At what point are children entitled to privacy?


When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with the story* of a woman who is suing the Ottawa Catholic School Board for not protecting her daughter from bullying. My first thought was, “Good for her, for standing up for her child, and for ensuring that the school board and the individuals separately named in the suit gain a better understanding of just how damaging bullying can be to a child.”

And then I realized that the woman and her daughter were identified by name in the article. This child, “paralyzed by fear,” “who sees the bus and vomits,” and who “wet her bed nightly” now has to deal with the fact that her experience of having been bullied has been immortalized on the internet. Did the mother discuss with her child that she was going to go to the media with news of the lawsuit? Did the child have a choice in the disclosure of her identity? The girl is 10 years old. I have an almost-10-year-old myself, and he is FIERCELY protective of his privacy. He doesn’t even want me to discuss his ongoing challenges with his teachers. To him, having his stuff publicly known and attached to his name would be as devastating as a bullying situation would be.

I have been cautious about what I share about my children online because they’ve both made it clear that their business is their business. That said, I have shared details about their lives without attaching their names to said information. There’s a fine line between sharing something for the benefit of letting someone know that they’re not alone in their experience of parenting or educating the masses on something related to my children that is not well-understood and exposing my children to direct scrutiny by hundreds of people searching for specific terms. I’m not sure I always stay on the correct side of that line, to be honest. I think I could do much better on that front. It’s difficult to share my experience as a parent of children who have more going on than the average kids without exposing them a bit in the process. So do I *not* talk about my parenting experiences because I can’t do so in isolation from my children’s experiences? I don’t know.

The best I can do for my kids right now is to not use their names, to not associate their names with my own online, and to be selective in just how much detail I choose to share. My kids are getting pretty internet-savvy, and it’s only a matter of time before they start Googling their names to see if they have any hits. I’d hate for my child to find an article including so much private information about himself.

I really hope that the girl consented to her name being used in the article. Otherwise, her family and the media have just re-victimized her.

* I considered linking to the article, but it’s easy enough to find, and I don’t want to directly give the article more links than necessary. Consider it my way of trying to respect this child’s privacy.

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn said,

    February 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I read that article in The Citizen and was really shocked to read names as well!


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