me:

“Can we look at my mom and dad’s Facebook to find pictures of me when I was a baby?”

I think my eyes almost popped out of my head! At first I thought it was a strange request, but then I got out my iPad and pulled up her mom’s page and scrolled back to 2010 when she was just a baby.  V laughed and giggled at the pictures, read the captions to me, wanted to know the story of what was going on in the picture, and wanted more.  Off to grandma and grandpa’s, other aunts and uncle’s pages we go.  For about an hour, she talked about what a cute baby she was, “oh I remember that!” (no you don’t but I won’t correct you!), and even how much baby her looks like her little sister.  To her, it seemed like a fun activity to look back at her baby pictures.  To me, it was an eye opening experience.  She seemed to love that her pictures were online.  She loved reading out loud what her parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc said about her. She didn’t seem embarrassed.  She is only seven and I suppose could change her perspective but she definitely proved to me that posting about our kids on social media does not have to be a bad thing.  Way to keep me on my toes, sweet girl.

Does anyone else have a positive story about a child and old social media posts? I would love to hear! It is easy to get sucked in the vacuum of why you should not post about your child.  Most of the articles I find about sharenting or posting seem to lean towards reminding parents why they should be cautious.  I can’t seem to find an article about a positive outcome of sharing online about your children but if any of my classmates have one, I would love to hear!

Digital Citizenship and Share-nting

I am not a K-12 teacher.  I repeat, I am not a K-12 teacher.  Please keep this in mind when I tell this this next fact…

I was not previously familiar with Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

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In my work in post secondary education, I feel I am guilty of making the assumption my students “already know this stuff” and “don’t need to go through this yet again.”  However, Ribble’s nine elements remind me that some of the components especially digital literacy, digital etiquette, and digital health and wellness still have great effects today and in the future for university students.  And some components may change as they enter their post secondary education path.  Digital citizenship is not just for children.  Literacy, and digital literacy, are not static goals that can be completed and checked off.  You do not master literacy or digital literacy and are done learning in these areas.  These are life long skills that change as you grow, as you set new goals, and as the world changes.  Can a student use the technology in their back pocket to connect with leaders in their field of interest? Twitter has been invaluable to me in terms of connecting with other professionals across Canada and the USA who work in similar functional areas on their home campuses.  I can only see the unlimited value of the student interested in getting into veterinary school for example, to start to connect with vet med students, professors, and those working in the field to get a better sense of what the career path may be like, or what is required of one to get into vet med school.  I know there are other apps and websites that would be helpful as well such as LinkedIn.

What I find interesting is I am regularly asked about professional programs and admission requirements (ie Medical school) at different universities, and when I ask the student what research they have done themselves, the answer is often none.  I am happy to google with the student to look up different medical schools across the country and their entrance requirements, but it seems to me like that thought to do this themselves did not occur.  Technology is social and fun, but using technology as a learning tool seems to be forgotten.  This to me shows that digital citizenship is not a K-12 education system issue, but all educational systems responsibility.

The University has policies outlining appropriate behavior of how students, staff, and faculty should act before in person and online.  But is this information shared with students in a meaningful way? I am sure most of are skimming the Undergraduate Calendar to find this policy.  Within Student Affairs, it is our responsibility to ensure we are creating an environment which students can be successful in, and explaining digital etiquette should be included with this.  Cyberbullying is not unique to children and effects ones self esteem.  These are real issues our campuses are facing.  All in all, universities need to incorporate digital citizenship into their programming, as well as their curriculums .

How does this relate to my final project?

For my project I am looking at share-nting (use of social media and online mediums to share about your children), what is appropriate, and what the bigger factors may be that influence share-nting such as consent, privacy, and the piece I had not yet considered, modeling digital citizenship.  I think my long term intent is to model good digital citizenship (or just citizenship in general!).  Modeling this behaviour starts now.  I found an interesting post for parents about digital citizenship here that is a good starting point for me and my project.  In order for my to expect my child(ren) to be good citizens, I need to model this for them as my actions speak louder than my words.  For myself, I need to remember not to be scared of the internet, but be aware of its capabilities and limitations.  I need to learn more about (digital) citizenship so I can be a good (digital) citizen myself.  Specifically, when looking at share-nting, I am interested in the element of digital etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security.

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Photo credit: @10millionmiler

 

 

A child’s right to privacy

This week I decided to explore the idea of privacy and children’s rights.  This is particularly interesting to be in regards to my final project as children do not have the ability to give consent, so parents, and in some countries, law makers, are making rules on their behalf.   An article on CBC this week spurred this direction for me as it explored the idea of children of the social media era having the right in the future to delete posts their parents made of them as children. 

“…people should have the agency to decide what information is, and isn’t archived about them online.

And while that’s true of all individuals, it is especially so with children and teens, whose lives may have been extensively documented online by others, before they reach the age of consent.” (Pringle, 2018).

While I truly believe parents are trying to make the best decisions they can about the use of online sharing, our choices have lifelong repercussions for our children.  The European Union has intervened with this idea and created legislation to allow individuals the right to request information on social media platforms or accessible via google search to be removed.  I cannot find any legislation equal in Canadian law but if you know of a something, let me know!

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(I just watched The Mindy Project final episode, bear with me)

What I find particularly interesting is that I, a millennial, remember when my grade 6 classroom had 5 computers installed.  Every classroom received a few computers in my elementary school back in 2000. I remember being taught the correct way to type (..if they could see me now though!…) and how to use word processing programs.  I remember having to set up an email account and practice emailing my classmates,  making our first slideshow presentation.   All important skills and ones I use at work and in grad school every day.  But as who some might categorize a “digital native” or “digital resident“, I have never received digital or media literacy.  Millennial are sometimes referred to as “the Facebook generation” yet I am sure I am not the only middle of the pack millennial who did not have digital literacy included in their education, K-12 or post secondary.  Now, without attending graduate school, I don’t know where an adult will access this sort of education beyond choosing to read about it online.  It is a privilege to be able to further my education into graduate school, but certainly not the norm.  In my opinion, it seems like the generation who first had MySpace, Facebook, etc are also the generation to received little to no opportunities to exploring the implications of this social networking as our training and education as mostly on using tools.

So what does this mean for our children?



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The world is still figuring out the long term effects of growing on with an online presence.  Maybe it will be fine, every one of your friends also has photo after photo of them online too.  But at the bare minimum, this should make parents take a moment to think.  Many of us I am sure have a baby book filled with funny pictures and anecdotes, some cute, some embarrassing.  But mine is somewhere in my parents house, likely only viewed by grandparents, aunts, and the odd friend nice enough to smile and nod as they look through it.  HOw would I feel if that was online for anyone to find (we all know it’s easier to get deep into the Facebook world and see photos of people that have no idea we are viewing them!) My parents knew exactly who had seen what.

Am I going to post pictures of my babe online? For sure I am.  I know that and hope not to sound snobbish on this topic.  I look forward to sharing.  But how much and how often? What sort of things are OK to share and what are for only close friends and family?  I don’t know the answer yet and likely won’t even in 15 weeks when I meet this little person.  Might as well get use to this feeling.

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References

Pringle, R. (2018, January 31). Today’s kids will need right to remove online posts about them.  CBC. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/pringle-kids-social-media-1.4510168

Read, read, read.

I thought for my major project it might be a good idea to keep a list of the readings that I do for my project.  “Read, read, read” seems to by my mantra in both grad school and life so this project might as well follow suit!

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This will be an ongoing list I will add to as I find more resources.  I am hoping as the list grows, I will be able to sort the readings into topics as well.  If you have any suggested readings for me and my project (exploring creating a digital footprint for our children), I would love to see them in the comments

Readings
Raising kids to be good digital citizens

The Perils of “Share”enting

Sharenting: Parent bloggers and managing your children’s digital footprint

Identity in a Digital World

Should you post photos of your child on social media?

Why I don’t put pictures of my children on facebook

The pros and cons of sharenting

When sharenting goes wrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a digital footprint

As a mom-to-be, I have been thinking and reading about social media and my future child a lot. When I saw there was an option to design our own final project for this course, I immediately knew I wanted to look at how parents are making decisions about what they share about their children on the internet. I certainly don’t have the answers, but is a topic I think is worth exploring. There are two particular articles that speared a few questions for me. You can read the articles here and here.  

One particular interesting piece to me from Blum-Ross’s article is the idea of creating a digital footprint for our children when they are born, or even before hand, that they have no say in the content.  I want to be clear I am not saying this is necessarily the worst thing a parent should do, but I have noticed this discussion has yet to come up in the pregnancy books I have read, nor is it  a topic in my prenatal course in February.

My goal for my project is to talk to friends and colleagues about how they decide what they post online about their children, and if they have any advice in regards to parenting and technology/social media.  It would be great if I could find a mom who has a child old enough to have their own social media account and how they talk to their child about appropriate use of technology.  (Any of my classmates fit this category?! If so, I would love to hear from you!) I am not sure I will come up with the answer that is best for myself, but having this conversation will at least be a start!

Photo Credit: Jaro Larnos Flickr via Compfight cc 

Finally, I would like to see if parents feel there is a difference in posting about their child on their blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.  I think these platforms are viewed differently, but I would like to explore this further as well.

In true adult education fashion, this project is directly related to my interests, self-directed as the project is designed by me, and I get to utilize my and my friends life experiences to lead my learning.

I plan to blog weekly about what I find, read, or discover for myself. I would love to hear from you if you have any recommended readings or your own experiences to share!