I’m a geek. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed of my saucy inner urge to own the latest gizmo, gadget or discombobulating techno toy. I revel in the ridiculous notion that my tawdry internal dialogue is worth sharing with a broader audience than just the rear bumper of my eyeballs. I tweet on twitter, flap on Facebook and have even been known to ‘check in’ on Foursquare. I don’t consider myself particularly verbose, but I do like to think that I have something to share from time to time and take little shame in this. I Instagram, Push Notify, Find My Friends, Blog, blether and spend my spare time publishing all of this on the World Wide Web.
And why not, I hear you ask. Well indeed, why not? After all, I obviously consent to all this data being out there. I am geek enough to know a little about how to control who has access to the most personal elements. In fact, I live in absolutely no doubt that if someone wanted to steal my identity, my online presence would of course make that task infinitely simpler. We have seen however that even companies like Natwest are not immune to the probings of determined web terrorists, so I feel we all need to recognise that our data is out there and at risk to some extent regardless of our intent. I for one though embrace this as a fact of digital life in the digital age.
But here’s the thing (yes I do have a point oddly). I am now a matter of months away from becoming a father. Not only that, but a father to a child that will almost certainly have experienced terrible abuse and neglect at a time when they deserved nothing more than the love and innocence of youth. A child who’s birth parents may very well present a serious risk and may be actively – even aggressively – seeking their adopted babe. It’s no exaggeration to say that adopted children have had photos of themselves posted on sites like Facebook by their birth parents with the headline ‘Have you seen our kidnapped child?’
Of course this is an extreme although very real example, so let’s take it down a notch. Who am I to post pictures of my child online without their consent? Hands up if you hate being tagged by camera happy friends in snaps that you’d be ashamed to show your mother or work colleagues.
Here’s another example for you. During our Stage 2 Adoption Training we took part in a great exercise. I don’t want to give too much away (after all, one day you may do it yourself), but in short, it involved thinking of three things about yourself. One you would tell anyone, perhaps where you work. One you wouldn’t like to share but maybe you’d tell your friends, perhaps that you still listen to STEPS Gold from time to time (WHAT!?). And then one that you wouldn’t tell a soul unless you trusted them totally. Now it’s your turn: post one on Facebook or turn to a total stranger and tell them all about it. Go on. Bet you picked the first one!
Imagine the most secret, terrifying and sinister factoid about an adopted child. It may be that they were sexually abused, neglected, beaten or worse, all of the above as a child. It’s not their fault, how could it be, but they have to live with that information for the rest of their lives. Of course, if you become their parent, you want to protect them and help them carry that burden, sharing it in some way to lesson the fear and horror of such a vile abuse of their whole being.
Now imagine you told Auntie Sheila about the abuse. She’s a little ditzy (whose Aunts aren’t?) and they don’t really think before posting it as a message on a friend’s wall. ‘Oh gosh, I just found out something terrible about our new nephew, he was sexually abused by his birth father! #Horrific.’
She meant well, she was shocked and needed to talk to a friend. But now everyone knows your child’s deepest secret. How are you going to explain when they get a little older and start to really understand their horrific past that you thought it was okay to just share that without their permission. Think about that for a moment. How will you answer the inevitable question: ‘Who else knows?’.
So I ask you this. In a digital age, brimming with images of you, your friends, your family, will you continue to assume consent as I have done here, posting a picture of my own mother and I. Will you publish your child’s life online for all to see, and ultimately, will they thank you for it?
* If you’re considering adoption and you’re unsure as to the risks presented by internet use either by yourself or the child, please speak to a qualified social worker or contact a support group such as Adoption UK, New Family Social or First4Adoption.