November 16, 2016

The Overshared Generation

Oh hi.

Of all the posts about all the browser tabs in all the world, this is the one that brought be back to Daddy Types. It's an issue that goes to the heart of my idea for this blog, which is now almost thirteen years old. I know that because the kid is almost thirteen, too, and k2 is nearly nine.

And though I've long since aged out of the new dad demo myself, and I've yet to find the way this blog can provide a vital, or even useful, role for new dads today, maybe what I can do is provide some perspective. Maybe it's useful to take a look back, and see how our parenting, our advice, our priorities, our concerns, our experiments and guesses, turned out. So far.

Because on this front, of kids growing up to face the challenges of a digital world their parents have filled with info about them, I think we made the right call. From the very beginnings of Daddy Types, I wanted this site to be human, but not personal. In the vernacular of the pre-Facebook era, I specifically did not want DT discussions of my little kid's private life to flood her Google results. Or her Google Image results. It was a simple principle, and we stuck with it, and we adapted as needed. So whenever TV shows wanted me to appear on them as some kind of dadblogger novelty, and they wanted me to bring the kid, I said no. And then they'd say no, too. And it was fine.

Other blogging and then Instagramming folks made other choices, and managed their and their kids' public presence in different ways. Ours is sort of this first generation to grow up online, in the quasi-public realm of social media that blogging presaged. And some like Heather Armstrong have spoken powerfully and eloquently about their experiences.

From the long, searching, and intense article at the Guardian, it seems like kids are having a tough time when they discover our oversharing online. When they find out they're already a public figure, known to many, perhaps, and it's embarrassing, constraining, or awkward for them to be (or project) their own selves.

But you know what, being 13 was awkward before the Internet, too. So things might get better. Realizing your childhood was a Zulily-sponsored Truman Show may be a shock, but maybe once you've processed it, it'll give you a leg up on growing and managing your own online brand. Not every child actor became a crackhead; some became regular actors and showbiz people. [I do still think about the kid whose parents let her be photographed on the potty for that NY Times front page story on elimination communication, though. Hope she's alright. And that we realize embarrassing our kids in media is not new; it's just been decentralized.]

In any case, I think the article's emphasis on looping kids into the social media decision is admirable, but ultimately limited. No 4yo can understand what it actually means to post their Halloween costume on Pinterest. The children need you to think of the children, until you can help them think and decide things for themselves.

For our part, I have half a mind to turn this whole joint over to the kid, and let her write about her experience. But alas, she does not care that much. And the friends she texts and snaps with don't either. And for that I am grateful.

'I was so embarrassed I cried': do parents share too much online? [guardian]
Previously, related: "Hairy Banana"

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