Friday, 14 June 2013

I don't want to know about your kid's undies

It's one thing if you choose to post embarrassing photos of yourself on Facebook, or Tweet wild political hypotheses.  But it's quite another to share your child's embarrassments, weaknesses or private moments with the world.  While adults are old enough to make those decisions for themselves, children aren't.

Information travels.  Just as embarrassing photos and tweets have a habit of popping up again and again like floating turds even when the original's long since deleted, anything on the internet becomes a rogue element, not entirely under your control.  So by posting a picture of your child's meltdown or nappy accident, for instance, you can't be sure that in time that photo won't be seen by kids at school.  Or potential friends or partners.  Or would-be employers.  

The world doesn't need to know my period started
That becomes a bigger issue when the child in question is on the spectrum, because for some reason the rules seem to be different for autistic kids.  It seems to be OK to share our every dark moment and personal secret with the world, all sorts of things that (I hope) the parents of neurotypical children wouldn't dream of sharing.

I spend more time browsing the #autism tags on Twitter and Tumblr than I should, considering they often make me quite cross.  While I've been there, I've seen posts about masturbation, menstruation and meltdowns.  I've read about strangers' children's preferences for underwear (or the lack thereof), and reports of toileting more detailed than seems strictly necessary.  Much of it's posted by people using their real name, or an account that's able to be traced back to their offline selves - by extension making their child's identity discoverable as well.

 Do you really want the world knowing your kid doesn't wear undies?  Is it safe for the child to have that information in the public domain?  Would the parents have shared that information if the child were neurotypical?

There does need to be a place where parents can talk about these things; the gross, icky, scatological, NSFW things that only a parent would know or understand.  There does need to be a safe space, without judgement, where they can ask "is it normal that...", "how do you handle...", "how old was yours when...", "what should I do when...", "...should it be green?"

But that place shouldn't be public, because a public space can never be truly safe for that kind of information.  You don't know who else is lurking, listening, or even just wandering through thanks to a misdirected Google search.  You don't know who's going to see that photo, that rant, that description of that particular incident, or what they're going to do with it.

Besides which, it's hard enough being a 17 year old Aspie without the whole school knowing we still wear Scooby Doo underoos.

Kids deserve some privacy.