Childhood on display?

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr make it easy for parents to share anything and everything about their sweet little babes. But should they? Do we? Do you? Come share your thoughts…

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

Today’s question: Do you share information about your kids on the Internet?

The Salgados

I made him promise there would be no BlackBerry at the birth. This actually became a chant the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I believed the little black device was permanently attached to his hand, and this was sort of an “all hands on deck” kind of event. Turns out my very technologically gifted husband could actually Facebook the entire experience and still be completely present without me ever knowing. Even today, he views this as his own birth superpower. This began my fourth child’s introduction to the Internet.

Because my job as a writer and blogger actually requires me to document my life as a parent, I found trying to conceal their identities was difficult to keep up. Add my work as a photographer and it pretty much sealed my fate for living a pretty public life online.

There have been strange moments when I meet someone for the first time and realize they know all about my children. As I go through the motions of exchanging information in a new friendship, I am aware I don’t have nearly as much to share.

I often wonder how my kids will feel in 10 more years when they can go back and read their entire childhood chronicled for the world to see. As they are getting older, I’ve found myself starting to ask my kids if they mind if I share particular stories and moments we have shared. I imagine as we enter adolescence things might change; they might have their own voice to contribute and new boundaries to protect.

For now we are in the world of heavily protected kid sites and games, although our older children are staking their flag on Internet land with email and Flickr accounts. As parents we are still in the position of monitoring time and access to the Internet and will continue to do so. Our hope is that we spend our lives choosing to embrace the good in the world, yet keeping a watchful eye on the people entrusted to our care and those who cross our paths.

The Catrows

Exactly 25 minutes after our son was born, Ross posted this picture on the site where he liveblogged my labor:


(Yes, he liveblogged it. We are all out there in every aspect of life.)

Since then, JR has popped up all over this column, my personal blog, both of our Twitter and Flickr accounts, and occasionally on Facebook. People who we’ve never met know his first, middle, and last name, how much he weighs, his sleeping patterns, when he first rolled over, and what he was for Halloween. Why do they care to know? I have no idea. But some of them seem to, and it doesn’t seem dangerous or scary to us.

We look at the tools available on the Internet as a convenient way to document and share what’s going on with our kid. Not only does it make it easy for us to look back on the last few months (I’ve only been able to keep JR’s baby book up-to-date thanks to blog posts and tweets), his grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, what have you, are being made privy to the day-to-day, an arrangement that I think makes them all the more invested in his life. It’s like they’re actually there, something that’s so important to “It-takes-a-village” parents like us. Meanwhile, some of the more “real” relationships  I have with other mothers developed through commiseration via the Internet.

We personally don’t view the Internet as a scary place. Sure, there are creepy (and maybe even potentially dangerous) people out there, but they also could be living down the block or standing behind us at the grocery store. That doesn’t mean that we’d let any random person we meet online come and hang out with our kid; it just means that we choose to mix our enthusiasm for technology with a little common sense and parental instinct, just like we do “in real life.”

Granted, our transparency could very well change once our son expresses discomfort with having somewhat personal or embarrassing information about him available for all the world to see (like this, for example). I imagine that as he gets older, we might have to sift through some archives to make some edits, and then only publish stories and images featuring him with his permission. But hopefully by then we’ll have given him an understanding that these tools are a great way to share your life and connect with others when used respectfully and appropriately.

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Patience Salgado

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