Your Kids Will Read What You Post

Being a Millennial parent, I’m going to throw out a word of warning to other parents of today: nothing is ever gone from the internet. Unless you’re highly trained [or have an enormous amount of petty cash] and willing to get into some questionably legal territory, what you post, even if “deleted” is still in a cache somewhere and can be accessed.

That said, it may be cute to talk about your kids online. It may be cathartic to bemoan your kids negative traits or new habits or obsessions. It may be fun to poke fun when they don’t have an online presence. Yes, indeed all of these things may be true, but it is also true that someday your children will be online and will have access to a large list of what you said. You remember the Miranda Rights speech from Law and Order: “…anything you say can and will be used against you…” Keep in mind that search engines and technology continues to improve, meaning that your child’s access to what you have posted online may be more thorough than you could ever imagine right now.

It could be devastating when a child is suddenly confronted by what they may consider a “more true” opinion of them from a parent’s online posting than what they hear from that parent face-to-face. Words have power. The way we speak about people when they’re not in the conversation often colors the way we think about them. This explains part of the Bible’s prohibition against gossip.

How do your online posts speak about your children? Do your posts show annoyance? Pride? Love? Hatred? What changes would you make knowing that your child could and would read the posts you have written and will write about them?

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Your Child’s Digital Footprint

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably both amazed and perturbed at the ability of companies to target you with advertisements on Facebook, Google, or Amazon. In some ways, it has proved remarkably helpful, especially when I have to search for odd items occasionally for Children’s Ministry lessons. (So, I’m gonna need haggis, build-your-own gummies, and flash paper. Target doesn’t have those? Huh?)

Anyway, the reason they’re so good at pointing me in the right direction is my digital footprint. In my travels across the far reaches of the internet I have left a digital trail, whether I meant to or not. Phone companies, internet providers, and many websites have data that tracks what I look at and when. If this sounds creepy, it is. But, it’s the world we live in and the world we’ve allowed to be build around us. The amount of effort it would take to change it is greater than we realize, too. (There’s a ton of lobbying money in meta data tracking.) But the key here is that my conscious choices have created this digital crumb trail for me.

But what about your child? Hear me out. I’m not saying that posting pictures of your child is wrong, morally or otherwise. I’m not advocating for less or more of anything, per se, except thought. Consider the idea, if you will, that your child may already have a digital presence without their knowledge. As that child ages, that data will continue to accumulate until when they emerge onto the internet scene, suddenly they realize an environment exists just for them that they had no hand in creating. Advertisements are targeted toward them in an oddly specific way that gives them an uncanny sense that they’ve been here before.

Sounds even creepier than the scenario where they’re tracking you, right? Considering what and how you post pictures and details of your children does impact them later in life. Remember, many, if not most, companies look at social media now as a way to determine whether or not a candidate gets hired. Some children (I’m not saying yours) have had Facebook profiles created for them. That account’s data is now part of the internet. It’s there, and searchable, forever. Remember when we could just completely erase something from history with a shredder or a match? Not so much anymore. Data exists in this massive cloud-web-shared-mind-thingy and erasure isn’t so easy anymore.

TL;DR

Don’t be scared of the internet. Do be aware of what and how you post. Check privacy settings and who can view your account. Be aware of using names and other specific data when posting to social media. This is stuff you’ve heard before, just put into the context of considering your child’s digital presence as well as your own.