October 21, 2011

The Permanency of the Internet

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I write about my family and about what others write. Frankly, I don't think enough people think about it seriously enough.

There's a certain permanency on the Internet that lasts longer than people's memories. Even if you take down a site or a blog, there are always personal caches, screenshots and The Wayback Machine archive.

What I find is Mommy Bloggers are often careful about themselves; not posting naked pictures of themselves or divulging the size of their partner's genitals, not discussing intimate details of parasites or diseases they've caught or other personal things of that nature - but they don't show the same respect for their own children.

I have been on online communities where a mother openly declared, "my son is a total butt boy!" during a discussion on toddlers and masturbation. Would she yell that out at a super market? Probably not. But there's not much difference between an open online community and a super market in terms of making public declarations to strangers. You might feel private and safe because you're sitting at home, but you're telling the world and making a permanent mark every time you disclose personal information on the Internet.

For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong if this woman's child is a "butt boy" but I would think that's info he alone should be allowed to disclose if and when he believes it's appropriate. I would think if he said that about her out loud at a dinner party, she'd be at least a little embarrassed.

What about when he grows up and finds it? What if his friends in high school find it first? Being a teenager is hard enough as it is without your mom telling everyone how you used to play with your genitals as a toddler.

There's also the chance people will take what you write out of context. This mother had CPS called on her after some person read her blog entry and reported her. Whoever did it was able to get enough personal information about this woman and her family to be able to call authorities.

I'm not saying let's all stop talking about our families, but we must do it in a way that respects the privacy and personal information of the little ones in our care - not just now but also in the future. What we write now on the Internet will not disappear. Our kids will grow up and need to get jobs and mortgages and you don't want to ruin things for them.

Before I post something about my son, I think about whether this is something I would tell a stranger at a cocktail party. I think about whether this is something he would want to share with others if he were older.
There's a fine line between being open and honest and divulging too much. We all have to walk the tightrope carefully.

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