The first time it happened that she remembers was this summer. We were in the restroom at a local store when a lady, whom I know solely based off of social media, called my daughter by her first name and asked about the animals on our farm. My seven year old politely answered the question then posed one of her own: “How did you know my name?” “Oh! From Facebook, sweetie! I just love your pictures on there!” She dried her hands with a stiff paper towel and promptly left the restroom, leaving my seven year old daughter in utter confusion and a slight sense of worry: “How do strangers know who I am? What in the world is a Facebook?”
The bottom line is this: children, especially older ones, who are beginning to own a sense of self and budding independence, feel exposed and violated when it comes to social media overshare that we have assumed as commonplace in today’s culture. A recent survey of children ages 6-12 by Highlights magazine revealed that kids list the cell phone as the number one distraction of their parents. When the question “If your parents lost their cell phone for a day, what do you think would happen next?” one eight year old girl boldly replied, “Freak out, but I’d be happy.”
If children already see the smart phone as a means of distraction of their parents, how much more trust is broken when we post each and every moment of their lives online? I will raise my hand and be the first to testify that I fit the bill. I have maintained a website online since my firstborn was one year old. There are countless photos, funny quotes, and sentimental stories shared on my blog. And while I am exceedingly thankful that I have those memories saved, when my daughter was scrolling through pictures on my phone recently and saw a photo of her smiling before she (finally!) pulled that loose front tooth, she immediately stated, “Please do not post that online.” I knew then and there that what I share as my children grow older will be carefully tailored to protect their trust and innocence.
There is a Chinese proverb that states the following: “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.” Let me be clear: my kids are the most beautiful and humorous little human beings on the planet. But so are yours. The ultimate goal is to decide for whom are the carefully crafted photos of your child eating a messy popsicle or peeing off the porch? Are they for your family’s eyes or the world to see? Will this social media status or photo embarrass your now infant when they are ten? What about your spouse? Are the “likes” and comments worth it?
The other day my three year old and four year old sons said the most hilarious thing in the entire world. And I wrote it in my journal. Take the time to document your family. Preserve those memories. And bring back the baby book instead of Facebook.