Social media is, in and of itself, neutral. It’s a human invention enabling us to connect with other human beings. It can be used for immense good. It can be used for immense evil. And pretty much everything in between.
As a species we are still trying to get our heads round the impact that social media is having on our relationships, our leisure time and on our mental well being. The impact of social media will no doubt be the topic of many a PhD paper in the years to come – it’s probably already begun.
We are still playing catch up, but inevitably it will be our children who are most up-to-date with the apps, trends and technology of the day. They are the ones acutely exposed to online dangers such as cyber bullying, graphic pornography, online predators, and websites promoting anorexia, self-harm and suicide. Even more tame uses of social media like scrolling through Instagram can have a detrimental impact on mental health, studies have found.
It’s a complex topic, and it’s an area where we as parents need to be vigilant, informed and keep the lines of communication open with our children.
So we’ve made a decision.
Our children are only tiny. We have a baby and a pre-schooler. They don’t use social media yet and they have no control over what is posted on social media. A lot of the complex issues discussed above don’t actually have any bearing on their lives yet.
We’ve made a decision on their behalf…
We’re removing all the photos of our boys faces and their names from our Gospel-Centred Parenting website and from our social media accounts. (On the date of publication of this post, we’ve started the process and will hopefully get it finished in the next couple of weeks)
It’s a costly decision in a way, because we think they are super cute! We think they are (probably) the cutest children alive (we may be somewhat biased!) and we like other people to think so too.
Not only do we like other people’s approval of our children but there’s also external pressure.
Lots of parent-bloggers include pictures and the names of their children on social media – and you know what? They are usually the most successful bloggers. People like looking at cute kids, especially parents, it sort of goes with the “audience” you are trying to reach. It helps people feel more personally connected to us as bloggers, and will help our “audience” feel more loyal to us (or so those-who-know say).
But we’ve been reflecting on why we started our blog in the first place, and we realized that it was to help us reflect on our parenting in light of the gospel, so that we would do the best possible job of raising our boys. That was our objective then, and we still want that to be our objective now.
So – we want to strive to honour our children in the way that we blog. We love to keep it real, so we will share anecdotes about our kids – but always in a way which honours them as people deserving respect and privacy.
Are we saying that everyone who posts pictures of their children on their blogs and social media are making a terrible choice? Absolutely not! If you love showing off your children to your friends and family then that’s totally cool (and in fact we will do the same on our personal social media accounts). But in the end, when it comes to our blog, we don’t want our sons growing up and resenting us for oversharing their childhood in such a way that a simple google search will give their school peers plenty of ammunition for banter or bullying. We’re sure others do it in a way that avoids that, but for us, we don’t even want to entertain the possibility.
Because, in the end, our kids are too awesome and valuable for that.
Their long-term good is more important than our short-term self-gratification of a few likes, followers and nice comments.
This will be a provocative post in a way – we imagine that people will either love it or hate it depending on what their own stance is.
What we don’t want is for people to feel condemned!
As we mentioned above, we are removing these images from the website (hence we previously had them up for the world to see!) because we’ve had a change of heart and we’ve felt convicted to change our approach. And yet we will continue to post pictures that don’t show their faces on here, and we’ll continue to share more personal photos on our private accounts.
There’s no-one-size-fits-all to how you represent your children on social media, but here are a few questions you could ask yourself when you next go to share something with the cyber-world.
- How will my child feel about this image being on the internet in the future?
- Why am I posting this image/anecdote? Is it for their benefit or my own?
- Is there any personal information here which could put my child in danger?
- Where do I get my source of approval, love, acceptance and joy from? Answer: The Gospel of Jesus!
So there you have it… our personal opinion about safeguarding our children on social media.
What is your approach? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.