“Daddy, are you popular?”
“Are you famous?”
These are words that flowed from the mouth of my 8 year old daughter recently.
“Why do you ask?” I responded. And this is what she said:
“Because I was on my tablet yesterday and I Googled your name and there were lots of photos and links about you.”
I grew up in the 1980’s when the most technological thing in the house was the video cassette recorder. Although, we were the poor souls with the Betamax variety. I have vivid memories of going to the video rental store with my parents to select from a vast array of about six movies. Meanwhile, the VHS elite had the luxury of shelves and shelves lined with endless entertainment. (If you were born after about 1995 you probably don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Here’s what there definitely wasn’t when I was a kid: no Facebook friending; no Instagram stories; no texting or portable telephones; no LinkedIn; no Medium. In fact, no Internet.
In those days, what I knew about my parents was limited to what I could observe going on around me in realtime. The occasional trip to my Dad’s office was an opportunity to understand more about what he did. Dinner parties were an opportunity to overhear my parents and their friends telling stories. Hearing my Mum on the phone uncovered snippets of interesting information (pretty much a single fixed phone in the house in those days, so all phone calls were taken in the kitchen…a tough predicament when I started to get interested in girls and wanted to call them up and be cool and stuff.)
Maybe I could glean a little insight from their book collection and vinyl albums. I remember the latter spanned an eclectic mix from early U2 to Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
All this culminated in me, and I suspect most kids from my era, living within the bubble of my parents just being my Mum and Dad. Not entirely understanding that, outside of being Mum and Dad, they were also adult humans with their own life. With passions, desires, skills, fears and faults.
This isn’t the experience our children will have — as illustrated by my daughter. Now kids can discover a bunch of information about their parents online. Things they may not understand. Things we don’t want them to know.
Having been in the technology industry most of my career, I’ve always been protective of my online presence. Luckily, Googling my name doesn’t bring up any undesirable references or photos of me drunk doing shots at some dodgy bar (that’s not to say these things have not occurred 😁.)
But the internet gives our children a unique opportunity to learn a lot about us, their parents, as real people. My daughter may read about the time I cried in front of my team or see photos of me at fancy events, or see me in action presenting. She could learn about what I do when I go to work…or what I’ve ever done for work…by seeing my LinkedIn profile. She’ll probably read this post!
It got me thinking: What are the repercussions of this? If kids as young as seven or eight have the motivation to Google their parents and learn about their lives outside of being Mum or Dad, is this good or bad?
There’s an element of protection while kids are living inside the bubble of parents just being parents. Do we risk breaking this protective bond earlier if our kids are exposed to more of our adult life? If they learn about us through the lens of our online presence? If they become aware of our adulthood and life outside of being just their parents…faults and all?
“Do we risk breaking this protective bond earlier if our kids are exposed to more of our adult life? If they learn about us through the lens of our online presence?”
I follow a few parents on Twitter. It’s not uncommon for them to tweet something derogatory about their kids. Of course it’s in jest…chasing retweets and likes…but imagine if an eight year old read a tweet that said “decorating a cake with miss 8yo and it’s the most infuriating thing ever…I need a bottle of wine and a holiday.” Would she understand the sarcasm and humor? Or would she read that and take it seriously, harboring it inside and feeling terrible?
On the other hand, perhaps kids learning more about us as people early on is beneficial. Maybe it strengthens relationships and helps them mature emotionally as they realize that we are, after all, simply human beings like them…not the superheroes they might think we are.
I don’t know the answers — but I do think it’s an interesting perspective to share and discuss. What are your thoughts?
Certainly, if you have younger kids, stop and think about how your children’s perceptions of you might be affected if they Google your name.
And for the record…despite what my daughter thinks, I am not famous. But it was a nice boost to my ego for a few minutes!