January 06, 2003
Internet privacy for children?

Should children keep their privacy? What happens when a doting mother turns her three year old daughter into a global internet celeb? Or a doting father? (You need to scroll down a bit until you get to "Gnat" references.)

The doting mother, in particular, has lots of very sensible and nice-sounding things to say about how to raise a little girl, and it all seems to be going well:

I'm a little obsessed -- too much so -- about her reading development because both Darin and I could read by the time we were three and I've wondered, Is this sort of thing hereditary? Should I be encouraging it? As it is, I don't think I'm pushing her beyond being receptive to her questions about letters and words. We read her books, we gave her foam letters and numbers to play with, we let her see us reading and writing all the time. She's clearly interested in reading. But there are no flash cards, no enforced sessions of teaching her words or anything. When she wants to, she will. Believe me. When Sophia wants something, she's extremely determined.

Great. Lucky little girl to have such a nice and sensible mother. But are there circumstances in an imaginable future when mother will regret having written so freely and so publicly about her daughter? I really hope not, because I find this sort of stuff delightful, and it is infinitely to be preferred to hideous puffery from politicians about how their next national or even global educational initiative is finally going to sort out all of education for everybody.

I'm told that the email discussion groups associated with/spun off from Taking Children Seriously have an ethic embedded in them that you do not publicise the details of your children's lives, because that isn't fair. Alice Bachini evidently has a child/children, but we remain in ignorance of what it/they consist of (how many - which gender - how old etc.), and that is, I'm sure, entirely deliberate.

However, the problem with this anonymity policy is that if you are attempting some new, improved way of raising children, and are also recommending your methods to others, it helps a lot if you can allow yourself to talk in public and in some detail about how exactly it is working out for you.

Personally I think that objecting to parents boasting and chattering about their darling little ones on the internet – how well they (the children) are doing, and how well they (the parents) are doing bring them up – is like objecting to flooding on a flood-plain. It happens. Yes, there will be problems attached to it, just as there are problems attached to women voting, to the lower classes being allowed to switch jobs or switch houses just because they feel like it, or to growing up as the son of Tom Cruise or of the Queen of England. Like it or moan about it, this is what childhood, for many children now, is going to be like, and everybody involved is going to have to get used to it. Which they mostly will. But I'd love to hear other opinions about this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:50 PM
Category: Parents and children