Is it an invasion of your kids’ privacy to post pictures of them on social media?

picture of family taking selfies

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Like millions of parents, I post pictures of my kid on Instagram. When she was born, her father and I had a brief conversation about whether it was “dangerous” in a very nebulous sense. Comforted by the fact that I use a fake name on my account, we agreed to not post nudie pics and then didn’t give it much more thought. Until recently.

As she gets older, and privacy on social media dominates the news, I’m revisiting this conversation. Am I invading my daughter’s privacy by sharing her kooky dance moves or epic Nick Nolte hair? Will she feel violated when she’s older? My generation had to contend with mom showing an embarrassing baby photo to our prom date. Is an awkward Instagram picture just today’s equivalent, or does the fact that that the photo can be revisited again and again, by potentially hundreds or even millions of eyes, change things?

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Playing Video Games With My Son Isn’t What I Thought It Would Be

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My son and I do still play those competitive games, and I hope that he’s learning about practice and perseverance when we do. But those games are about stretching and challenging him to fit the mold of the game’s demands. When we play Minecraft together, the direction of his development, and thus our relationship, is reversed: He converts the world into expressions of his own fantasies and dreams. And by letting me enter and explore those dream worlds with him, I come to understand him in a way that the games from my childhood do not.

Touring the worlds that my son has settled over the last couple of years, I find a lot of the imagery one might expect from a kid his age. Throughout are standard fantasies like living in a treehouse or on a boat. The dominant themes vary as I pass through time: trains in his earliest worlds, then robots, a long streak of pyramids. Pirate ships, particularly half-sunken ones with treasure chests, remain a constant.

Parents, I Was Smug About Your Videos of Your Children. I’m Sorry.

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I would like to apologize to all the parents I mocked for taking videos at elementary school performances and soccer games a couple of decades ago when my children — and theirs — were young. I can remember exchanging eye-rolls with friends or with my husband when some mommy or daddy with a big state-of-the-art video camera popped up in the row in front of me at a school assembly, or pushed through the crowd to run up and down the soccer sidelines following the ball.

Who on earth would ever watch those videos, we wondered. How sad, we said to one another, to see the big moment through a viewfinder. We didn’t own a video camera, and we were a bit smug about it; we were the parents who actually watched the soccer game, or the play, who participated in the party instead of filming it.

The New Kid Defense: The Algorithm Made Me Do It

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All my noble dreams of raising my two daughters around wooden Montessori-approved toys and bright-red metal wagons has completely degraded. But watching someone else play with toys is where I draw the line. “Is that a toy video?” I call warningly from across the room. Both girls suddenly jump back from the screen. “iPad picked it!” they defend.

And there it is. The algorithm defense — essentially the modern-day equivalent of “my dog ate my homework.” Like most streaming services we’re all familiar with, YouTube Kids automatically advances from one video to the next, attempting to predict what my kids will like.

Sadly, my children have watched enough of these toy videos without me noticing that the app often jumps there. So instead of blaming each other for the video selection, my kids blame a third thing I need to discipline: the machine.

 

When Your Dad Is BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith Featuring Hugo Smith, age 14, grade 9.

Hugo Smith.

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How much time would you say he spends on his phone?

Well, a lot. He used to do this thing that would just drive me insane where, while I was talking to him, he would be doing work on his phone, and he’d just be like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.” And eventually I’d be like, “OK, what do you think?” And he’d be like, “Uhhhhhhhh.”

So what we convinced him to do was, when he needs to do work stuff, but he wants to spend time with us, and we catch him working like that—he goes into another room, does the work he needs to do, and then he can come back and give us his full attention.

So how did you get him to do that? Did you have to stage an intervention?

No, he sort of came up with it a bit. But also I’ve found that when I’m playing tennis, even just ping-pong, it’s great because we’re both so focused on each other.

Does your dad use Twitter a lot on his phone?

Oh yeah, occasionally at family events and stuff.

How do you know when he’s tweeting?

I check his Twitter account. He is always on Twitter.

So you’ll be at a family event, and you’ll look at Twitter just to see if your dad is tweeting?

Definitely. I’ll be like, “Dad, you retweeted something 30 seconds ago.”

But usually at those family events I’m retweeting things too.

Would you say your parents have a healthy work-life balance?

I think my dad’s definitely gotten better about it. A couple years ago, he worked more, but he’s definitely figuring it out now, it’s good.

What do you think motivated him to figure it out?

Just a lot of “Dad, get off your phone. Daddy, we’re talking to you.”