DEAR AMY: As new parents, my husband and I are concerned about protecting our child’s online privacy. Our friends run the gauntlet from creating Facebook and Twitter profiles for their child the day they are born, to not even allowing their child’s photo to be taken with a smartphone. We made one request when our baby was born: Please do not post our child’s name together with her photo on social media. We think this is a reasonable, easy-to-remember request and provides at least a measure of privacy for our child, who has a unique name. That way, at least, someone who Googles her name doesn’t get her photo with it. However, on our baby’s first birthday, a family member posted her name, photo and “Happy First Birthday” in a Facebook post and tagged my husband and me. In a single post, they gave her first and last name, the names of her parents (including her mother’s maiden name), together with her photo and date of birth. We politely asked her to take it down, which she did. This is a recurring problem, though. Is it realistic to ask others to respect the privacy of our child? Does our name-photo separation rule even make a difference? How do we get our Facebook-frenzy family to remember our caveat? Your advice, please!
Privately Proud Parent
DEAR PARENT: It is realistic, and your responsibility, to ask people to respect your child’s privacy. And — it is smart. However, you can expect some people to disregard your wishes, intentionally or accidentally.
My own practice is to never post photos of children (including my own) unless I have permission from adult children or the parents of grandchildren. I never tag anyone in photos and am deliberately vague about relationships.
If people wish to tag themselves (or their children), they can do so, but it should be their choice.
Anyone who makes a choice to post a photo of a child including identifying details for all the world to see is taking a risk about how that photo and identifiers might be shared and used outside of their personal social media friendship circles, now and for all time (including dissemination by technology that hasn’t even been developed yet).
Because you are being more cautious than some other parents, keep reminding family members of your policy and ask them to remove tags or photos when you see them. My impression is that younger parents are more intentional about their social media use than their parents are.
And when grandparents hop onto Facebook, they tend to be completely off the hook. Be forewarned and continue to monitor closely.
DEAR AMY: My wife’s birthday was June 16, and I am planning a surprise birthday party for her this month (August). I know it sounds weird, but my sons are able to come in from out of town, so now is a good time for the celebration. I have never planned a surprise party before, and I am wandering what advice you can provide to keep the occasion from being awkward since it is several weeks late. Will it be OK to sing her happy birthday? Is it OK for the guests to bring her gifts? Any recommendations to help make it a positive/memorable event?
DEAR BELATED: First, you should ask yourself if your wife would enjoy a surprise party.
I love surprises, but I loathe surprise parties. Keep in mind that they are not for everyone. She might prefer to know about this in advance, so she can look forward to it.
Hosting this two months late is awkward, but if you decide to go ahead, you should have fun with it.
You could basically turn back the clock and post calendars and newspaper headlines from June 16. Make sure to offer a wonderful public toast to her.
Yes, people can/should bring gifts, and yes — singing should happen.
DEAR AMY: “Worried” was “dropping off groceries” once a week for her husband’s 94-year-old grandmother, “Jenny,” who lived alone in what seemed like unhealthy conditions. While I shared your alarm and concern about this elderly woman, it is important to remember that she has the right to live the way she wants to live, including rejecting help.
DEAR CONCERNED: You are right, but there are also many ways to help people who are infirm or no longer capable of keeping themselves safe. Meals on Wheels offers free meals delivered by volunteers; this might be preferable to dropping off groceries.