Parents, let's speak openly about privacy
Nov 3, 2015
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register
Raising the Hardy Boys
Keep your private parts private. It’s a mantra for parents of little discoverers.
First, of course, the conversation begins by defining what makes a private part private, and why. Before that happens, parents must decide when it’s time to start having such a conversation.
By the time my boys were entering grade school, we’d had the private parts talk. So I figured we were good to go.
Except no. It turns out all that was just Private Parts, Phase One.
Now, it seems we have arrived at a new life course: Private Parts and the Internet.
What started as a fun game, where we took turns entering terms like “images of penguins” into Google, turned into a wake-up call when I discovered even searching for pictures of cute animals can open a portal to a deviant world.
At their age, I remember the risky business of looking up words in something called a dictionary. And the worst that could happen is being exposed to a new word, for say, the biological word for a private part. Tee-hee.
But today, a smartphone is nearly always in reach. And it provides an instantaneous gateway to images of anything you want, and even those you don’t.
So, voila. Also, whoa.
Parents in this Internet era have to do what generations of parents have done before them. Figure it out and adjust. And, yes, maybe pause to lament the passing of The Good Old Days.
As with everything, opportunities come with challenges. The best we can do is embrace what is and learn to navigate the new terrain. Whether we like it or not, here we are.
It’s up to us to give our children a compass, help them determine their own course and steer them on the right path. But it turns tricky when you want to use your folded old-school map and the tool of today is a GPS that talks back to you.
For some of us, it’s even trickier to stay a step ahead of our kids when they are learning things in kindergarten that require YouTube tutorials for us parents.
There are ways to safeguard your Internet searches, of course. Google it and you’ll see.
But it’s actually other people’s privacy that I want you to consider today.
When you take a picture of a group of kids at, say, a birthday party or soccer practice, do you post it on social media? If so, do you first ask the other parents if they’re cool with that?
I’m guessing most of us don’t. Because these days, most of us are OK with it.
But some aren’t. And they aren’t for good reason — good reason that most of us have the luxury of being clueless about.
Parents dealing with estranged and dangerous family members, with domestic violence situations or with complicated custody issues have valid fears about facial recognition software. After all, it can be used to locate the kids they are trying to protect, and thus expose them to danger.
Frankly, some people just don’t want pictures of their kids “out there.” And that deserves respect as well.
While I don’t think anyone maliciously posts pictures of other people’s kids, I think we could stand to have a broader conversation about this practice.
The trouble with wanting to have that discussion is that these days, it seems most of us are geared to instantly defend our right to do something. We are quick to exclaim, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”
But does that make it right?
When I posted a question along these lines on my own social media network, the conversation immediately turned to what is legal. Someone suggested my column would be “more credible and thoughtful” if I interviewed an expert in privacy law or data protection. I was cautioned against making “recommendations without knowing the law.”
Here’s the thing: I’m pretty comfortable recommending people be intentional, considerate and thoughtful without having to have an expert weigh in. In a short column, I don’t have the real estate to dedicate to interviews of that nature, but I can start a conversation. I can call for consideration.
That’s my intention here.
Specific legal questions should always be handled by a professional, not a search on the World Wide Web. But the issues extend well beyond legality.
The fact is, our expectation of privacy is becoming less a reality. And the onus on keeping things private tends to land on the person requiring more privacy than others.
I’m less concerned with what I have a right to do than what the right thing to do is for me.
I think posting pictures of other people’s kids is less about privacy and more about courtesy. Think of it as an extension of good manners and ask before you post.
While we’re on the subject, please think before you post. Is this something my kid will be mortified by? Would I want my mom to post this about me? Carefully consider your own privacy sensitivities and act accordingly.
We have to figure this out so we can protect our kids, even from themselves. Especially, actually, from themselves.
How many of us have said we’re lucky social media wasn’t a thing when we were in our more, uh, formative years? We’re breaking new ground here, friends, so we’d be well-advised to tread cautiously.
If you can’t get permission from another parent for whatever reason, and you want to post a picture of your own kiddo, use an app to blur the other faces.
It’s a simple work-around. At least, that’s what You Tube told me.
Google it and you’ll see.
If you enjoyed this column, it would be an honor for me to see it shared with your people!
Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.