We’re in a new era of parenting facing challenges no other generation has faced before. No, we’re not doomsayers lamenting on the good ol’ days or Debbie Downing the times in which we live. We are hopeful because of the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead for our children. They really can do almost anything they can imagine.

What we are talking about are the unknown effects social media interactions will have on our kids. Mind you, we’re not referring to kid’s usage of social media, but our usage as parents of young kids. It’s twenty-first century parenting.

Consider that Instagram was just launched in 2010, Twitter in 2006, and Facebook in 2004. Facebook didn’t even really take off until 2010 when it grew by 250 million users, the same amount it previously took five years to reach. That roughly means that children born after 2010 are the first subjects of the grand social experience experiment of parenting and posting.

It’s ground that’s never been tread. Never before have images of children and stories of their upbringing been broadcast so freely, so instantly, and so publicly. It’s also the first time those images and posts will remain for as long as the world remains. Forever captured in digital immortality.

We are optimists by nature and we love the idea of our kids being able to reference the past so easily. Our childhood memories are warm and fun, but so fragmented. We remember bits and pieces with the occasional memory boost from printed photos (remember those?), but now our kids have their childhood essentially journaled.  They have an ever evolving time capsule of their early childhood. (This could come in really handy if we get too crazy to remember anything when we’re old.  The Internet will remember it for us.  From Senile Future Us, Thanks- and “What are the internets?”)

We love that friends and family from across the world can catch glimpses of our boys’ lives as they grow. They can experience the joy of youth second-hand, whereas before it was first-hand, through letters, or nothing.

But our optimism of the unknown doesn’t trump our pragmatism. Since we don’t yet know the effects of these immortal memories, we choose to follow simple boundaries in the hope of protecting the innocence of childhood, both now and in the future. Here are some of our personal boundaries:

  • “What’s the motivation?” Are we posting for others to share in our joys or are we looking for likes to feed our need for attention at our child’s expense? Anything less than the former begs reconsideration or abstaining.
  • “How is my family being represented?” We’re not a perfect family, but we are a positive one. We have our share of bad days and behavior, but that’s not who we are. What we post is a representation of our children and our family. We are fun. We are adventurous. We are loving. When people see our posts, whether friend, family or acquaintance, we want them to see who we really are.
  • “Will it embarrass our children?” We value authenticity, but there’s no need for us to post something that would embarrass our kids now or even down the road when they’re 9 or 19.
  • “Is this something to post to everyone or just show a few friends?” There are times we have a hilarious, yet compromising picture of our boys.  It would definitely get a lot of laughs if we posted it, but it’s something that we wouldn’t want to have “go public.”  These are pictures we might show to each other or a few friends, but we don’t publicize them.  Just like in marriage, where there are things that are special or things you preserve just between you and your spouse, there’s a trust, a bond, and family intimacy that we strive to preserve.  Everything doesn’t have to be out there. There are some things that are funny or special that are just for us.

Maybe we’re overly cautious, but it’s what we choose to do. It’s no one else’s responsibility to protect our family unit than ours.  We are the ones given and blessed with that task.  That’s why, for us, the same optimism and positivity on display at home is what we display to the world. It’s our parenting constant in this unknown online territory.

Author Matt and Jill

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