There are reasons that I don’t publish my children’s real names in my blog posts. Mostly, I’m concerned about their future employers Googling them and asking, “You’re not related to that weirdo writer, are you?”
But, on a more serious note, I also worry about their safety. As a journalist for more than a decade, I’ve covered some controversial subjects and saw the occasional disturbing message posted about me or my work. I could handle it — but I would never want an Internet troll’s vitriol or worse, threats, directed at my children. I’m a relatively unknown voice, but like it or not, anyone who puts themselves and their family out there on the world wide web can become a target.
And if you are famous — even if you’re just a child — the stakes are even higher. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror facing the parents of child star Mia Talerico, the five-year-old who plays the title character in the Disney Channel sitcom Good Luck Charlie.
TMZ reports that police are investigating profanity-laced death threats posted to her Instagram account last month. In a piece on Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams links the threats to Disney’s recent introduction of two lesbian moms — parents to one of Charlie’s friends — on her show. The new characters raised the ire of critics who don’t believe that depictions of families with homosexual parents belong on television.
Williams couples the hatred facing Talerico with the threats constantly lobbed against some writers (including Williams herself) to reach a grim conclusion: “(B)eing alive and saying anything ever, or being part of anything, ever, means you’ve got to assume that insane people are going to say insane things to you and maybe try to carry some of them out. Even if you’re a 5-year-old girl.”
I think, unfortunately, Williams is right and that parents should do what they can to keep their children safe, comfort them and help them navigate through an increasingly trollish world. For celebrity parents and parents of child stars, this task is considerably more challenging than simply masking their identities with cute code names.
As a blogger, I try to offer advice when I can but, truth be told, I have no clue how to explain to a child that someone is threatening to put her life in danger. I don’t have any experience with that … and I hope I never do.
Photo courtesy of Mia Talerico’s Official Instagram.
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