In a previous article — Take Your Children Offline NOW — we discussed low-self esteem parents that publish images of their children on their blogs and websites in order to feel better about their station in the world. Those parents value the self-promotion of — “Look What I Made!” — over the need to protect the privacy of their underage offspring. Today, there’s a next cowardly wave of parental privacy trumping childhood innocence indicated in parents that actively choose to hide behind their children online.
You may have witnessed this parental trend when people post messages without using their real name — they use a fake name to hide their identity — and if you click on their username, their information is marked private and withheld from public view.
Some of those private users create usernames based on the names of their children instead of using their own name. A few examples I’ve seen online include, “ZachsMom” and “CharlottesMom” and “BobbysDad.”
What is the point of hiding your identity — yet exposing the name of your child to the world?
It’s pretty easy for determined people to track down your online persona and then connect it to the real you — so why not use your own name and own your words online instead of placing your child at risk?
Why offer up the name of your child to total strangers in order to falsely protect your own identity?
Websites dedicated to preventing child abduction argue parents should not write the child’s name on anything the child wears or uses — like a hat or a backpack.
Abductors like to use the child’s first name to create intimacy, trust and familiarity — so why would any parent willingly provide the name of their child to an anonymous internet with confirmed lurkers and unknown wants and perversions?
Some may argue it is a stretch to link online usernames to child abduction — I argue that tether is shorter than one might imagine in the age of condensed occupation of the same private space and the overlong compression of time between people.
On the internet, everyone is in your zip code and your neighborhood is everything you can’t see — and protecting your most valuable creation requires a longer, more tenacious, worldview than the lackadaisical short-term anonymity offered by creating a username out of your child’s birth name.
I didn’t know this was a trend!
They would probably be parents of young children who are in the process of confirming a new aspect of their identity. I agree it’s not healthy when it supersedes everything else. I suppose those usernames will be abandoned once the child asserts his/her own individuality.
What’s strange, Dananjay, is that these parents post — using their child’s name — their own viewpoints. It’s strange they choose to identify themselves online with their young children in such a strange way. Some may feel they’re expressing pride in their child — but if there’s a time and a place for everything — using your child’s name as your username is never the right time nor place.
Maybe they just like being known as the parent of their kid. Doesn’t seem so bad to me.
Are there other ways to celebrate your child in private, Anne? Why is an international, public, stage the best way?
People are proud of their kids. So they put up pictures and tell stories about them. Name themselves after them. Harmless.
I’m not so sure it’s harmless, Anne, if it were, the adults wouldn’t be hiding behind the children. There’s celebrating and then there’s exploitation. Wait until your kids are 18 and then ask them for permission first to post their images online and to use their names as your usernames. Until that age of consent arrives — keep your kids private and keep you hands off their personal identity for your own public use.
In an ideal world we should be able to take Anne’s view on this – however it is not and unfortunately we have to protect our children by not exposing them in this way – however proud we are of them.
I have blogged about my children a fair bit – but only with their permission and after they reached the age of majority AND got their own web spaces on Facebook/MySpace and MSN.
I am sure we have discussed the issues of why parents feel they have to live their lives through their children before – but I cannot remember which post it was and what conclusion we reached – if any.
I appreciate your wise insight in this matter, Nicola. We have discussed children and privacy a lot on this blog and I certainly agree with your viewpoint.
What’s strange about some of these people I’ve witnessed online is they say the most vile and cruel things — protecting their anonymity, but exposing their child’s name for the attachment of the nastiness. It’s an obvious, but odd, disconnect.
When I wrote the article about taking images of your children offline — I received many positive responses from parents who immediately took down the images. As time has passed since I wrote that article in the summer of 2005, I revisited today some of the websites and blogs of the commenters only to see they had reinstated the images of their children! It’s quietly unfunny how vacuous and fleeting doing the right thing is nowadays and time is always the great tempter back into the danger.
Well, our children’s words are not ours – it shouldn’t be.
So I think we should wait till they form their opinion about the world, their own lives and so on…
Then only the parents can put it online.
I think it is a terrible shame that these parents are not living their lives for themselves and are trying to live their lives through their children – ( remembered the discussion now – the one about beauty pageants for children).
I feel that there is something wrong when parents put words into their children’s mouths and hide behind their children’s identities – what happens in this internet age when employers “google” job applicants before interview – or universities – and all these superimposed values are exposed?
Well said, Katha! Why not just create some silly fantasy name for your username? Why bother with bringing your kids into your online life? I just don’t get it.
That’s a good point, Nicola. If these parents aren’t wary, they could very well define their children in the world years before the child can make its own imprint. I understand the want to celebrate your creations, but there needs to be appropriate and private veneration of that deed. It should never be done in the public square.