consent and privacy

I am sharing a personal post I made on my private Facebook page this morning. I am doing so because it generated a lot of discussion and clearly touched on a topic parents are hungry to discuss. The piece speaks specifically about agency and social media. I have noted in my work with adolescent clients a great deal of expression of feeling powerless and not in control of their lives when it come to social media. Although I recognise coming into awareness in your adolescent body can be very unsettling, I have always believed that feeling powerless stems from trauma, neglect, poor boundary development and/or verbal, physical or sexual abuse - and now abuse from online sources is as issue with lasting consequences. So for those of us who are parents what can we do to support our little ones as they grow into their big bodies and big feelings? As such the post below discusses a parenting experience I had with my daughter this morning and offers some personal decisions we are making to navigate the complicated road of privacy, consent and social media.

So I am developing some informed parenting choices with my daughter. Specifically I am asking for her consent when I want to post a picture of her, discussing with her my intentions for posting and dialoguing with her about how she feels about it. I recognise that she is born into the world of #Selfie and #Sexting and #Snapchat culture. My take as a parent is not to shield her and pretend it does not exist but to actively teach her about how to make informed decisions and to have consent as the central nexus through which she makes informed choices. I believe that in her being active in this aspect of our life as a family, how we represent and communicate about ourselves online is an empowering way in which to get her to build her own toolset so that when the challenges arise she will be prepared to face them. I obviously have my concerns about teenage sexting and sending of nude pictures over snapchat and the potential for harm in her life these realities present. On the other hand at some point she is not going to be a little girl and is going to awaken to aspects of her existence as she grows into adolescence and adulthood. One of these is going to be her sexuality and all that encompasses in this day and age. I don't want to be the anachronistic grandpa Simpson "old man shaking his fist at a cloud" meme. So I think one of the best things I can do for her is show her the power of boundaries by teaching her to set them. By having dialogue. By teaching her what consent means and actively welcoming her contributions to how we as a family and individuals in a family reveal our lives online. So this morning she really enjoyed me posting about teaching her dolls to meditate. She chose the photo. She felt good about me sharing it. We made the decision together. I have read so many posts lately about the internet and children and devices and they are so fear based, so retracted, so hyperbolic and offer only doom and gloom without so much as a thought toward choice, agency, consent and dialogue. I am so exhausted with this endless negativity about the internet and social media. There is so much good and connection that can be wrought from this raw media environment. And thus, I choose not to raise my child with fear about the internet and social media. I choose to empower her to understand what the internet is, what consequences are, what her rights are, where her power lies and as I said to understand how consent works when using social media and that she has a right to make informed choices. I respect her privacy and her right to voice whether or not she wants me sharing her private experiences online.

A friend of mine suggested this as a book that seems to philosophically fall in line with the thoughts I expressed above. I have ordered it for myself and provide you the link below to make your own decision if this is a good resource for you.