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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

Blogging 101: Session IV

Yours, Mine, Ours: Blogging Kids

Things evolve so quickly in new media. Hearkening back to the "early" days of blogging (about five years ago) makes me feel like adding "consarnit," and "whippersnapper" to the end of every sentence. Back in the dawn of time, young whippersnappers, there was a lot of controversy over the safety of publishing stories and photographs of kids on the internet. Some believed that predators would flip through blogs like the Sears Roebuck catalog of victims and simply pick out the ones they wanted.

There are still those who think social media was sent by the devil to destroy newspapers, spread aids, and eat children, but prevailing wisdom has come to conclude that children are no more vulnerable being seen online than in any other public place: the mall, the playground, the baseball park, their school newsletter, or the city paper's coverage of the spelling bee (when kids are actively engaged in online activities, that's another issue).

Which is to say, children are vulnerable. Anywhere. If you have some, you need to watch them.

Go check on them now. I'll wait.

It might surprise you to know that I am actually a lunatic when it comes to protecting my kids' privacy (ask our PTA or their babysitter). But security concerns are a very small part of it. It has more to do with trying to balance the public aspect of our family's life. It's important to me, as a writer, to tell the stories of this big, little life I love. It's important to me, as a mother, to preserve private space for my children to grow. Reconciling those two interests is a continuous improvisation, not a uniform policy. The borders around the territory where mine and their stories intersect is a shifting one as they, and I, grow.

To date, I've kept the boys' names out of the blog. Not so much because I worry someone could use that information for nefarious purposes--anyone on the playground can hear me bellowing first, middle and last names, loud and clear. And follow us up to our front door, for that matter (where our rottschund will eat them). I've written around the boys names' as a signal to me and my readers that the central focus here isn't my children, though they run through it, tracking mud and sweetness, leaving the front door open and slamming the back.

Notes to Self isn't a title I put a whole lot of thought into. But it's been a good one. This a journal of my experience, my identity. The context right now happens to be family life. But I don't have to worry about "rebranding" myself when my children are grown. My writing includes them, but it's not about them.

That's where I am with it today, anyway. Other blogging parents have arrived at different decisions. Know what? They probably have different bedtimes for their kids, too. Like every other judgement call you make as a parent, do whatever works for you and yours, within the bounds of safety, love and respect.

Note I said you and yours. Nothing will get you in hot water faster than blogging about other people's kids, a common newbie mistake. My recommendation is not to post any identifiable content about a child online, anywhere, without checking with the parents first. By identifiable content, I mean photos and names. If someone else's child has a supporting role in a blog post, read Blogging 101: Session II and proceed with caution.

I'm going to talk a little more about photos and and copyright trespass in the final session of this series. What have I left out that you'd like to discuss? Include a question in the comments section below, and we'll tack a little Q&A on the end of the next installment.

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Blogger Ashley said...

At first I was nervous about including my children in my blog. But they are a huge part of my life and my story would be nothing without them. So I include them and their "pet" names and try not to worry too much.

9:45 AM  
Blogger OHmommy said...

No questions.

Just wanted to little you know how much I have enjoyed your sessions. Puts a lot of things into perspective and have been very helpful.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have included my children in my blog without much thought. In the early days a lot of it was about them, for relatives. I'm not terribly worried about security. But I also recognize that as they get older, their own privacy becomes more of a concern. I don't want to share info with the world that would unduly embarrass or upset them later, and I've always kept that in mind.

And I never publish other kids' photos or names without permission. It sort of bothers me when other people do this with my kids, even though I do. It feels different to me, making my own decision and having someone else make it for me. I guess I don't want to relinquish my parental control.

11:49 AM  
Blogger TC said...

Mine is a unique, but not entirely singular situation, in that one of the realities of our lives is a woman who occasionally likes to stalk us. I use initials, though I'm sure she knows my kids' names. More importantly to me, however, is that she not be able to identify them by face, which is why there is never a photo on my site where my child's face is unobscured. Again, YMMV.

(In reality, most of my effort goes towards divorcing my site from my 'real name,' so that she'd have no reason to read it in the first place. But just in case that fails...)

I think as long as you're 'thinking' about why you're doing or not doing what you do, it's all good.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Exactly. The medium is so diverse and shifting so rapidly, it's ridiculous to think there can be hard and fast rules. Mindfulness is what counts.

I'm sorry for what you are going through, TC. I hate that someone crazy can curtail your freedom of expression, but I totally understand the need to take due diligence.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Tere said...

I think it also depends on the kids ages. If my kids were very young, I would be more careful about their identity and photos. Mine are basically grown but they still live at home so there are lots of stories. I am very sensitive to their need for privacy so my gauge is that I never tell any story on my blog that I would not tell to their friends or say anything I would not say with my kids standing in front of me. They read my blog and so far that rule has worked well for us.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I hope you will discuss how your blog has evolved over the three years and how it led you into freelance writing or writing as a profession.

BTW, love this blog!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Their is such a huge range on this...thinking of Dooce here, and her daughter. That's an extreme example, of course. My kids were a big part of my first blog, but have been mostly absent from my newer one. Not a conscious choice, it's just worked out that way.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Cid said...

We are all growing and evolving and therefore so must our blogs. I had no real direction when I started mine, still don't, but I can see the "Mommy Blogging" component getting smaller and smaller as my writing muscles develop and I want to challenge myself. Thanks for the food for thought.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Loren Christie said...

Thanks for addressing this question. I use pseudonyms for my three kids on my blog, and I try not to show full face shots because I'm afraid of exposing too much about them. It's a fine line though, and I struggle with it. They are part of my life, and I'm trying to write about what I know. We have to set lines we can live with. This post was a help to me! Thanks again and Best Wishes.

6:57 PM  

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