I sometimes find myself wincing when I see what parents post on my social media feeds.
There are sometimes snarky, sometimes brutally negative comments about their children. Rants about their partners. Kvetching about their families. The epic complaints about work. And the political tirades colored in with racism, sexism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia and hate speech.
Do these parents believe these statements exist in a vacuum? Or that all their online followers are other adults? Maybe they talk like this at home and their social media is simply an extension of that? However, I’m hopeful that most conscientious moms and dads watch what they say in front of their children, so comments like these are less frequent in person.
In previous generations, when adults talked among themselves, the children were often not privy to the conversations. They happened at grown-up parties, in the other room or after the kids went to bed. It was understood that there were topics and ways of expressing yourself that just weren’t appropriate for young’uns. However, in the internet age, those boundaries don’t exist. Sure, there are privacy settings, you can choose not to accept friendship requests and blocking users is possible, but if something gets posted online, there’s a reasonable chance that people you don’t want to see it will end up seeing it anyway at some point.
Remember: like David Bowie, the internet is forever. Chances are your children will someday digitally dig up everything you posted online–and they will hold you accountable.
Plenty of parents either overtly or covertly monitor their children’s online activity and other digital communications. It’s the modern day version of cracking open their kid’s personal diary and eavesdropping on phone conversations. Though moms and dads are rightfully concerned about who their children are talking with and what they’re saying, they forget that it is now a two-way street. Children can just as easily snoop back. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to read your father’s tweets or your mother’s Facebook posts.
It’s painfully ironic that some of the same parents who warn their children about what they put on social media–“Don’t post any drunk selfies or else you’ll never get a job”–are posting things that might cause their kids to second-guess the job they did as parents.
I’m sure I have posted views that will one day make my son question my opinions and my work as a father. To try and minimize these moments, I ask myself before I post, “Would I say this in front of my son?” If I wouldn’t, then I delete it. Sometimes I misjudge and something questionable goes online. Oftentimes I get a text from my wife shortly thereafter urging me to reconsider my words. Usually, I’ll amend or delete my post.
Look, I know as a parent I’m bound to screw up, whether I recognize I’m screwing up or not. That’s the nature of parenthood. But we can all mitigate collateral damage we might cause our kids by thoughtlessly posting. So ask yourself before you post whether you’d be proud to say it in front of your child. If not, just delete it. When your kid checks you out on the internet, you’ll be glad you did.