Do you know the A.A. Milne poem about childhood? It’s one of my favorites.
When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
When my daughter Emma was born I was very proud and as long time readers of Web Enlightenment know we took lots of pictures – I sent photos out to the world several times a week.
It was great fun, I mean look at this:
But when Emma got older we stopped publishing her picture.
I believe that is the first responsibility of parents in terms of social media.
There is a naked picture of Emma in the living room from when she was a week old. She’s 5 now and she talks about “baby Emma” as though that’s another person. Children usually feel this way – damage can occur if you publish an ongoing stream of their real emotional life. Some refer to this disease as reality tv star creation-itis.
The next thing you need to do is know when your child might begin to be exposed to social media information. That happened to me recently and I had failed to set my Facebook privacy settings correctly – everything I posted was wide open to the entire world. This meant that by proxy everything I published was knowable by my daughter. I had forgotten that Emma has friends – and those friends have Mom’s – and as a result I do not want to publish all the details of my life that way. I’m happy to talk about why daddy likes to watch tv shows about serial killers when she gets older, but not now.
The final thing we’ll need to do happens when she is about 10 years old – we need to tell her that social media can be very dangerous. That’s not really as dramatic as it sounds, but it is important we tell her that she can encounter bullies and harmful people online, just like in real life.
- Age 1: Stop Publishing pictures as a stream
- Age 5: Lock Down your personal streams if they are open, maybe alter your content as is appropriate
- Age 10: Explain that there are bad people in the world and if your children encounter them that they need to ask you for help, just like when they meet real life bullies.
Sometimes people ask me about digital and kids – they wonder how my geeky friends and I handle the issues generally.
I am unaware of any technology professional that allows young children unfettered access to the internet. In fact, the norm is that the children of web geeks don’t have Internet access at all. When I see a young child being allowed to surf the web I cringe – and I am one of the people responsible for the creation of the web.
I’d love to hear from you about this topic – please hit reply and tell me what you think.