What will your Facebook Legacy be?

If you have ever thought about this, well done. I have not, and I wonder how many others are in the same state. 
Parents all worry about what their children are doing and posting about themselves online, and with good reason. 
But we rarely hear about the issues around the considerable amount of information and images that parents put out there about their children, starting with the 12-week scan photo, and including numerous pictures and stories about their every wobbly step and smile and antic. For some children, there are also every-day stories about the trials and tribulations of being their parent. 
I recently read an article in 'Attain' by Hannah Webster on this and she has several concerns about this rising trend - and it's not about on-line safety:
Developing identity 
  "All infants believe they are the centre of the universe. They do not comprehend that there is anything outside of their own experience until they develop a certain maturity and perspective...." 
But if the child is used to having their every reaction and quirk posted on-line for the world to see, it's much harder to realize that the world does not revolve around them. It's also harder to develop your own identity and make your own presence known in the (real) world, even to those close to you, when they already feel they know you. People have already made up their minds about you - based on what they have seen and read. They have already built their expectations about what you will be like and what you will do. Do you live up to your reputation? It might be hard to break free, particularly before you even know yourself.

Developing privacy
  As children get older, they naturally want to distance themselves from their younger, less mature selves.  They don't want to be constantly pulled back into their past. They want a shiny new identity created by themselves. This is a really important stage of development and it's highly unlikely that this new identity will be the one that already exists on-line.  How many people do you willingly share your childhood photos with now?!
Yet the children of the future will have their childhood photos available to all. And "photos on the internet are interpreted in the context of when they are viewed, not the time they are taken."  At the pre-teen/teen stage, it raises the thorny question of whose life is it? If parents have already treated their child's life as their own personal on-line creative project, it is likely to raise considerable tensions for that child as they struggle to take this responsibility over - it's possible they won't even try, because they are used to the idea that their life is for others to present to the world.
It is hard to lecture children about being selective about what they post when they get to that stage, if there are literally thousands of images of them already out there, put there by their parents!  Not only is it not possible to permanently delete them, it would take hours and hours to even attempt to do so.
The advice in the article from Stephen Balkman from the Family Online Safety Institute is that parents work with their children from the start about how their character is projected and viewed on the internet. It sounds a good idea, but my thought is that this can only start after a few years. Until this time, parents need to have some common-sense. "In our haste to share photos with friends, we should keep in mind that children become adults only too quickly. The information we have posted on-line about them could become a source of regret."  
- Juliet Richards


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