Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Getting Permission Is Not Enough

Let's talk about that time I made a bad parenting choice...

Okay, well let's talk about one of the times I made a bad parenting choice! (because there have been many!) I'm not immune from being human and making mistakes is part of every human's experience. I'm full of humility. I'm also full of guilt, just like a lot of parents.

My oldest child will turn 18 in March, so it pretty much goes without saying I've probably screwed up a lot! I know the things I know and believe the way I do because of the experiences in my life that have shaped me... especially my mistakes. 

I just got through reading an article on Ollibean titled Six Questions Before Publishing About Children and it triggered some thoughts.

I have always thought of myself as a pretty thoughtful person. I've always thought of myself as a parent who was protective of her children (and I am). I'm pretty much known for telling parents to put their kids' dignity before their own need for support. I am a huge advocate for respecting children's right to privacy. I believe it is a parent's job to protect their children from the world.

But, I have also been a parent who has failed at those things and most of the time through good intentions. I think it would make me a hypocrite if I didn't point out my own failings.

One of the things we tend to ask parents when they start to share details about their children online  is "Did you get permission?"

And most will say yes.


Getting permission isn't enough, which the Ollibean post goes on to explain:

This piece of the article is super important, and it is one that a lot of parents can't seem to wrap their head around and honestly it didn't occur to me until something happened to my son 2 yrs ago. 

6. Could the information I am publishing be harmful to my child in five years? Fifty years?

If the answer is “No”, then publish it.

The most realistic answer is “I don’t know.”

In Feb. of 2014 an article that my son and I had agreed to interview for was published in our state's largest newspaper. The topic was on how special education in our state was failing students.  My son wanted to do it and he gave permission to be interviewed and written about. I wrote a bit about it HERE (which I had previously published and then unpublished. THEN... I republished with edits when I started writing this).

Anyhow the article ended up being absolutely terrible! (and I refuse to link to the article) The article was nothing like the draft she had shown me and she even put words in my mouth. She made my son sound like a lost cause and even worse didn't put in the things about him being bullied by adults that she had promised him she would do.

The very worst thing she wrote was this "If _________ had been identified in kindergarten, his mother says, he might be eyeing colleges right now or choosing a career.Instead, “I like music,” ____ said recently of his post-education plans. “Maybe I could be in a band.”
Mom never said anything of the sort... that was something she created. I get it, the media sucks and I learned my lesson, but that is also not my point.

I failed to protect my son. I can blame the reporter all day long, and she absolutely had a lot to do with it, but at the end of the day, ultimately I failed at my job to protect him.

When he finally read the article he was so so so upset. He begged me to have it removed and I tried. I wrote a lengthy letter and Gannet refused to remove the article or print a retraction, even though I sent them tons of proof that most of the article was an exaggeration.

So, driven by my fury, I took to my laptop and started banging out his story, the full story, with his approval. I wanted him to get vindication! I had good intentions!  He read and approved every thing I wrote. It was 4 very long blog articles.

They probably stayed up on my blog for a few days before I reverted them back to drafts.

The reason I did that was, I was doing what I advocated against. I was telling his story and putting his information out there to be used however someone else wanted to use it. Even though he approved of it, as a parent I felt I needed to protect him. Just like he didn't understand the ramifications the newspaper article could have or exactly how far it would reach (even though I explained it to him), he probably did not understand exactly how blog posts could be used either.

So, even if you get permission from your child, that still doesn't mean you should publish it. It doesn't mean your child understands the enormousness of the internet or that the internet is forever. They don't understand that in 5 yrs someone else may find that information and use it against them.. and they certainly do not know how they will feel about the things they give you permission to share today 5 yrs from now. 

Image reads: It isn't just a matter of getting permission, 
it's a matter of protecting your child's dignity and humanity above all else. 
No amount of permission from your child to share information about them 
can supersede the fact that parents are the ones 
charged with protecting their children. Background is a bluish color

It isn't just a matter of getting permission, it's a matter of protecting your child's dignity and humanity above all else. No amount of permission from your child to share information about them can supersede the fact that parents are the ones charged with protecting their children.

Telling me you got permission from your child to share something doesn't change my mind when I tell you that you are publicly violating your children's right to privacy and dignity. And I get to tell you that because I've been there and I've called my own self out on it.

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