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How the Internet Makes My Daughter Disappear (Kind Of)

I write about my family on the internet. (Obviously.) And I have had a policy since I first began: I do not share my husband's or daughter’s names. This applies when I am on social media professionally as well. It was important to me from the beginning to set boundaries.

I want to protect their privacy and digital footprint as much as I can. I don't think it would be fair for a post I wrote to show up if someone were to Google his or her name. Even though I run my posts by them before publishing online, and they are comfortable with what I share.

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Yes, that means I ask my 6-year-old daughter’s permission before I write about her or post a photograph online. She doesn’t completely understand what the Internet is all about. But she knows when I share these things via my computer they can be seen by people she knows—and doesn’t know. And when she is not comfortable with that, I respect her feelings.

My making money from sharing my family’s stories has given me an incredible gift. It enables me to work from home, to have flexible hours and be with them. But there has been a strange side effect.

Lately, I find I'm not using their names in my everyday life.

The other day, I was talking to my mom on the phone and I said, "I have to go pick up my daughter from school now."

But I think parents should work to understand the issue and make the choices they feel are best.

"Why don't you ever say her name?" Mom replied. And I realize I have gotten into the habit of not doing so, even with family and friends.

A few weeks ago, I was over at a friend’s home. Our girls were playing together and we were catching up. I caught myself saying, “my husband” instead of using his name. With a personal friend. It sounded so strange, yet it was completely involuntary.

She did not seem to notice. Or at least had no visible reaction. But I was completely freaked out. How could I speak of one of the most important people in my life in such an impersonal way?

It can be easy for the lines between online and offline to become blurred. Especially today, when so much of our lives involve the Internet. The subject of writing about one’s family online has been discussed at length. Some experts argue parents are fooling themselves to think they can control their kids’ digital footprint.

Maybe I am. But I think parents should work to understand the issue and make the choices they feel are best. That’s what I have done.

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I just need to be better at remembering that it is perfectly safe to use their names with friends and family.

There is no digital footprint in real life.

Image via Elizabeth Flora Ross

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