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.
A Dayton attorney is trying to deal with this situation in divorce matters by inserting language in shared parenting agreements that offers some protection for children from their parents.
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.
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.
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
Dr. Gregory Ramey is a child psychologist at Dayton Children’s Medical Center.