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As someone who has concerns regarding how we balance the positive aspects of social media while maintaining some degree of privacy, I found the following piece thought provoking. I want to thank Dr. Ramey for his permission to reprint his recent article on the matter of children and privacy.

Clearly we all benefit greatly from technology in our lives. However, there are the darker sides- easy access to pornography, predators soliciting children and identity theft –to name a few. Then there are those posts, photos, u-tube videos that are just plain embarrassing. By now all of us are aware of social media posting that resulted in a negative consequences. Dr. Ramey’s article gives parents something to think about-whether you disagree, agree or fall somewhere in the middle-his thoughts will challenge us to reflect on how we all use social media.

Following Dr. Ramey’s comments, is a paragraph drafted by Atty. Chip Mues of Dayton, Ohio. This is a sample of the legal language that could be included in a parenting plan of a divorcing couple. Atty. Mues has contributed generously to this site and we have co-authored a number of articles. I am grateful to Chip for bringing this issue to my attention, sharing his draft with us and, as always, for our ongoing conversation about how to make the divorce process safer for children.

Your thoughts and comments are encouraged.

Children and Privacy

            Regular readers of this column know that I rarely relate incidents about my own three children. The reason is simple. Their right to privacy is more important than my need to tell an interesting story. While I do write about patients I’ve treated in my office, I go to extraordinary lengths to protect their confidentiality by always changing numerous aspects of the situation so that it is impossible to know their actual identities.

            Many parental bloggers do not share my concerns, and write about some of the most intimate aspects of their children’s lives. These writers pontificate about the need to be authentic and open about their thoughts and feelings.  That sounds reasonable as it involves them or their relationships with adults, but don’t their children have any rights to privacy?

            I feel uneasy reading stories about children’s bodily functions, reactions to puberty, or serious emotional or behavioral problems. It may be interesting or even humorous to read about a young boy’s response to seeing hair on his genitals, but how will that child feel when he realizes that his private conversation with his mom was posted on the internet?

            Facebook presents yet another significant threat to our children’s privacy, as parents post pictures and write entries that can be incredibly embarrassing to kids as they get older. This may be cathartic for parents, but it comes at the cost of sacrificing our children’s confidentiality and dignity. 

            Parenting is tough at times, and some bloggers have little hesitancy in sharing very personal feelings about their frustrations, anger, and even resentment of their children. These reactions are normal, and talking or writing about them can be healthy. However, aren’t there times when such intimate emotions should be discussed in private with your spouse rather than shared with everyone?

            Parents have always turned to others for support and guidance. Family, friends, and spouses took on that role before the Internet. Now, parents publish blogs to vent, educate others, and express themselves. I understand how this may be helpful to parents, but kids’ rights to confidentiality shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of parental relief. Imagine for a moment how your child will react as he gets older and reads what has been written about him throughout his childhood?

            A local attorney is trying to deal with this situation in divorce matters by inserting language in shared parenting agreements that offers some protection for children from their parents. Such an approach may be controversial, but it at least raises the awareness of parents that their primary job is to protect their children, not vent their own emotions.

            Parental bloggers have a lot to offer, but please don’t violate your children’s rights and dignity simply to entertain others or feel better about yourself.

Dr. Ramey is a child psychologist at Dayton Children’s Medical Center and can be reached at Rameyg@childrensdayton.org. The article originally appeared in The Dayton Daily News.

 Limiting Our Child(ren)’s Online Exposure

We recognize our responsibility as parents to be the “gatekeepers” when it comes to our child(ren)’s online presence and protect their privacy. Our child(ren) are powerless to protect themselves. We are committed to protecting our child(ren)’s safety and we respect his/her/their right to online privacy and limited internet exposure. In furtherance of this important objective, we agree that we will restrict and limit his/her/their online presence.  We pledge to do our best to shield our child(ren) from harm, embarrassment, notoriety or humiliation which may arise from online internet exposure. Further, we both acknowledge that these online privacy rights of our child(ren) trump any personal interest we may each have in sharing such information with others over the internet. 

We agree to refrain from posting anything which might negatively affect our child(ren) now or in the future, or may affect his/her/their personal life and professional opportunities.  Neither of us will unilaterally post any photos of our child(ren) or share any of  the most personal details of our child(ren)’s lives anywhere on the internet, unless we both have jointly agreed to allow it in advance. We are free to share information and photos of our child(ren) to family and friends via email and other direct means not likely to be accessed by others.

 Robert “Chip” Mues, Esq, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues,  mues@hcmmlaw.com, http://www.hcmmlaw.com/blog/

 

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

3 Comments

  1. Chip Mues on the 17. Feb, 2013 remarked #

    Thanks Donna for sharing this controversial topic with your readers!
    I have received some very positive feedback here in Dayton since Dr. Ramey’s article was published in the Dayton Daily News.
    Regards,
    Chip Mues

    • Donna Ferber on the 18. Feb, 2013 remarked #

      It is my pleasure. It is an interesting topic and I think as technology evolves, it will be an ongoing conversation…Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. HAW on the 18. Feb, 2013 remarked #

    Anyone who uses Facebook should know how to set privacy settings and limit the people who can view their posts thereby eliminating who can view pictures of posts about their children to close friends or relatives. In addition, most bloggers I know never refer to their children by their proper names, some use initials and others nicknames like “the rugrat” or “the boy”. This along with limiting precise information about children’s schools or sports goes a long way in preventing cyberstalking or worse.

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