Thinking About My Daughters Digital Footprint

When I started this blog, I didn’t really think about my daughter’s digital footprint. Maybe it was because I didn’t expect that I would actually keep blogging. But since I’m very much looking at making this a permanent thing, I thought it would be best that I thought about what this blog might mean for her.

Isabelle posing for a photo - all part of her digital footprint
One of many photos I’ve added to Isabelle’s digital footprint – and quite the poser too!

What Is a Digital Footprint?

As you can probably guess, I post photos of my daughter online. Lots in fact. Every time I do this, I add to her digital footprint. What that basically means is I leave a trail of data that will be left on the internet. It’s things that will always be available for anyone to find, whether she wants them to or not.

I do this without her consent, without her knowledge and without any thought as to what might happen to those photos, blog posts and even videos.

I started this blog when Isabelle was just under four months old. And since she’s our only child, it’s pretty much been entirely about her. That means she’s going to have the vast majority of her life documented by her father without any say in the matter. So she’s going to have a pretty large digital footprint that will span almost her entire life. Is that a bad thing? Will I regret doing this? Will she hate the fact that I’ve done it? Unfortunately, I can’t answer any of those questions.

The Downside of Having a Large Digital Footprint for Isabelle

I suppose I’m a little bit different to most parents when it comes to what their children will find of themselves online when they’re older. As you might know, I had postnatal depression when Isabelle was born. I’ve written about it quite a lot and even appeared on national TV to discuss it. Isabelle can literally find headlines, both in print and online saying “I hated my daughter.”

That’s a little bit different to an embarrassing story of her getting poop down my back. Not that that one has happened yet!

It’s something she is going to hate to see and maybe dislike me for even talking about. But it’s also life. Life isn’t always good. Bad things happen in life and it’s ok to talk about them. I’m happy for that story to be online because it’s real life. It’s not sugar coated and it’s not bullshit. It happened. Bad things always happen and I don’t like it when people ‘protect’ their children from it.

Will it make my life slightly more difficult when she reads it? Possibly. But not really. It’ll give me a chance to talk about mental health, talk about how life isn’t always nice, and how much people can change. I can tell her that bad things happen. People get sick, people have bad thoughts, and life isn’t always nice. It’s an important life lesson, and one more people should be open to teaching their children. I’ve even written a letter to her that talks about the postnatal depression.

Altering the Blog as I Go Forward

Moving forward, I may have to alter this blog slightly so it’s less about Isabelle and more about me and my journey as a father. Most of the blog is already about that, but the social media accounts, even more so with Instagram, are basically flooded with photos of Isabelle. I’ll admit, that that’s mostly because posting photos of Isabelle is better than posting ones of myself. Take for example something like this:

Close up of Isabelle, very much part of her digital footprint

That is a far better photo that it’s of Isabelle than had it been of me. Obviously. And besides, I know by putting them on something like Instagram I can easily look back on them myself. And I want to be able to do that. Could I just store them on my laptop? Sure, but I’d rather have them online and I’m fine with them being public.

And of course, I’d have to be careful of the pictures I take and what I say. I’m not exactly going to post our address, or anything that gives away too much personal information. That goes for something like school uniform too. There won’t be any photos of that. But then we might home educate anyway, so there’s no real issue there.

Photos Falling Into the Wrong Hands

People argue that they don’t want their children’s photos online as you never know who might get them. A large digital footprint opens up the possibility of the photos falling into the wrong hands. Honestly, my answer to that is that I simply don’t care. Who could possibly have her photos that I would genuinely care about? I know the obvious answer to that question. And that’s a pedophile. I have to guess that’s one of the main worries for most people.

But to that, I say I don’t care. Is that a normal response? Probably not. But I’m always honest on here, so I’ll be honest again. I wouldn’t care if the police told me someone had hundreds of her photos on a file on their computer. Why should I care? It’s outside of my control, it doesn’t actually affect me or Isabelle and they’re just harmless photos. As long as nothing ever actually happens to Isabelle then I honestly don’t care.

Other than that, then what’s the worry? Identify theft? Unlikely. Then there’s the idea of people recognising her and wanting to do her harm because of something I’ve said. That’s a legitimate possibility, but one that I feel is too unlikely to worry too much over. People have actual famous children and they manage ok, so I dare say we’ll get by just fine.

When She’s Older

Of course, as she gets older and has more say, I might change some of what I do. I’ll ask her first if it’s ok to put something online, and if she finds something embarrassing then chances are, I won’t talk about it. At least not much.

The next thing to think about is all of her friends being able to look back on pretty much her entire life via this blog. Again, I’m not sure I’m all that bothered by that. I’ll try to teach Isabelle to embrace all sides of life, that’s the good and the bad. I don’t feel that we should only talk about the good parts of life. So what, it’s acceptable to post about me being proud of her for doing something, but not ok to talk about a meltdown she had? That’s a tainted view on life, and not something I like.

These Days Most of Our Lives are Online

And look, let’s be honest, everyone is massively online these days. The internet has EXPLODED since I was in school, and I’m only 26. If someone doesn’t have a social media account these days you think they’re slightly weird. So I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when Isabelle is a lot older. Everything will be online and no one will actually care that I’ve documented her life from birth. Chances are she won’t be the only one with much of her life online. You don’t need a blog to post photos and stories online. It just makes it a little easier to go back and find.

Summary

Who knows though. When Isabelle gets old enough, she might want to pursue writing, vlogging, or just talking, as she’s going to be around it so much from me. I might even let her take over this blog, it does make more sense since it’s based on her name. Even now you can make a living from far more varied avenues then ever before. Maybe this might open up career paths to Isabelle that otherwise might not be open.

Of course, I don’t think there really is a right or wrong answer when thinking about a child’s digital footprint. It’s all just personal choice and what works for you. Some chose to have their child stay unnamed whilst blogging, others are quite open with it like I am. It’s probably a little bit too late now. Isabelle is currently 11 months old and has appeared in a nationwide magazine, national TV, national newspapers, a bunch of online news outlets and of course plenty times on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this blog and even others.

Hopefully she won’t mind. And if she does, then oops, my bad. Bad daddy!

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