Risking their right to privacy: mom bloggers and “sharenting”   

I’ve always been a big sharer of personal stories. I disclose embarrassing anecdotes about myself at parties, and I am drawn to blogging as a way to share my personal experiences with others. My wife, on the other hand, has always been a very private person. We are always having conversations about how much to share online (and in person) about our family. If I didn’t have my wife grounding me, I think I might have shared a lot more of myself online at this point. And I probably would have engaged in some “sharenting” – the oversharing of stories and photos about our kid(s). 

That said, I don’t think there is a clear line that can be drawn between OVER-sharing and acceptable sharing. It’s different for every family, every mom-blogging sphere, every kid. I’m pretty lax in my opinion on other families sharing lots about their kids. The only moments I see as inappropriate are vlogs (video blogs on YouTube) where footage is shared of a toddler using a potty, or a child completely naked (of any age). I judge these moments as inappropriate mostly because of the risk of online predators and because when that kid grows up, their friends can pull up a video of them going to the bathroom and do mean things with it. I also worry about identity theft, so I personally try to keep full names and other identifying information out of my blog. But I love sharing my daughter’s name, so I choose not to use pseudonyms for her first name. 

The reason I’m writing this post today is because my wife recently saw a news item about a person sueing her parents for over sharing about her online when she was a kid. I haven’t been able to find the news article my wife referenced, but we had another brief check in about my sharing of Avery’s life. 

I blog to share my own experiences. It’s cathartic for me. But I happen to share my experiences of parenting, and that inevitably involves sharing stories about my daughter. I haven’t shared anything remotely embarrassing (or even personal) about Avery, but she is also just a baby without real experiences of her own. Perhaps one day the funniest stories that I’ll be itching to share could also be embarrassing stories. 

How much am I willing to withhold in order to balance Avery’s privacy with my need to tell stories about my life? How can I know if she’ll grow up to appreciate what I’ve documented about her life, or if she’ll feel exploited? If I make money from my blog, is it more exploitative than if hardly anyone reads it, or does it not matter? 

I’m going to keep checking in with myself as I continue to blog, asking myself the same questions: 

  1. Does this story/picture/blog violate Avery’s right to privacy? 
  2. Is this truly my story to tell, or is it Avery’s (or my wife’s)? 

What are your thoughts on balancing your child’s right to privacy with your right to tell stories about your own life? 

16 thoughts on “Risking their right to privacy: mom bloggers and “sharenting”   ”

  1. I am a firm believer of the saying, if I know you in “real”, you get to know more about me in “virtual”.
    Google is very powerful, never underestimate what all it can pick about you even if you use an alias! Which is why, online, I am always in “hidden mode”, no pictures of my family or me in public. Even on FB, my only friends are those whom I actually know exist. I m really wary, never know which idiot is busy trying to make my life miserable.

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    1. Yeah, it’s a sad truth that there are monsters out there who want to do harm to innocent people, and the internet has given them a playground to do their worst.

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  2. I thought about this a lot before Lady Jr was born. It’s part of the reason why I continue to call her Lady Jr instead of using her first name – my last name has appeared on the blog more than once and I just don’t want it to be too easy for anyone to put the two together and be able to find pictures of her.

    But yeah… I wondered for a while if it was even okay to share pictures of her without permission at all. Like you, I came to the conclusion that as long as I avoided the obviously embarrassing stuff, we’re probably good. Everyone’s baby photos are going to be online by the time she graduates HS, so it should be No Big Deal. But I still ask myself those questions when I post, because they’re good questions to continue asking. And my wife is like yours – she’s a whole lot more private, which is why Dr Lady doesn’t show up too often.

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  3. I ask myself those same questions every time I post on Facebook (which is very rare). I’m a little less inhibited here, because I don’t regularly use our names, but I hope that I don’t violate her privacy too much. I think a lot of kids are going to have a hard time knowing that their DAILY lives played out on the internet as their parents shared every minute detail. It’s going to create some challenging scenarios with employers, future romantic partners, etc. I like the old family album style of reminiscing…even though I haven’t actually gotten that together either…

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  4. As you know I blog anonymously and I have never shared any pictures of little MPB on my blog and only partial photos which do not reveal his identity on IG. And I don’t have Facebook so obviously I don’t post anything there. This decision was made before little mpb came along because I chose to write anonymously and keep my identity hidden.
    Abd now that little MPB is here my anonymous rules continue to exist. I think in part because I love the writing freedom that comes along with my anonymous writing (for example I suspect there is no way I’d write about me. MPB giving me the silent treatment if I knew my parents or his parents were reading).
    But also and way more importantly once we chose adoption my blog had to be anonymous. It’s illegal to advertise for adoption in my province and while I never did that, someone could have interpreted that I was advertising just by discussing our choice to talk about adoption. And now, even more importantly, I am conscious of what is little mpbs right to discuss aboht his life and what is my right to discuss about his life. And even though I’m currently anonymous I may not always be so I need to confident in what I share. That said I do think our adoption circumstance makes me hyper aware of this.

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  5. I originally shared names and photos on my blog, but when J was almost a year old (and more and more her own person) I decided that I wanted to keep things a little more anonymous. Now I mostly use first initials, and don’t share photos of her face. This was in part because of seeing pictures of other bloggers kids crop up in google image searches – I didn’t like the fact that I could share her picture on the blog, and then have no control over how that image was used. I do share pictures on my (private) Instagram account, and feel like I have a bit more control doing it that way.

    I still struggle with how much information to share, because I feel like I benefit so much from being part of this blogging community (and also like having my blog as a record), but I’m also a fairly private person and if older-J is as well, I don’t want her to feel exposed or exploited. I image I will share less and less as she gets older, which I feel a bit sad about. On the flip side, I think the feelings of our own generation about privacy and social media are likely to be quite different to those of our kids, who will have grown up with it. To them, sharing their image on the internet may seem no stranger or riskier than being seen in a public place.

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    1. Yes that’s a very interesting thought, that the concept of privacy will be very different for the next generation because they are growing up in a digital age.

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  6. I keep my blog anonymous, because I don’t want my personal info linked to me personally out there in the world. (If that makes sense? I don’t know how to say it lol) My Facebook I’m fairly open and out there with. That said, my Facebook is pretty private and locked down, and I’m not friends with just random people there. Family, friends, and a few blog friends that I’ve followed for a long time. It’s how I share my life, and C’s life, with family and friends that aren’t near us. I try to keep it to things that aren’t embarrassing though. B always accuses me of being an over-sharer, mostly about personal info (like our IF stuff), but I’m not ashamed of it so I feel no need to hide it. You just have to find a balance that works best for you, and all involved.

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  7. I try to keep my blog anonymous–pseudonyms and no photos of faces–and grounded in my own experience rather than my kids’. I share photos and quotes on Facebook but am only friends with people I know from real life or blogs (this last part is new). My wife posts way more pictures than I do, although we both share more of the second kid than the first these days. I now ask Clementine for permission to post/share specific photos of her. I let friends post photos of her/Julia on their pages.

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  8. I agree with both you and your wife. I think that there are some things that should be left private — if not for privacy’s sake but to save something for your family to have to itself. But then I also agree with you about sharing some experiences you have on the parenting highway. There are some people who look to see whether their experience is unique. And some find comfort in knowing it isn’t. People have an innate need to feel “un-alone.” That’s why we Google and blog. I do believe you both should be in agreement of what is and isn’t shared because it will keep conflict to a minimum.

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    1. That might be the article. It’s a big topic for us bloggers, because we get so much support and a sense of community from our sharing, and the kids will all grow up in a very different and less private world than we grew up in. But who’s to say what long term consequences there could be…

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  9. Right, I agree with you. I guess that’s the sad part. We won’t know the extent of positive/negative effects now. Another classic case of let’s-cross-the-bridge-when-we-get-there. The only thing we can do now is to minimize the future impact…

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