The big day is almost upon us and in light of that my wife and I picked up on a long standing discussion about what to share and how to share it, not just about ourselves in our new role as parents, but maybe more importantly how we were going to present the world with the Padawan.
We all know the adage what goes on on the internet lasts forever. If you don’t believe me simply check out the the old version of the doormouse trap which was one of several precursors to this blog or pick a website you remember back in the day and look it up. Now, think about how far archiving has come since that project began and how much content is cataloged and redundantly backed up not only in web browsing but throughout all forms of communication. Once it is set off into the vastness of cyberspace it’s digital imprint has the capability of lasting forever and being accessed by anyone with a little ingenuity.
While my wife and I would like to believe we are mature and knowledgable enough to entertain what this means for our own digital well being not everyone shares our personal philosophies or our knowledge base within our circles of family and friends. And, certainly our padawan doesn’t possess this yet to make their own decisions about their digital footprint. Therefore, it is up to us to protect them in the cyber world in much the same way it’s our responsibility to look over them in the physical world.
That being said, we knew all too well that our family and friends in their utter delight at having Padawan in their lives would want to share. After all, in the social media age that’s what you do. And, while we didn’t want to deny them this opportunity to express their excitement we also didn’t want to potentially put the Padawan inadvertently at risk digitally or physically.
So, we set out to lay out some ground rules in a letter included below.
And, believe you me [sic] they weren’t taken equally by everyone we shared them with. We expected some resistance because before the letter even went out we’d talked to some people and they’d already felt insulted that they wouldn’t be allowed to share pictures of the Padawan.
It is tough to explain to someone who may share everything why in this particular case they can share almost nothing without them feeling censored or their existing behaviors criticized. The letter when I finally send it will be a way for them to discover through well documented resources why what they chose to share about themselves is much different that what they would end up sharing about Padawan without Padawan’s permission and what that could mean for Padawan in the future.
I want to thank you for all your excitement about our latest addition to the family. We know you cannot wait to share the joy of your new family member with the world and we too share that elation to build our Padawan’s support network.
As we mentioned to everyone previous though we have some requests about what information you share and how you share it digitally.
While some of it might seem like common sense we understand from speaking with many of you there are some concerns about the why’s and how’s of other aspects of what we’re trying to manage of the Padawan’s digital footprint. There are a bunch of links below (and yes, there will be a test, so please click through).
Generally speaking we’d prefer you kept the fully public posts to a minimum when you are referencing the Padawan. Don’t Padawan’s name publicly, however, using a pronoun like grandchild/nephew/niece/cousin/friend’s baby/etc. particularly without referencing us as the parents should anonymize it enough since there’s more than one grandchild or baby’s friend to go around.
For the following you must have your profiles set to private / friends and family only. Please no public or open posts or even friends-of-friends. We feel most comfortable sharing only within the circle of people we know and trust. If you have questions about how to adjust the privacy settings of your posts ask us and we can help.
Furthermore, please try to avoid emails, text messages, instant messages/chats, or other digital forms of direct personal communication that can be forwarded (except among us within this inner circle). Just because you trust the person you are sending it to doesn’t mean they will always follow these rules or that the “private” information you are sending won’t be compromised in some way or another.
- If are referencing Padawan by name OR you are referencing Padawan through a mention of either of us by name please leave out personally identifiable information (PII). Some of it’s obvious like social security numbers (duh) but a lot of it is the series of facts that you might be casually mentioning separately than when all taken together could create an opportunity for identity theft not unlike what would happen by distributing the social security number and might include such things as full date and location of birth and other stuff that appears on the birth certificate like vital stats and doctor information. If you’re ever considering posting something and aren’t sure, please ask us and we’ll clarify.
Furthermore, when referencing Padawan by name OR you are referencing Padawan through a mention of either of us by name please please DO NOT mention locations if at all possible. Not our home town, not where any of us are at the time (live checkins), not where we are going to be in the future. This one isn’t just about the opportunity for identity theft this is also about physical safety. There are exceptions, of course, but when in doubt might as well leave the location information out and speak with us later about it.
For photos we would like to keep photos of Padawan to a minimum for the time being. When selecting photos The images being shared should limit personal features and other identifying marks a) NO FACIAL CLOSEUPS of Padawan. this is non-negociable, so don’t ask for an exemption. b) avoid pictures with backgrounds that visible reference to locations or include other PII. c) Be very aware that photos of you with Padawan that are tagged with any reference to your relationship with Padawan are basically the same as tagging Padawan directly in them, so please use your best judgement when captioning pictures and if you’re not sure just be able to double check the photo context to make sure we are ok with it if you have any doubts. All of this photo stuff is in addition to being respectful of both of our existing requests about how you handle distributing photos of us.
You’re probably wondering to yourself, but why are you imposing such draconian rules on how Padawan exists on the internet. For this, I’ve collected a series of links that explain it much better than I can by cyber security experts, lawyers, professional caregivers, and personal stories from people who had bad things happen to them in the process of introducing their loved ones to the digital world:
A) Stolen Baby info from social posts – Yes, catfishing children’s photos is a real thing. It’s not just the paedophiles either, there are creepers out there who ‘borrow’ baby’s photos to simulate having children of their own for any number of reasons, as well as a whole black market of children’s photos that land them inadvertently in advertisements, propaganda works and other where they shouldn’t be:
B) Identity theft – there are all kinds of ways to steal one’s identity and all kinds of ways to use it. Children are especially good targets because there are so few reasons when they are young for them to be doing things like checking their credit scores that by the time the theft is identified the damage is long since done:
C) Philosophical reasons – this gets into the idea that Padawan isn’t old enough to make their own decisions about their digital footprint and that no one should be imposing it on them (other than us as the legal guardians) until they are able to understand the rewards and risks of their cyber identity including who has what information about them.
D) Future technology concerns – For as much as we know now about how the vast troves of information available about everyone can be used we have no idea of how it might be applied in the future. Out of deference to this lack of knowledge it’s best to take a measured approach so as not inadvertently create a compromising position in the future as technology continues to change and increase the above outlined risks.
These are just four broad categories of the many we’ve researched and discussed as parents. I will happily provide more if you are not convinced the strategy we have chosen is the right one.
Again we know you’re excited to share your new family member and we are excited for the world to meet Padawan but we just want to take the necessary precautions in the process. We’re not trying to be unfun – we’re just trying to be good parents in the digital age. We kindly request you respect our wishes. Actually, no. I’m going to get all dictatorial and say that if you don’t do as we asked your access to Padawan will become extremely limited. Period. Don’t test this, please. We know deep down you want what’s best for Padawan too so let’s try to just stick to the rules as explained. If you can share this info with anyone we missed and keep it in mind as word gets around family and friends.
Thanks again for all your love and support and we cannot wait to enjoy all the great times forthcoming with the padawan together.
<< End Draft
So, I’ll probably end up editing this some for brevity and maybe to be a little less pointed about it but everything needs to have a first draft of some kind. If any reader has any additional links, or stories, to share about the pitfalls, or the potential benefits of kids in cyberspace, please do leave them in the comments. The more info the better. thanks!