Technology has changed our lives in many ways. Soon there will be new Facebook members who have already spent their entire lives there.
We have used the platform to share moments both big and small. Announcing the arrival of a brand new family member is now expected and it is a wonderful way to reach the entire family in a short amount of time. With families often spread over several states, it is also a convenient way to share pictures of these same children growing up.
We also use the social media platform to celebrate our successes, and more commonly, those of our offspring. Reaching developmental milestones, succeeding in sports and other activities, and just being cute are all fodder for our ever expanding pages.
Although my husband and I subscribe to the idea that it is a parent’s prerogative – responsibility even – to occasionally embarrass our children, I believe there is a line. There are universal things about parenting, cute stories to share (for example, a toddler who refuses to wear clothing at home for several months, to the point where the meter reader comments on it), but some are better shared in a personal way, rather than over the internet.
This is even more true when there are photos that go with the story. Years ago, all of these stories were shared over coffee or on the phone. Today, many people do most of their communicating via the Internet (ironically, still using their phones).
I sometimes look at what people post on Facebook about their children and cringe. Are these children going to be happy when they get their own account and see their lives online? I always hope these parents don’t tag their children in all the photos and pray that they're aware of the privacy settings on their account.
Thirteen is the minimum age that Facebook has set to open an account. Setting aside the fact that many tweens lie about their age to join this coveted group, 13 is a difficult age. Peer influence matters, A LOT. From what I have seen, young teens are among the most active group on social media and it becomes a competition to see who gets the most likes on posts and photos. Searching out peers and “stalking” their pages is commonplace. If an embarrassing photo exists (one without privacy settings), it will be found and likely shared, with EVERYONE.
When do we cross the line? When are we oversharing? While sharing too much about our daily lives (what we eat at each meal, for example) can simply be boring, there is a line that can be crossed where sharing does damage. Many people have already seen this, when, for example, a potential employer sees what they did on a Vegas vacation, or a personal gripe goes viral.
Jobs have been lost, relationships irreparably damaged. The sense of anonymity lulls people into a false impression that what they say is secret; that only the people they intend to read their posts actually will. On the other hand, perhaps all this exposure is creating a society that is becoming immune to it. Maybe this new generation of children, who have been exposed for their entire lives, will think nothing of it. I am not sure which scenario is worse.