Last week, AVG posted, on its blog, results of a study the company did on the digital footprint of babies. The company polled mothers with Internet access who have children under the age of two in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan to find out how much of a presence the children had on the internet. The results were interesting, though not surprising:There wasn’t any information about how many parents were surveyed or about the methodologies, so I’m not sure how scientific it all was, but the number certainly seem right. Nearly all my Facebook friends posted ultrasound pictures of their kids, and among my peers the paper birth announcement is out in favor of the virtual (one of them even created a Facebook profile for his newborn daughter). Many people found out that Nora had been born and that she was a girl about 45 minutes after her birth when my friend Margarete uploaded a picture from her blackberry. And, less than 24 hours later, from free hospital wifi, we announced her name and stats on Facebook and our old Hinds Family Blog.
Like it or not, Nora has a virtual footprint. By the time she’s old enough to actually surf around on the internet, there will be 14 (or more!) years of her life documented here on my blog, assuming that I keep it going. It presents a few interesting questions that are unique to children of her generation.
I follow a blog, Leaf – Stitch – Word, by Jane Kokernak, a writing professor at MIT. Back in May, she posted a piece about audience problems. The piece was interesting to me on two fronts. First, because I write about my life, I often write about Chris or our parents, and so I’ve had to think about how to write about someone who is also one of my readers. In some instances, I’ve made the decision to leave out details which may be considered unflattering to my family, and I’ve felt my writing or message suffered because of that choice. In her post, Kokernak mentions Pat Schneider’s handbook for writing groups, which
encourages writers to write honestly, no sugar-coating. That can mean an unflattering detail about another person, and that may be a necessary writer’s choice in order to tell the story.
But I’m not sure that I’m (or my family is) ready for that level of honesty.
Besides weighing the impact of my writing on my husband, parents, and other family members, I also have to think about how the writing and photographs will impact Nora. Will she be embarrassed by photographs of her sticking out her tongue?
Or will she be annoyed by the fact that most of her life is chronicled in a public forum, rather than a small scrapbook at home? Should I have started out blogging about her with only a codename, as many “mommy bloggers” do? What details about her life are fair game and what should be left off the computer screen?
Kokernak occasionally blogs about her children and she said that she tries
very hard to draw a line between writing about them as actors in my experience of parenting and writing about them as the leads in their own lives.
That line is a really great one, I think, especially as Nora grows older and becomes more cognizant about making choices and engaging in her life. As an infant, I think it’s less worrisome to write about her as the lead in her life – especially because our two experiences are now so entwined; with age and independence her life will be less controlling of mine and less subject matter for Au Coeur. I’m also hoping that someday she’ll be interested in reading through my blog to see what her early life was like and who I am, besides just a two-dimensional mama.
If you’re a parent who writes about your kid(s) on Facebook or on a blog, I’d love to know what you think about this. How much and what is okay to say? How and where do you draw the line? What do you think your kids will think about the virtual footprint you’ve created for them?