Will Richardson shared numerous thought provoking ideas as well as article and book recommendations in his presentation in Amarillo today, “Learning in a Networked World: For Our Students and For Ourselves.” One of the standouts which I read after his presentation, waiting here in the Amarillo airport for my flight home, is Steven Johnson’s May 2010 article for Time Magazine, “Web Privacy: In Praise of Oversharing.” This is the specific paragraph which really got my attention:
The fascinating and troublesome thing about the valley [the space where online strangers meet via social networking platforms] is that the rules of engagement there are not clearly defined, and it’s likely that they will stay undefined. Some of us talk about our relationships online; some allude to them indirectly; some keep them behind a cone of silence. [Jeff] Jarvis was so eager to blog about his cancer diagnosis that he felt almost restricted when he had to wait for his son to return from camp so he didn’t find out via a tweet that his dad was sick… In our house, we have built a set of improvised rules about how much of family life to make public; I tweet or blog little anecdotes about the kids, but don’t mention them by name. We never post pictures of them, except to our inner circle of friends on Facebook. When they’re old enough for their own Facebook account, we’ll let them decide for themselves how public they want to be with their lives.
I don’t have the definitive answers on this topic, but I certainly have questions. It wasn’t that long ago that we NEVER published any photographs of our kids and family on the public web: All of them were “locked” up on my Mobile Me (then .Mac) website on pages which required a password to access. I emailed out updates to a list of friends and family, with a password they could use to see not only photos but also family videos. Over time, my disclosure of our family’s activities via media has undergone significant changes. Today, I publish most of our personal, family photos to Flickr and occasionally to Facebook. I can point to a specific moment in time when my personal behaviors about sharing family photos changed: It was the “Getting a New Haircut” VoiceThread digital story which I published about our then 3 year old, Rachel. I published that for the first time on August 15, 2007. Since then (at my encouragement and with my support) my kids have gone on to publish a series of cooking videos on YouTube and elsewhere, start their own “iCarly style” webshow, go on Twitter, start a 365 photo project, and present with me at technology conferences at least a few times a year.
One of the questions which Steven Johnson inspires me to ask, after reading his article, is the title of this post: Is it right for me (as a parent) to decide to make my children famous?
Now, “famous” is a relative word. What does it mean to be famous? I continue to be honored and humbled by the fact that lots of people read my blog and follow me on Twitter, but there is a difference between being “famous” on mainstream media and being digitally connected to a lot of people. I’m not a celebrity and neither are my children, and judging by what I’ve heard about “celebrity” (and the limitations it imposes upon your life) I’d say that’s a great thing. However, I’m very aware of the fact that any of us are just a breath away from mainstream media attention. The close-to-home example of 12 year old Greyson Chance provides a case in point. It’s a remarkable and unique situation, to be sure, but still one that happened last year in our hometown. What are the responsibilities of parents in our digital age when it comes to sharing images and/or video and potentially placing members of our families into the spotlight of media attention… Whether that attention is limited to the social media arena or “crosses-over” into the realm of mainstream media? There is not a class on this at our local community college or our church. The “rules” aren’t written. We’re figuring this out as we go along. And I’d like to get it right. I don’t want to mess up. These are important questions and issues, because these are our/my kids and our/my family. I could mess up a lot of things, but I don’t want to mess up on things that could dramatically affect their lives.
This world of “living online” can be crazy. Who would have thought the parent who posted the viral YouTube video “David After Dentist” would quit his job and rake in over $150,000 since January 2009? That father now has a website (www.davidafterdentist.com) and you can read his story on the site’s “about” page. Are many parents likely to have a YouTube ad revenue windfall come their way because of sharing online media about their kids? No, probably not. But are many parents even thinking or considering what online fame could mean for their family or their child / children? Probably not nearly long enough. (I wrote a bit more about this in April 2010.)
Among other things I shared with educators in Amarillo today, I asked them to write down the statement, “Do not share anything online when you are emotional.” There are so many stories today of people who overshare when they shouldn’t… When they are angry, frustrated, tired, inebriated, or simply not acting thoughtfully. The digital world is increasingly perilous for the impulsive.
What lines should we be drawing as parents when we choose to share (or not share) images and media of our own children online? Even sharing images on Facebook to a “relatively” small number of “friends” can result in widespread sharing and distribution of a media image.
Just when I question whether or not it’s wise to share and amplify the ideas and work of my own children online, I’m reminded (mainly thanks to Bob Sprankle) of the amazing work of students showcased at TEDxRedmond. It’s amazing to see and hear about what these young people are doing and have done to make the world a better place. Many of them are using social media to assist in that process. I want my own children to learn these lessons, and to have the best opportunities possible to “be all they can be” in this digitally connected world. I don’t want them to be hurt, I don’t want them to be exploited, but I also don’t think hiding them from the spotlight of online recognition is the best path forward.
This is messy and complicated. I don’t have the answers. I certainly do, however, have a lot of questions.
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On this day..
- Free Workshop in Oklahoma City Fri Jan 18: Creating Multimedia eBooks - 2013
- Oklahoma City PS Students: Enroll in Virtual Classes for Fall 2013 by Feb 8th - 2013
- Supplemental Oklahoma Rules for K-12 Online Courses - 2012
- Avoiding AT&T's Ridiculous iPhone Data Fees by Switching to T-Mobile - 2012
- “Learning in a Networked World: For Our Students and For Ourselves #teach21esc16 - 2011
- Connected Learning Communities: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age #teach21esc16 - 2011
- Storychasing the 2010 Trappers Rendezvous - 2010
- Update about the PodStock 2010 Conference - 2010
- From deer leg to Captain Hook's hook - 2010
- Get creative when the blogging light is lit - 2010