"'Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?' She wanted to know, and she had a right to know."
So, here's something that's a little surprising about me - I don't really write about my child very much. Why is that surprising? well, because I'm the Parenting Editor here at Kidspot.
My whole day is spent writing about parenting and motherhood. I do write about parenting, but when I do, I write mostly about my perspective and make minimal mention of my daughter and very few photos.
When I do write about topics I feel are important to share but might be potentially embarrassing to my daughter in the future (like toilet training for example) I either don't use a byline or I use a pen name.
Why? Because she has a right to privacy, she has a right to decide how her digital footprint looks in the future. While I feel like it's important to open up communication between parents and be open about all aspects of our experiences, it shouldn't come at the expense of our children.
This week, another parenting writer wrote a piece for the Washington Post that expressed the exact opposite opinion to mine, and people are seriously not happy about it.
"Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?"
Writer Christie Tate penned the essay three days ago with the title: "My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t do that."
Salma Hayek (mom to Valentina): “When Valentina was not even 1 month old, my aunt [gave me the best advice]: ‘Put her to sleep yourself every night. Sing to her and cradle her in your arms and sit by her side - every night. Because one day you won’t be able to, and it’s going to happen really fast.”
Christie begins by saying that she has been a parenting blogger for many years and has always shared all aspects of her life online as a way to help other parents who might find themselves in the same situation one day. She said that while she had thought about what might happen when her children were old enough to read them, she wasn't prepared for the day it happened.
Tate's fourth-grade daughter received a laptop as a present this year and shortly after she got the new gadget, she marched into her mother's room, upset. Tate described the incident in her blog:
I Am a Failure as a Mother
“What’s all this?” she said. The screen was covered with thumbnail sketches of her as a baby, a toddler and preschooler — each paired with an essay or blog post I’d written on the subject of parenting. “Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?” She wanted to know, and she had a right to know."
Tate said she was blindsided that her daughter had made the discovery so quickly, and was unsure how to respond, finally, she just told her the truth, that her job involves writing about herself and her family on the internet.
Kiss and hug your spouse in front of the kids. Your marriage is the only example your child has of what an intimate relationship looks, feels, and sounds like. So it's your job to set a great standard.
Her daughter was upset and Christie looks back over some of her past articles, which include very personal stories including one about her daughter's friend not wanting to hang out with her because she was too clingy.
But it's what happened next that's really disappointing
Christie's daughter asked her if she could take down the photos of her that were already up, Christie told that she couldn't. She told her she couldn't promise not to write about her again, nor could she promise not use her photo.
"My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am. Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy," she wrote.
She concludes that she will run photos by her daughter for permission and describe what she is writing about ahead of time. She won't commit to letting her daughter edit her work.
The backlash was swift
Shortly after the article was published, the reactions began online.
"Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation."- C. Everett Koop
"Christie Tate has shown that no matter how much pain her daughter is going through, monetizing that pain is more important than actually doing what she can to help her daughter. Now her daughter knows that talking to her mom = no privacy," wrote one angry commenter on Twitter.
"How self-centered Christie Tate must be to think her daughter is her personal content mill. Get a dog. Start one of those food blogs. What a terrible, terrible person."
There are hundreds of similar comments, almost uniformly speaking out against Christie's decision.
For my part, I'm astonished at the lengths people will go to create content. Children have the right to decide what information about them is shared publicly.
I think in a few years we're going to start hearing from the children of oversharing bloggers with their own stories to tell, and I think it will be a very important lesson for us to listen to what they have to say.
Before you write anything about someone else online, first imagine they were writing about you without your permission or knowledge? Would you like it? If the answer is no, step away from the Internet.
Julia Roberts (mom to twins Hazel and Phinnaeus): “I try to call my mother, Betty, with more regularity because I think, What if Hazel didn’t call me for two weeks? I’m able to see her mothering now from a different vantage point.”