Limiting Access: Flickr and Archiving Our Children's Lives

4073512633_721c123c73_bI’ve been pretty open about sharing our lives online. I regularly post photos on flickr, videos on vimeo, post updates to twitter and facebook and even blog here (on this blog and our family blog “Weird Fishes”) and there about what’s going on with our family. But It’s been an uneasy tension for me. How much of my personal life should be online, how much, and what should remain more-or-less anonymous. For instance, when our daughter was born (almost two years ago?!) we had decided we wouldn’t use her real name online so I posted her full name in an image so friends could get a glimpse, left it on the blog for a day, and then removed the image so Google couldn’t pick up the text. So even though our daughter, who simply goes by ‘L’ on the web, is online in a lot of places, her name doesn’t appear in search engines (so far). I think that’s great, but as she’s getting older, and as our second daughter is due to be born in the next month I’ve been thinking even more about scaling back.

Then after reading the article “Guardians of Their Smiles” in the NY Times we decided to change the privacy settings on our family photos on flickr. It used to be just a site for photos that I took but more and more it is just photos of our family, so I feel that the added privacy is not a bad idea. In the article a woman using flickr to post photos of her daughter discovered that her daughter’s photos were being used in a malicious way on another social networking site.

Now, I am no alarmist and I am not about to get all privacy this and that on you, but I appreciated the question my friend Photo on 2009-09-07 at 09.50 #5Fernando put to me on twitter: “it’s about giving people control over their “digital destiny.” How will the stuff we post hit our kids future relationships?” And this is really it for me. Not only do we not know what it’s like to have our entire lives archived online, we are the ones choosing what to post and what not to post for the public. As I described above, I wrestle with how much to hold back, and how much to announce to the world. I don’t have other people posting my life online for me as many parents (including yours truly) do these days. So I think it’s not a bad idea to slow down, reflect on the questions at hand, and consider limiting family-sharing stuff to friends and family.I think it’s fine to post some things publically, as I’ve shown here with the photo above, so I’m really thinking more in terms of something like flickr acting more like an archive than shared note here and there. I’ll leave the archiving up to my daughters when they’re ready to do it themselves (Lord knows Google’s got a nice archive on me).

What do you think? How have you navigated these questions?

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

17 thoughts on “Limiting Access: Flickr and Archiving Our Children's Lives”

  1. now this is some good fear mongering! you’re back to your old self cwess!

    but seriously, do what you gotta do. protecting your kids is paramount.

    the nice thing is that most kids of their generation will have a shared experience of having their lives e-documented before they even become knowledgeable of what the internet does. at this point L probably just needs to know that she can see pictures of and video chat with grandma.

  2. Hey Wess, I subscribe to your Flickr feed and I really enjoy seeing the pictures of you, L and Emily. I totally understand your decision to scale back. It would be really disturbing if people were using pictures of my kids in a malicious way and even the though of it, makes me concerned. Will RSS still work on your Flickr, or do I need to request to become a viewer? Thanks for sharing so many pictures. It's been a joy to watch L grow. Just yesterday, I sent Joel a picture of her climbing on the playground. She is so cute…miss you all.

    1. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

    2. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

    3. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

    4. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

    5. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

    6. Holly, I am going to go through and make sure you're marked \”friend\” and then you should still have access (at least if you have a flickr account) to the photos. If not, let me know and I will think of something else. Maybe I will start posting again to weirdfishes, so that at least some of the photos will be through RSS.

      I definitely want to be able to have these accessible for our friends back in Pasadena and elsewhere, so we'll have to find a way to make sure this is doable.

  3. I thought that Times piece was pretty stupid. Who cares if a picture of your kid is posted under some made-up name on a network in Brazil? Not a big deal. As to the future, I don't think today's kids are going to be worrying about this. It's the new norm that our lives are public. At some point Theo will get to the age of embarassment but for now he likes to see his pictures online too. He was incredibly thrilled when an art project he made showed up on a "Flickr Gallery".

    1. Martin, yes, I think the situation turned out not to be too big a deal. And our photos are still online for friends and family on flickr, and I'll keep posting some elsewhere, facebook, etc. But I think the large quantities of photos like I have on flickr should not be available to just anyone. L and Emily are at this moment looking at her pictures on flickr, so she's getting the enjoyment. I just want her to feel like she can make decision about what parts of her life are online when she gets to be old enough.

  4. If you're worrying about it, take a break from it. You can always go back to posting photos later if you find you miss it. We've been pretty shy about posting our kids photos in places where they are linked to their names. And it's stuff like this that those friends/family settings were invented for.

    1. Yes, I think you're right Robin. A break is good, the web is ever-evolving and who knows how it will all look next year, but for now I just want it to be a bit more private.

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