I began this series on a false note. My initial post on the five reasons to consider sharing your kids’ content on Facebook missed the reason that actually motivates my own Facebook sharing: the desire to include my kids in my life online, and to include my life online in my time with family. The Internet is a huge part of my life, and to keep it entirely separate from my family life would be to exclude my kids from something that they know is hugely important to both their mother and father. And of course, the kids are the heart of my life offline, so to keep them invisible in my web life would be to show up online as a very partial version of myself.
Embracing Facebook as our online family space has given me way to integrate my on- and offline lives. But I’m only comfortable including the kids in my Facebook life because I’ve taken pains to dramatically limit access to any kid-related content. This series spelled out how you can do the same: by creating a “kid-sharing friends” list and by modifying your privacy settings so that by default, your content is only visible to those kid-sharing friends.
I encourage you to adapt this approach to your own goals and comfort level, but would strongly encourage you to stick to the following dos and don’ts unless and until you have a high degree of technical skill and a strong knowledge of online privacy and related issues:
- Share kid-related content only with people you know well, trust, and who want to hear about your kids. A smaller circle = lower risk to your kids, less annoyance to your uninterested friends.
- Check your privacy settings on a regular basis to ensure your kids’ content is still protected on any social network you use to share their images or stories.
- Let your friends and family know if and how they can re-share your kids’ news and photos.
- Teach your kids to think critically about what they share online by including them in the decision about what to post.
- Listen to your kid if he or she asks you not to post a photo, video or status update about him or her.
- Share your friends’ responses to your kid-related content so your kids know their news and pictures are appreciated.
- Learn as much as you can about online safety and privacy before expanding access to your kids’ content.
- Post any pictures of your kids in a state of undress.
- Post your kids’ real names or identifying information (like schools or after-school programs).
- Post pictures or videos of your kids with their friends, unless their friends’ parents have given you their written permission to do so.
- Post anything your kids would find embarrassing or object to you sharing.
- Post anything you wouldn’t want your kids to see or read in 20 years (because they will).
My work gives me one more reason for including our kids in my life online. The focus of my blog and my research is to help people make sense of their lives online; to articulate and focus the choices we each make about how to use the Internet, and thus, to determine what kind of online world we will create. Figuring out how children can safely, constructively and enjoyably engage in the online world is part of that work, as is sharing my own thoughts and concerns about their experience online. I don’t want my kids to be lab rats, but as a family that is Internet-obsessed if not Internet-centric, I want to share whatever we learn from our own online exploration.]
And I’m just as keen to hear about the decisions other families make about whether and how to include their kids on Facebook or other social networking sites. What is your approach to bringing family content online? What experiences, insights or concerns do you have to share? I’d love to hear from you.