It’s early yet, and I’m sure both Tom and Katie have other interests besides Suri to protect—namely their own professional brands. But in an era where social media and the blogosphere can drive the public spectacle of celebrity divorces into a fever pitch, it’s nice to see both sides quickly agree to a divorce settlement and avoid the he said, she saids as best they could for the sake of a child.
It’s an example many more should follow, and I’m not just talking about celebrities. Social media has given each and every one of us a megaphone to blurt out whatever’s on our mind at any given time. There’s great empowerment that comes from this. But, the permanence of what’s posted online also means what we say lives forever, and at some point, those words will be seen and interpreted beyond our intended audiences to, say, our children.
In relationships, we’ve all said things in anger that we wish we can take back. We feel terrible, but not as bad as when we open the door after an argument to realize a child had been on the other side listening. What’s even more frightening is the possibility of those little pitchers going online one day and seeing their parents at their very worst.
The easiest way to prevent this is to remember two things before posting something online, whether it’s a tweet, status update or blog: 1.) It could be permanent and 2.) Your child (or friend, employer, future partner) could one day see it.
In discussing this with others over the years, I know there is a perception that if one’s account is private or attached to a pseudonym that the content can be controlled. This is foolish thinking. If there’s one thing kids are good at, it’s getting into things that they shouldn’t. And when it comes to the web, they’re going to be more knowledgeable and savvier than you—if they aren’t already. Perhaps one day they’ll find your secret account open on your iPad. Or maybe it’s that list of accounts and passwords in your desk drawer. Or maybe they’ll type your email into an online identity search engine.
On the web, we are all very easily discoverable—by criminals, predators, stalkers, and perhaps scariest of all, our children. So as you’re tending to your online world, make sure it’s one they can live in.
Even after closing all the doors, a child could one day be on the other side, listening.