What's your family's digital footprint?

Reading an article, We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online, on really had me thinking about what kind of digital footprint we are creating for our children and families. You've probably had this conversation before or at least thought about it - how much information is too much? A survey by AVG Technologies shockingly revealed that 81 per cent of children under two in North America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Japan have a digital profile. Many of them often start their digital legacy as a sonogram!

(Pic: twobee/
While the Slate article verges on paranoia (I can't imagine not giving my child any digital presence), there is a point to ponder about what constitutes the right kind of information to be shared in the public domain. Social media sites and blogs have become havens for sharing and in fact, chronicling our lives online. I think it's a good thing - it is wonderful to share beautiful moments spent with your family or your child's first words with whoever is interested in reading. It feels even better when someone comes back and tells you about theirs. This is our new reality - our new social order.

But I have always had this niggling feeling that we are not entirely in control of our digital identities, specifically of our children. As parents, we take every care to control the privacy of what we share. Bloggers usually adopt pseudonyms for their children, making it very difficult for their identities to be ever known. My concern is not about now, but the future.

How will technology change?
Right now, our searches are mostly word based, but the future will bring with it more efficient forms of facial recognition. There might be other indicators as well that may be used for online identification, such as visible marks on the skin. Who knows? It may start off for social good to track criminals, but may soon be adopted for the rest of us. I envision a scary future where Google+ has evolved into a universal database of people, places and information around the world. By typing in a name and uploading a photo (Google already has image-based search), you could probably uproot a mega profile of that person, which would collate everything that has ever been written about him or her. Even if not by name, our children may be identified by their faces or even their association with us. Maybe this is not so scary after all, because the future generation may be cool with it. They may even have control over what they want to show and hide. Even then, it would be a mammoth task for them to review everything attached to their digital identity.

What about public domain?
Right now, we own the rights to everything we publish. But after 80 or 100 years, that may well go into public domain. I am not clear about the legal aspects, but there is some limitation to personal copyright. It may be a good thing - allowing our future generations to know their ascendants better. But it may also be a gamble - that material can be freely shared by anybody. I think we should be entitled to deciding how we want to 'dispose' of our material - whether we want it to go into public domain, or pass it on to someone in the family. And why not? Our digital material is as personal and important to us as our physical assets. In the future, I guess we'll have fewer memoirs that we can display on the mantelpiece, and more that we carry in our devices.

What happens to brand associations?
We are associated with brands in many ways, whether you're commenting on a product on Twitter, or writing a review in a blog post. Often, our children are mentioned in this context. In the future, will our children want to be associated with these brands? Will those brands stand for the same values they do today? This is a tough one, and something I hope we can work out. Maybe we can start by specifying the duration of our affiliation with brands and companies.

I will be observing developments in online privacy and social technology very closely, and perhaps, sharing them on this blog. I also look forward to inputs from you!

Tell me - what are your concerns about sharing information about your family online?

This post has been linked to Post Comment Love  and The Sunday Parenting Party.

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Unknown said...

Nice piece Tarana. We don't post any specifics or picture of our kid online but sometimes I wonder if we aren't being needlessly conservative. By the time we make up our minds, he will be posting stuff himself!

Tarana Khan said...

Thanks Sreekant! I think you're not losing out on anything by not sharing. It's the ones like me who do, that have the added responsibility of protecting that information.

Faiza said...

Yes we end up sharing more than we want, though we are a bit cautious about that. I guess google knows me through my 'keywords' and I always get ads for schools in this region, even in my mail box (did you check that promotion tab in the new gmail?)

Tarana Khan said...

Yes, Google is very accurate in targeting ads!

Gina Jacobs Thomas said...

I think my main concern is that our kids aren't making those privacy decisions for themselves, we as parents are. I don't mention my kids names in my blog, nor do I post photos of them, for several reasons. But my 7 year old has often wanted me to, I think because he thinks it's cool. But at 7, does he really know what that means? Even as an adult, I'm conscious of what I post online, because any future employer, lawyer, whatever, can use that against me in the future if need be. Do I need to post stories about my children that could later get them in trouble?

Tarana Khan said...

That's true - to weigh the implications of every little thing we write or share is a heavy burden on our shoulders.

Unknown said...

Oh I've always been paranoid on what I post online. Especially after what happened to me (

Then there is this fear that people are checking up on me or my family. Also, at the back of my mind there's this nagging voice telling me that "you are sharing a story that is not yours to share" - whenever I post about my baby.

This is the main reason why I can't post blog entries frequently. I tend to sit and sleep on them and then I lose interest in posting them at all. :/ That's a tough one when you're a "blogger".

And I suck at using pseudonyms. LOLS~

Tarana Khan said...

I think your worries are normal. But that shouldn't stop you from writing, please continue blogging with your heart!

Unknown said...

I struggled with the decision regarding posting about my family, especially my kids. But this is my life I am blogging about and they are part of it. They are a HUGE part of it. So I decided I would do it carefully and never post too much. I will decide what is too much and edit accordingly. The story can still be good if you are creative enought. However, no bathing suit photos of my daughters or bath time photos of the youngest, obviously. As for the future and digital privacy, do we really have any?

Tarana Khan said...

We really don't have a choice. I also think twice before hitting the Publish button. It's important to consider the implications of everything we share publicly. Still, we can't avoid it altogether.

Unknown said...

Great post. I think that this will be continue to be a point of discussion as long as there is social media and the longer it is established, the more children whose info will be on line. Thank you so much for linking to PoCoLo and hope to see you tomorrow :) x

The Monko said...

its a really thought provoking post. I share a lot about my child but in the past I have gone back to my blog and deleted images that at the time i thought were cute but later I felt he may not want up there when he's older.
Thanks for linking to the Sunday Parenting Party, I'm pinning this to our pinterest board

Tarana Khan said...

Thank you!

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