Thursday, November 3, 2011

Never to be Revisited Rant: Why I Won't Blog About My Kid

Like countless parents across the globe, I have a kid, and I have a blog.  My kid has a gender, name, and unique personality.  This kid does wonderful things I’d love to share with the world. When this child drives me crazy, the siren song of the online audience beckons me to vent.  Everybody else is “mommy blogging,” so why shouldn’t I? 

I don’t blog about my kid, because I think it’s unethical. I’m not trying to create a new hurdle that women must overcome to achieve the moral high ground of the “good mother.” I just can’t imagine ever being okay with my mother having blogged about my life, in all its shame and glory.

Becoming a parent doesn’t give you the right to offer the experiences of your child up for the consumption of the entire internet. There’s a wide spectrum in the presentation of children online. From the discomforting videos of kids under the influence of laughing gas, to the seemingly benign blow-by-blow account of Child X’s first day at school, countless permutations of putting a child online exist.

I realize deeming “mommy blogging” unethical is a pretty broad statement.  Can there be situations in which blogging about your child is okay? Parents like Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Squidalicious, who blogs about her autistic son Leo, are raising awareness about a unique aspect of a child in a way that provides an invaluable resource to parents and the child-free. But even in these isolated cases, it’s tough to decide if the benefit for others justifies sharing the life of a child, when that child isn’t given a choice.

Increasingly, parents are getting paid, via sponsorships and ads from companies, to share their children’s lives online. New ways to monetize parenting, and by extension, the lives of children, are invented every day.  Even before birth, parents-to-be blog their pregnancies for a profit, as in the case of the “sponsored” nursery furniture provided to Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam in exchange for publicity on her blog.

Parent bloggers have PR agents to help them promote their money-making blogs.  Babble pays parents to hit exploitative lows with essays like the one by Keri Fisher, who detailed why she likes one of her children better than the other, while identifying both kids by name. 

Outside of the legal guidelines that define acceptable parenting, no one has the authority to dictate to others parents how they should raise their children.  Blogging about your child is not necessarily abusive, and a blog cannot adequately provide a holistic picture of a family. Besides, parents have been writing about their children forever.  Is a blog entry about the trials of toilet training Child Y really worse than a similar print essay?

Perhaps not.  But societally, we’re at a juncture in internet culture where we don’t know the ramifications of “mommy blogging” for the children who are the subjects. I suspect that in the years to come, as these child subjects reach maturity, there will be a host of negative repercussions that we can’t even imagine now.
Children shouldn’t be used as fodder for a blog unless they’re old enough to give informed consent.  Even then, with the power dynamics involved in the child-parent relationship, freely given informed consent may not be possible.

 Internet heavy-weight  blogger Heather Armstrong of Dooce, promisingly suggested she’d reduce her blogging about her older daughter, because her daughter objected. But even as Armstrong resolved to ask her daughter's permission to write about her, she expressed that she felt “censored” by having to consider the rights of her subject/daughter.

For many parents, sharing the challenges of parenting is an invaluable online resource. But it’s possible to talk about parenting without using your child as the tool.  We raise hell about the exploitation of children in other arenas of life—why is the internet any different?

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