Reflection Blog #3 A Mother’s Confession

A few weeks back, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic. I had made a mistake and I needed to correct it. I rushed down to my computer in attempt to fix my error. Before I reveal my faux pas, let me give you some background.

As a parent I am very concerned about my children’s on-line presence. I monitor their usage, the websites they visit, the apps they download, I review their history and I have many discussions about their on-line safety. I also have their devices directly linked to my computer so I can monitor their online activity. They both have a musical.ly account. This is an app that the kids can make and post music videos of themselves. The app allows them to follow and add friends and you can ‘heart’ your favourite videos. We have had many discussions about what is appropriate to post and I review each musical.ly video before they are posted. It’s amazing to find ‘identifiers’ that are overlooked in each video. I have seen my son’s name, wearing a team shirt that explicitly states the city we live in, license plate numbers, our street sign, and many more. Each time I find an identifier, I review with them why this is not acceptable to post and the video needs to be re-done. This, as you can imagine, causes many tears and frustration “You are so mean!”, “Do you know how long it took me to get this video?”, “Why can’t I post it, it goes by so fast no one will be able to see that”.

So here’s my confession, I am a hypocrite. Our very first post was an introduction and despite Prof. Stephens warning that our blogs would be accessible on the internet I went ahead and told the world that I have two children…. and I gave their names…. and I posted a picture of them…. and if that wasn’t bad enough, I also told everyone where I live. Yep, I didn’t follow my own rules “Do as I say not what I do”. I have no defence, seriously, I was just not thinking. I have gone back and revised my introduction by eliminating the identifying information (I left the picture), but it’s probably too late (once on the internet always on the internet). So there you have it, how easy it is to share too much, how easy it can be done.

After reviewing the PEW research it is comforting to know that many parents are like me, concerned about their children’s safety and take proactive steps to ensure their children understand privacy and the dangers of revealing too much in a public form. It is reassuring because my children are very quick to show me what their friends can post on the internet. Now I can direct them to Monica Anderson’s article and state my case: I am not “the most unfair parent in the whole world”. But who is checking up on me…..?

11 Comments

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11 Responses to Reflection Blog #3 A Mother’s Confession

  1. Carolyne,

    This post hits home on a number of levels. I grew up in the 90s when my mom was an early adopter of the Internet. We had a super cringey family website hosted on Geocities. I think it might still be up and causes me no small amount of distress knowing that my 4th grade school photo in which I’m wearing an all turquoise short sleeved bedazzled pantsuit is on full display.

    Unfortunate sartorial choices aside, Internet privacy was unchartered territory back then. By the time I was up and running on the Internet, I was using AIM, live journal, various chat channels, etc., and despite my mother’s advice to not post any identifying information, I did. It was usually inadvertent. And when it wasn’t, it was done so under the assumption that I was broadcasting myself to a limited audience. Sadly, I learned some very hard lessons out there on my own, and in spite my mother’s best efforts. I think we all have. Even if it’s something seemingly trivial as being victimized by a faceless Internet troll, we all know how quickly that can spiral out of control.

    I relate to both you and your children but ultimately, your children will be so much better off from your guidance. They will have plenty of time to learn from their own mistakes when they come of age, but I think it is of critical importance to provide them with some basic framework of what it means to put yourself out there and the potential consequences. Moreover, it’s so easy to broadcast others without their explicit consent. It seems so innocuous to tag someone in an Instagram photo but I feel myself squirming on a nearly daily basis when I see someone geotagging themselves (or their loved ones) in their homes on social media, often on publicly viewable accounts.

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job of striking that balance between allowing autonomy and exploration while keeping your children secure. It’s also great that you can admit that mistakes happen and that we are all prone to them. I think that’s also important for kids to know and will go a long way in instilling these lessons. If it’s helpful, you’re more than welcome to let your kids know that some girl from your program likes to check and delete her Facebook “on this day” posts to atone for social media sins of the past.

    Katy

    • @katygo Thank you so much for sharing your story. Unfortunately you are not alone. Many people have had similar experiences with embarrassing and sometimes damaging photos posted of themselves on the internet. The consequences can be quite severe, even if the intentions were innocent, and that is what frighten’s me the most as a parent.

  2. @calsop Such an honest post! Thank you. I am guilty of many of the same things you mention: license plates, specific locations etc. It’s all a big part of this new reality that came on so quickly (although it has been years).

  3. @michael, yes I am still learning about our new reality and how it will impact our children. I’m really glad I was a teen in the 90’s, before cell phones, and Facebook. When photos had be be taken to a photo lab for development and then most likely stored in a drawer, never to be shared!

  4. @katygo, @calsop, @michael, I post things on the SJSU discussions and blogs that I wouldn’t normally do too. I generally avoid online sharing, and I worry about the repercussions for myself and my kids. I always like to tell students it’s their digital tattoo, rather than their digital footprint. Seems so much more to the point.

  5. @loribromac Love the term digital tattoo, goin’ start using the term with my own children. Thanks 🙂

  6. @loribromac @calsop @katygo The other side of the coin is teaching young people how to be responsible digital citizens early on and throughout their education. I hope we see more of that in K-12 and beyond.

  7. Thank you for your honesty. This is a great post showing how important it is to teach our children online safety precautions, but also to utilize those same precautions in our own lives.

  8. I have to agree with you, avoiding these identifiers seems so easy and yet we all find ourselves guilty of broadcasting them at some point! Although my kids are too young for social media sites (thank goodness) your post has really opened my eyes as to what I need to start thinking about!

    • @kchung somedays it feels like such an uphill battle. My kids have been exposed to technology since babies, it’s just part of life for them. Where I can remember a time (not long ago) when the world existed without being ‘plugged in’ and television was the culprit!
      I just gotta say that I was really nervous posting my confession, but everyone has been so supportive in their comments. I appreciate it so much because my intent of sharing my mistake was hoping other’s could learn from it. I am so happy to hear that I have given you something to consider with your own children. All the best 🙂

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