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Should mom put kids on Facebook?

By Laura Lewis Brown
Published On: May 16 2011 03:03:56 PM CDT
Updated On: Dec 28 2012 11:57:59 PM CST
Laura Lewis Brown

I recently wrote about how the texting- and talking-while-driving bans have changed the way I communicate. While I am abiding by the laws and using a headset when I do talk on the phone, I unfortunately didn't convey that very well.

Many readers attacked me for my selfishness, calling me a self-involved idiot and accusing me of not caring for my children. Some told me that I am going to cause an accident, which we all know texting while driving can do.

Although some of these readers would disagree, I care about my children and their safety as much as any good parent does. I'm the one to check on them at night to make sure they are breathing, the one who sweeps their mouths for any questionable-size food item, the one who stays up all night when one has even a sniffle. However, I do take hands-free phone calls while driving on occasion. I don't smoke or drink or read books -- I've witnessed that during rush hour -- while I drive, but yes, sometimes I talk.

All the nasty e-mails got me thinking about what else these perfect parents out there would find wrong. My children sometimes watch more TV than they should. There is not a day that goes by that I don't hear a 2-year-old voice say, "Me watch Dora" or "Dinosaur show." They sometimes have more snacks than they need and, yes, I have made the mistake of buying a few items with Red 40 in them.

As I watch my children thrive, I realize I'm doing a decent job, loading them up with the good stuff in life and limiting the bad.

But here's another thing that the haters would jump on: My children -- horror of horrors -- have appeared on my Facebook page. I resisted joining the site for a few years after it became popular; I saw it as a college kid thing.

But when my friends and even parents signed up, I realized it was an easy way to communicate -- even if it's superficially -- with people in my life who I don't get to see often. It proved invaluable in planning a recent high school reunion, and it's great to see what my friends who are too busy with their kids now are up to.

What I quickly found is that photos upload so quickly on the site that I could also share pics of my family and me without sending annoying e-mails saying, "Look at us." If my friends don't want to see the photos, they just don't look. I don't publish them to the "news feed," nor do I advertise in any way when I post new ones. They have to come to my page to find them.

Yet all this Facebook privacy talk started to worry me months ago. I have watched enough "Are Your Children Safe?" news stories to know of the dangers that children face. So was I setting them up for exploitation, identity theft or some other evil I didn't even know about?

My husband would be the first to jump on me. When my friends started listing their children's names as part of their Facebook family tree information, I did the same. I am proud of my children and saw no harm in listing their names as my children.

But my children do not have their own Facebook pages, and how do I know that I'm not handing out their information to the wrong people? Doesn't it just take a name and birthdate for a thief to do his dirty work?

So I deleted their names one day, and no one even noticed. I've also drastically reduced the number of images that can be seen by my friends in my private profile. Realizing I have Facebook friends who I rarely see or speak to, I thought it was good time to protect my children from prying eyes.

I hate to become a mom who lives in fear, assuming everyone is out to harm my children, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. So my children's smiling faces can be found on my Facebook page, just not as often as they used to be and never in a shot that would make them feel uncomfortable, now or years from now.

I will never claim to be a perfect parent, nor will I ever attack other people unless they are clearly harming their children. All I can say is that my children are my top priority and my biggest accomplishment. But Facebook doesn't have to shout it for me to get my point across.