Consider Kids’ Privacy Before Posting Online
The genesis of the article evolved out of conflict I have seen over the past several years with divorced parents arguing about the scope of their child’s internet presence. Typically, this comes up when one parent is freely posting pictures of their child all over the internet or blogging about their child’s personal foibles, which before the explosion of social media would have likely been kept quiet inside the family. I decided to reach out to several psychologists to get their perspective on this controversial subject. I also sought their critique on the language I had drafted to include in Shared Parenting Plans of divorcing parents designed to protect their child’s online privacy rights.
Dayton child psychologist Dr. Gregory Ramey, who has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007, was very enthusiastic about the topic. Below is his article from the February 3, 2013, edition of the Dayton Daily News.
Do Mommy Bloggers Post Too Much?
Regular readers of this column know that I rarely relate incidents about my own three children. The reason is simple. Their right to privacy is more important than my need to tell an interesting story.
While I do write about patients I’ve treated in my office, I go to extraordinary lengths to protect their confidentiality by always changing numerous aspects of the situation so that it is impossible to know their actual identities.
Many parental bloggers do not share my concerns, and so they write about some of the most intimate aspects of their children’s lives. These writers pontificate about the need to be authentic and open about their thoughts and feelings. That sounds reasonable, as it involves them or their relationships with adults, but don’t their children have any rights to privacy?
I feel uneasy reading stories about children’s bodily functions, reactions to puberty, or serious emotional or behavioral problems.
Facebook presents yet another significant threat to our children’s privacy, as parents post pictures and write entries that can be incredibly embarrassing to kids as they get older. This may be cathartic for parents, but it comes at the cost of sacrificing our children’s confidentiality and dignity.
Parents have always turned to others for support and guidance. Family, friends and spouses took on that role before the Internet. Now, parents publish blogs to vent, educate others and express themselves. I understand how this may be helpful to parents, but kids’ rights to confidentiality shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of parental relief. Imagine for a moment how your child will react as he gets older and reads what has been written about him throughout his childhood.
Such an approach may be controversial, but it at least raises the awareness of parents that their primary job is to protect their children, not vent their own emotions.
Protect The Privacy Rights Of Your Children
Parental bloggers have a lot to offer, but please don’t violate your children’s rights and dignity simply to entertain others or feel better about yourself.
Shared Parenting Plan Agreement, Sample Language:
Limiting Our Child(ren)’s Online Exposure
We recognize our responsibility as parents to be the “gatekeepers” when it comes to our child(ren)’s online presence and protect their privacy. Our child(ren) are powerless to protect themselves. We are committed to protecting our child(ren)’s safety and we respect his/her/their right to online privacy and limited Internet exposure.
In furtherance of this important objective, we agree that we will restrict and limit his/her/their online presence. We pledge to do our best to shield our child(ren) from harm, embarrassment, notoriety or humiliation which may arise from online Internet exposure. Further, we both acknowledge that these online privacy rights of our child(ren) trump any personal interest we may each have in sharing such information with others over the Internet.
We agree to refrain from posting anything which might negatively affect our child(ren) now or in the future, or may affect his/her/their personal life and professional opportunities. Neither of us will unilaterally post any photos of our child(ren) or share any of the most personal details of our child(ren)’s lives anywhere on the Internet, unless we both have jointly agreed to allow it in advance. We are free to share information and photos of our child(ren) to family and friends via email and other direct means not likely to be accessed by others.
– Robert “Chip” Mues, Attorney, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues
Gregory Ramey , Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007.
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.