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Four ways I try to respect my kids’ privacy on my blogs

Tomorrow, I’m traveling to Park City, Utah, for my first Evo Conference, where I’ll speaking with Helen Jane and Asha about blogging, relationships, kids, and privacy. I’ve been doing two things to prepare all week: 1) reading a lot of my favorite parent blogs, and 2) HYDRATING. Because I hear the altitude and the time change and such require a well-watered self.

As you might imagine, Katie’s post about re-evaluating what she shares with her readers could not have been timed better.

I’ve admired Katie’s work for a long time, because she’s been brave and skillful and passionate and genuine when writing about her life. For this, she’s also managed to build a large, devoted readership, without issuing one press release. And now, after 11 years of putting it out there, she’s considering pulling it back in.

It’s a problem all of us parent-blogger types are destined to ponder. I remember distinctly when my then-four-year-old looked over my shoulder and asked, “Daddy, what’s Laid-Off Dad?” And I thought, “OK. We’ve entered a new phase.” Ever since, I’ve tried to live up to four guidelines that govern what goes out, and what stays in.

  1. Write for yourself. I’ve often thought how great it would be to read a journal my dad kept during the first few years of my life. And if I found it, I’d want to read it because it was about him. His hopes, fears, joys, searing personal griefs, etc. So when I write my posts, I try to make it all about me. Because blogging is meant to be narcissistic and personal. It’s not about what my kids do, but how I react to it.
  2. Write like they’re reading it. When I write about what my kids do, I don’t want them to read about it 20 years hence and feel like crap about it. Same goes for When The Flames Go Up, the blog Magda and I write about co-parenting after our divorce. We were profiled in the New York Times the week that WTFGU debuted, and commenters were already in a lather about decorum and sanctity and WHATABOUTTHECHILDREN. We explained that the children are indeed the big WHAT, because every post we write is something we want our kids to appreciate one day, as adults.
  3. Preserve their anonymity. This is a thing with me (and luckily, with Magda), but I don’t put pictures of my kids online. I used to put them on Facebook for the benefit of family members, but that went to crap when Facebook got huge, and privacy became an afterthought. I imagine that posting pictures of your kid(s) enhances the engagement between writer and reader, and builds a closer-knit and more interested following. It’s telling (and a little ironic) that a lot of the most popular parent blogs post kidpics regularly, and my less-traveled blog has no kids’ faces whatsoever. Part of that is this old-fashioned, crotchety idea that a blog is about writing, and writing is about words that conjure pictures in the readers’ minds. But the other part is simply that, when you publish a kidpic, you lose control of it. It’s no longer yours. It’s out there, with all the freaks.
  4. Preserve their dignity. If you’re gonna post kidpics, that’s fine. But I will never understand why some parent bloggers post pictures of their children in their underwear, or in the bathtub. It’s just not cool. Period. Those photos are darling and terrific, and excellent for embarrassing your kids later on, as teenagers, in a private setting. But no kid deserves to grow up and find pictures of underpants-dancing for all the world to see. If you’re relying on that sort of thing to make your blog interesting, you’re either 1) not interesting, or 2) not trying hard enough.

If you’re a parent blogger headed to Utah this weekend, I hope we get to meet and talk and ride hot-air balloons together. And if you publish pictures of your darling son, at least let him put on some friggin’ pants first.

Read more from Doug on his personal blog, Laid-Off Dad.

Follow Doug on Twitter.

Read all about.him.

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