I just read a brilliant NYT article about how a mommy blogger decided to stop writing about her children. She describes her realization of trespassing on her children's right to privacy and potentially endangering their well-being as being crystal clear although slow to be revealed. As a mommy blogger/mom-edupreneur, the vast majority of what I write about, education (at least on this blog - I have another green lifestyle site, The Homesteadista), revolves around children; their experiences, their socio-academic progress, their learning environment (homeschool). Yet, I make a conscious effort to address personal and professional issues without indulging in massive overshare which could in turn violate my daughter's privacy. While I may have the maturity and authority to choose how she is presented online, I am also confident that she (especially for someone who is a close second behind Kim Kardashian for Queen of Selfies, but still in the single digits is too young to navigate Instagram and Facebook is still off her radar) would have the same discernment. Or at least the patience to give it a second thought and ask mommy first. Fortunately, I could objectively take credit for all my mindful modeling.
The idea of privacy and exposure reminds me of last year, when I designed and implemented an ICT-integrated program for the primary section of a rather large international school. Our focus in grades 4,5 and 6 were in varying proportions on web design, blogging and online research as an extension of their general learning. Needless to say, all roads led to digital citizenship.
For the younger students, the Ps and Qs of online Q+A were skills and mindsets they developed all year; some struggling more than others depending more on whether their family displayed a preference for online cryptic and detached communication versus face to face fully engaged connections. Cyber bullying was a buzz word for them, but the ability to see it in their own behavior was a mystery to them. Talk about walking around with blinders on. The year 5s possessed more self-restraint and consideration, in part because they had experienced the sting of texting terrorism the previous year. Privacy, sharing passwords, posting pictures of each other in public online platforms, reading other peoples emails, etc paved a bumpy terrain for their learning and sharing. The oldest group, Year 6 thought they had it all figured out. They knew how to navigate digital learning and online living. Hah! What they didn't know was that the internet is chock full of TMI, TMZ and a number of OMGs and WTFs. Despite heavily child-proofed blocking strategies, students were privy to bits and bobs of intel that they nor I was necessarily prepared to unpack.
This brings me to what is constantly online now. Forget about grown up discussion, most of what is accessible to our children via the internet, news and social media outlets is a far cry from the responsibilities, etiquette, authentic mindfulness, and commitment to education that define digital citizenship. While I wouldn't be so presumptuous to tell you how to raise your children, I am without reservation here to advise you, no, to beg you to consider what and how the internet contributes to how your children experience their world and their personal identity. How could a constant bombardment of negativity, name-calling, email-hacking, "free" but incredibly empty (and in my personal opinion, stupid and hateful) speech be of any positive influence on our children. In our fast-paced google-it-now society, more than ever, next time, instead of talking about what you read or saw online, have a heart to heart talk with your children, friends and family about what you feel, think and imagine for our future. Some things are sacred and personal; even if the internet wold have you believe otherwise. In these times, we may need to honor privacy; ours and that of others and be true citizens again; on and offline.