For me, one of the most relevant and thought-provoking sessions at Britmums Live was about your child’s digital footprint. Because children have them. Sometimes from a very young age.
On average, parents share 195 photos online of their children every year before the age of 5. So that’s 1,000 photos online before they even start school. And that’s ‘normal’ people, muggles. You can be sure that most bloggers will share a lot more.
Every blogger decides for themselves how much or little they will share about their children – how big a digital footprint they will create.
There’s basically five levels:
- No images or names at all
- Images without identifiable faces
- Faces, but no names
- Faces and first names
- Faces, full names and places
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of doing it. But bloggers should have their own ‘internal posting policy’ on their kids – and they should stick with it. It’s very easy to start off without images or names, but get drawn into using them to get offered the better ‘stuff’, in the form of reviews and sponsored posts.
When I started blogging, I was future-proofing my blog and protecting my family. I was keeping them from having a digital footprint. Although I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I hadn’t even planned to start blogging. It was something I did on a whim, four years ago. So it’s surprising I took such a sensible decision.
Because I didn’t want my children to be identified by my blog. When I started blogging, they were 10, 7 and 5. But even at that stage, I was aware that their friends could stumble across my blog and the last thing my kids needed was their friends identifying them. So I’ve never had their names or identifiable photos on the blog.
I write a lot of nice stuff about my kids. I celebrate all their successes – in sport and academically. I write about them if they do something extra thoughtful or helpful. If you’re 13, even your mum saying something nice about you online can be embarrassing.
Not to mention the fact that I also write about them if they’ve done something bad or horrible.
Right from the start, my blog has been about the small stuff of family life – the good and the bad. I’ve always been completely honest. The only test I apply to whether I should hit publish is ‘Would I tell this to my friends in the office?’ (I devised the test back when I had friends in an office). And, believe me, there wasn’t a lot I wouldn’t tell my friends in the office.
Hayley from Downs Side Up said she never reveals which town they live in and she never says she’s on holiday – only sharing about her holiday on social media when she gets home. I’ve always stuck with these rules too.
It was suggested that if you’re too cautious and don’t post photos of your kids online, that they will turn round to you when they’re teenagers and say ‘Why aren’t there pictures of me, don’t you love me?’.
I post photos of my kids on Facebook, so I can ‘prove’ I love them – if posting something online is how we are supposed to prove our love these days. My Facebook settings are set to private.
But have I put my kids at risk? Have I unwittingly created an unwanted digital footprint for them through my own social media addiction?
So I Googled my own kids. I’d got to page 7 on Google and still hadn’t found either my eldest or my daughter. My younger son appeared on page 3, but that was in relation to the rugby club, not to me. When I added our hometown, my daughter came up 2nd – in a story in a local paper from 2010. My younger son came in first – again with the rugby club – and my eldest came up on the second page with, you guessed it, the rugby club.
I don’t mind their names appearing online after quite a precise search in relation to the local paper or the rugby club. I’m actually pretty proud they don’t appear anywhere in relation to me. But I wouldn’t expect them to. I made my ‘internal posting policy’ back in 2011, without really thinking it through and it’s absolutely been the right decision for my family.
For my next challenge, I need to think about how I tell my own story, without stopping the kids from telling their own stories when they’re ready. Plenty of bloggers with children as young as 10 or 11 are already easing up on the number of stories they share about their own children and getting their kids to read the posts before they publish. I am writing less about my teenage son and am sharing far less posts about my boys on my personal Facebook. Friends who want to read our stories still know where to look, but my boys don’t need to see my actively promoting them on Facebook.
It’s probably time for me to re-think my ‘internal posting policy’.
What’s your policy on identifying your kids online and how much of their story you will tell?