Choose Your Internet Words Wisely

“I talk all the time about why I think it’s so absolutely, positively, completely necessary to be respectful of our children (and their neurology) when we talk about them online. I talk about how desperately necessary it is to respect their privacy. And, above all, I preach my gospel of never publicly saying anything about them that we wouldn’t say to them.”
– Diary of a Mom

My friend, Jess (aka Diary of a Mom), posted on her blog today about her daughter (“Brooke”) using Google to find pictures of her own birthday party… on Jess’ blog. This may seem like not such a big deal. Well, Brooke is autistic and until recently, had not seen her mom’s blog.

Knowing this, many people will see this action as a big deal because people want to celebrate Brooke being resourceful enough to navigate a search engine with “Brooke’s birthday party” being the search term and to find her mother’s blog. And that is a big deal. But that’s not the only takeaway here. The bigger takeaway is a much bigger deal than Brooke’s undoubted resourcefulness.

Jess writes frankly, but also VERY respectfully, about Brooke being autistic. She takes the time to use pseudonyms for everyone in her family and only posts stories & pictures with the permission of her family members. She blocks out the faces of her daughters’ friends, is careful not to use identifiers, does not share detailed medical information, and does quite a bit to protect her daughters’ privacy.

The reason for this? Well, there’s a few reasons. One of which is: it’s none of our business as to the details of Brooke’s diagnosis or diagnoses. Another reason is the big picture situation…

Brooke will now have direct access to read almost everything her mother has written about her online, should she choose to do so.

Take a moment to think about that in your own context: what if your child(ren) had access to read everything you’ve written about them online, right this second… without you being able to edit or redact in preparation? Would they be proud or would your child(ren) be ashamed? Would what you’ve written embarrass them? …Are you sure?

Put yourself in your child(ren)’s place for a moment. If your mother or father had written about you, what you’ve written about your child(ren)… would you be okay with it? Genuinely contemplate this for a few minutes. Take your time and roll it over in your head…

Now, put yourself in the position of a potential spouse or employer and look through those words. Are you going to make judgement calls about your child(ren)? Is there anything easily leading someone to attach your words to your child’s life? Their name? Your name? Are you protecting not only their privacy, but their reputation? Take a few more minutes and contemplate those scenarios.

Many companies are hiring third-party firms to do thorough background checks on potential (and current) employees. Some are even hiring permanent HR staff members to run constant checks. This is the information age and we are beholden to far-reaching technology which allows us to scrutinize every inch and ounce of a person’s existence… now that we practically live in The Cloud that is the internet.

We owe it to children to not set them up for failure before they even have a chance in life as adults. You need to be careful about what information you put out into the world. Your frustrations, your fears, your anger, your tears… your child(ren) will likely find these one day. You need to be prepared for that day. Will you be able to justify everything you’ve said about raising your child(ren)? Will you be able to reconcile everything, so that your child(ren) are stigma-free after reading your words?

Nobody is denying your right to blog about _your_ life experience, but when including your child(ren) in that writing, your focus needs to be on protecting their identity online in a respectful manner. It is imperative you respect their neurology and their privacy. This is THEIR life. You may be their parent(s), but in almost all cases, they will live with the consequences of your actions and words regarding them longer than you will.

Think before you write. Be mindful. Be respectful. Be prepared. Because one day, The Day will come when your child stumbles across your blog, your comments, your Facebook, your words… and they will potentially see you in an entirely new light. How bright that light is depends entirely on you. Choose your words wisely. They will live on the internet forever.