Soleil’s Digital Future Will Be Her Own

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Earlier this week I shared that I’m posting less photos of my daughter Soleil online. It’s part of a conscious effort to be mindful about how my actions and attitudes will shape her digital future.

It’s just stunning how quickly time flies. I remember holding her in my arms when she was three days old. She literally fit between my wrist and elbow.

Daddy Holds Soleil

In just three months, she will be two years old. And many of you have seen her become a toddler before your eyes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

My baby talks to me now. We have conversations about all the things she sees. Soleil points at them and tells me what they are in three and four word sentences (not all English). She’s becoming a little girl faster than I could have imagined, and that’s prompting these changes.

Soleil’s online life will be a fabric that integrates into her very being. For her, social networking will be something as natural as breathing.

Yet, as an adult I often see how my parents and grandparents’ decisions (and their ancestors, too) affected me positively and negatively. So I want to respect her future, and keep open as many possibilities as she could want.

Her privacy is important now as photos can be indexed forever, providing embarrassing moments for the ages. And frankly there are a lot of creeps out there.

Still it’s tempting to store digital moments in time. The above video shows a father who emailed his daughter all of her memories via Gmail. This is something I do want to offer Soleil. So I keep most of my special Soleil photos on Flickr with the family and friends only setting.

But it goes deeper. How much search monitoring do I set up? Do I register her Twitter, Facebook, Google+ presences and more?

I decided to stop at buying her domain names. For all I know, she won’t want to be on those networks. It’s the equivalent of hanging out on AOL or MySpace. Who am I to say?

Soleil Discusses Breaking Down the Siloes
Soleil supports Marketing in the Round teammate Gini Dietrich with a Chicago Cubs T-Shirt.

More importantly, as she begins to access the Internet, how do I teach her how to find and consume information, and how much should I teach her about avoiding high risk behavior?

Would I give a teenage son the keys to a Porsche? No. Just as I monitor the media she consumes, including her screen time with Elmo, I need to be online during her first steps to teach safe and unsafe behavior.

At the same time — while I will try to instill smart decision making with her digital profiles so she doesn’t hurt her future, and bring bad people into her life — she will and should make her own decisions.

In the end, Soleil’s digital future will be her own.

Thank you, Shira Levine, Jason Keath, Dave Webb, Dan Jeffers and Shaun Dakin for contributing the links sourced in this post.

What do you think? How do you teach children about their digital future?

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  • Jakob Rosenfeldt Jakobsen

    my thoughts exactly!

    • geofflivingston

       Thanks for reading!

  • https://www.facebook.com/DakinAssociates Shaun Dakin

    Thanks for doing this post.  There are no easy answers and WE are all making this up as we go.  

    It will be an amazing journey.

    • geofflivingston

       Yeah, I agree, no easy answers. I feel like less hard rules, and more like showing her boundaries.  We’ll see. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.jeffers Daniel Jeffers

    Very thoughtful, Geoff.

    • geofflivingston

       Thank you for your help!

  • Terri

    I slowly introduced my daugther to digital with safety in mind, now at 14, I am the student. It is mind boggling to see how her generation is creating new social constructs, rules of engagement and norms with these tools. Keep an open mind. :)

    • geofflivingston

      Good advice, thank you!

  • Susan Cellura

    Geoff, it is hard to believe how time flies! She will always be your little girl, no matter what. I agree with Terri’s advice. My daughter is almost 7, but she doesn’t have email and she is only allowed to play on games that are educational and/or approved by us. I don’t let her on the Internet unless it’s an approved site by me and I monitor where she goes. (Lots of kids’ clothing sites – fashionista girl.) Keep an open mind and know that parental love and involvement is what’s key. Cheers! Susan Cellura

    • geofflivingston

       Thanks for your good words, Susan. And thank you for sharing your experience, too.  You rock!

  • colinstorm

    This is a challenging, and often divisive subject. I would say that we have made very few firm decisions, however we do try to keep sharing of photos to a minimum, and when we avoid anything potentially embarrassing later, and have a bent toward vague photos that tell a story about an activity but don’t necessarily show the girls faces. The later is more of a passive consideration at the moment.

    We also considered trying to claim social profiles, but came to a similar conclusion in that, who are we to choose that for them from the standpoint of participation or even identity.

    We did create emails for them both and we send them photos, videos, or just little stories about something they did or we did together. Just something fun to “hand over” to them sometime in the future. 

    We have friends who share absolutely nothing in terms of photos of their children online, and then we have friends who are moderately well known public figures who share photos constantly and do, in fact, have Twitter handles and the like for their kids. I do think a line of what is beneficial and what is harmful will become apparent in time, but there will always be a grey area of parental discretion.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       Yeah, it’s funny, I am coming back to your way of thinking on this, especially now that she’s getting older. It is a divisive topic, and one that can lead to many paths. We do the best we can.

  • http://mediasword.org/ Dave Webb

    I really like how you approached your exploration of this topic, Geoff, by reflecting on past, current, and future actions and impacts. I’ve really enjoyed your sharing of Soliel’s integration into your family, and your time as a dad. It especially adds a nuanced perspective when those of us who live a lot of their lives on the social web consider those impacts on our families. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    • geofflivingston

       Thank you for your support!!!  It makes it easier when your friends provide access to great information!

  • http://www.rachaelseda.com/ Rachael Seda

    What an interesting post. I constantly remind my younger cousins that everything they put online is there forever. It’s hard when your in high school to fathom the fact that one day, when you’re looking for a job, it’s possible that what you’ve posted online might hurt you. But just like your reputation is something that has always followed you…now your reputation is also even more magnified by your online actions (and easier to find). 

    I think just as my Mom taught me to never answer the door when she wasn’t home, not to leave school with anyone (even a family friend) if they didn’t know the code word when picking us up, etc., we now have to make sure we also prepare our kids for the online world accordingly. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and I hope we continue to have these conversations and learn how to protect our children while giving them the freedom to explore and learn on their own. 

    • geofflivingston

       So true. And I am SO glad that they did not have smartphones while I was in college. Oh, I’d be done.

  • http://twitter.com/chandagohrani Chanda Gohrani

    What a brilliant article! And so true. Now a days, kids are born with a Twitter handle. We define their digital future before they even choose to have it or not!

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