Do We Reveal Too Much About Our Kids Online?

122401622When I examine the cultural and social impact of blogging, I wish I could say that the safety of my children is something that I have the ultimate power in monitoring and controlling. The sad truth of the matter is that I do not have control of that, just as I don’t at the park, in a church (were we church-goers), at school, with a neighbor or a babysitter or … right now in the present or as my kids get older and begin to go out on their own. The concept of “the virtual” and clearly examining and defining it alongside “the real,” “the actual,” and “the possible” has become the ultimate paradigm of how I decide to share on the internet about my kids, myself, and my partner. Our family. Our friends and their kids even. (It hasn’t always been this way — it’s been a learning process for me.)

I don’t think the answer is to not share our stories and pictures online. I think it’s a personal choice that I have the freedom to make and until my kids are old enough to decide for themselves, I choose to consider their privacy. I make a habit to not post every moment of our days together and I make a very conscious decision to not post the worst moments. Those are private. As much as I find their bare bottoms adorable, I choose to not post those pictures publicly online. Even though I know that behind the anonymity of a screen … pedophiles look at images of fully clothed children as much as they do bare-bottomed ones.

Am I offended by mom bloggers who do share every moment, every belly, and all of the cute bare bottoms?

Tough question. Offended isn’t exactly the word for it. There are lots of things other moms do that I wouldn’t do, but I don’t judge them for it. My brain already hurts too much with my dwindling faith in humanity for all that streams through my various news feeds every day.

The sad truth of the matter, though, is that bad things happen in this messed up world. Very bad things. All I can do is keep my kids close and try to make good decisions — write about my own truths and challenges as a mother without revealing too much about their own less-than-shiny parts. To regard their safety as much as I can while still living a rich and meaningful life, above all else. This does not mean living under a rock, or avoiding working as a storyteller. The chances of a predator eyeballing my kid at the park unbeknownst to me is just as high as it happening online. Many, of course would disagree with this, and venture to say that the online world is far more dangerous and far more populated with predators.

Are there more online predators online than on the street?

Those who prey on children are dangerous, but how common are they? How great is the danger? After all, there are many dangers in the world — from car accidents, to school shootings and abductions — that are genuine. I don’t think that creating a moral panic about social media keeps our kids any safer. Read all the facts as scrupulously researched by the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute, like this one: “10 percent of the child sexual abusers report that they molest a child who is a stranger.”

And yet, as reported by Covenant Eyes in an interview with Frontline in 2007, “FBI special agent in charge, Peter Brust, reported that for the period in which statistics had been tracked from 1996 through 2007, they had recorded 20,200 cases of online sexual exploitation with almost 10,000 subjects arrested. He warned of online predation: “[I]t’s a crime problem that has grown exponentially over the years and continues to grow every year.”

We are more aware of the dangers of the — alarmingly high — numbers of predators lurking online and sensationalized by the media.

It’s a topic that either gets discussed ad nauseam, or it gets brushed off and shushed up because no one wants to think about those possibilities. Those kinds of horrible possibilities. No one wants to think about something like that happening to their child and that maybe they could have prevented it. It’s true that it’s unfair that we live in a world where these horrors happen and that we as parents should have to consider these things before sharing a picture with our friends, family and our audience on Instagram or FacebookUnfortunately, I have my own childhood experience with abuse and I find all of the parenthesizing about moms putting their kids in danger by sharing photos of their kids on the net to be rather moot. Danger is everywhere, straight up. But, I don’t think it’s all that black and white either. Where/when/how do we protect them?

The bottom line is that I choose not to post nude photos of my kids publicly online, (no matter how cute those tooshies are!) because the truth is that I have come to believe such photos are exactly what online predators look at. Disgusting, yet true.

And yet, the virtual world will always been an enduring example of the human mind to me. It’s a place where I can remove myself from my reality. I can dissect it, analyze it, turn it around for examination and gain new perspective. Some of the darker things I write about hold less power in my life that way and I’ve seen the kind of social good that comes from not living in fear. I’m a better mom for the storytelling that I do.

These are complicated topics that deserve more thought and discourse than that which they are getting, because the dangers are real, and they are everywhere. Yet, there’s still living to do.

Image: Thinkstock.


More Babbles From Selena …

Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Part-time mischief maker, all-the-time geek.  Find her elsewhere on the Internets, mastering in general mayhem.

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