Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

What’s a parent to do about Facebook?

Facebook post that reads: "one of the downsides of the three-year-old's brad paisley obsession is her tendency to belt out 'we're going to catch all the fish and drink all the beer' while we're at the playground.

(Facebook post: Shala Howell)

I joined Facebook a very long time ago as a way to reconnect with old friends, keep my extended family up to date on funny stuff The Youngest Howell said, and of course, post cat pictures. It was fun and seemed harmless enough at the time. But my daughter is older now, and it's time to re-examine my social media use. 

In the beginning, there was the group text chain…

When we had our daughter, my husband and I began to be besieged by family and friends looking for updates on how the baby was doing. “How did the nap go today?” “Has she said her first word?” “Is she over that nasty stomach bug?”

Sadly, there is not always time in the life of a new mom with an infant or a toddler to make multiple phone calls, some of which will be extended, in one day. My calls back then were pretty focused on my own personal needs, frankly.

“Help! My daughter has been crying for four hours straight again and I need someone to JUST MAKE IT STOP.”

Me, pretty much every day, circa 2007.

In her first six months, my daughter cried every blessed day from approximately 4 in the afternoon until 7 (or 8 or 9) at night, when her father would come home and make it stop. Sometimes my daughter and I cried together.

It was not the best of times. But life gets better, and all those hours of crying made me really appreciate the moments when she wasn’t crying. I got in the habit of taking pictures of those fleeting grins and sending them out by text to a select group of folks.

Sample Caterpickles-friendly text from the group text chain period. The message that accompanied this one was: “Look what I found this morning! Sparky all dressed for the day! If only I could say the same about [The Two-Year-Old].” (Photo: Shala Howell)

Sometime after the 6 month-long crying jag ended, one of my cousins asked me why I didn’t just use Facebook for that. It would be faster, she pointed out, and I could share the joy with all sorts of people whose phone numbers I didn’t have.

I thought about this for awhile, decided she was right, and like millions of other pet owners and parents, I joined Facebook.

It was great for a while. My husband and I set some straightforward rules about how we would talk about our daughter on social media (never use her full name, don’t post anything too embarrassing, remember that anything you post may end up being public information one day so be sure you’re ok with that, etc.). Pretty much the same set of rules I use here on Caterpickles.

Close-up of the head and shoulders of a calico cat. On her head is a flat orange plastic hat with pastel flowers, on her shoulders is a polka-dot shirt.
On the afternoon of February 11, 2010, The Then Two-Year-Old decided it was more fun to dress the cat than the little magnetic doll this hat and shirt belonged to. (Photo: Shala Howell)

But time changes a lot of things. Among them are our personal parameters for what it’s ok to share online.

As loyal readers know, I’ve had to change how I use this blog, now that my daughter and her friends are in middle school and roaming about online. What my daughter thinks it’s ok for me to share publicly now that she’s in 7th grade is very different from what she was ok with me talking about in public while she was in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

A few months ago, my daughter googled herself

A few months ago, my daughter’s class reviewed the basic rules for online safety. As part of the exercise, kids were asked to google themselves to see what came up.

When my daughter told me what she was doing, I got pretty nervous. Would she find all those stories I’ve posted about her over the years on Facebook and get mad about them?

“Mommyo, when I google my name, I just see a bunch of pictures of middle-aged women.”

– The Twelve-Year-Old, after googling herself for a school assignment on online safety.


Still, the episode made me think. I’ve been using Facebook for a decade now, more or less. And while I understand that Facebook has to make money somehow, the thought that they are mining a decade’s worth of my memories to create better targeted advertising opportunities for third vendors I may or may not have ever heard of makes me a little queasy.

To say nothing of the fact that one day, my daughter may join Facebook or Instagram and admit to a relationship with me. Suddenly all that care I took to keep her name out of my posts, and only share unidentifiable pictures of her won’t protect her any more. It will be pretty easy to link her to that entire archive of information the moment she clicks “Join.”

Facebook post from November 4, 2012 reads: "5YO ignores proprieties of sleeping in on fall back Sunday. Am exacting my revenge by sequestering remaining 1/4 cup of milk for my morning tea. #LetThemDrinkJuice"
(Post: Shala Howell)

I don’t want to leave Facebook completely, although plenty of people have

Many people, including my mother, have responded to recent news about how Facebook may or may not be using our data by simply deleting their Facebook accounts.

I have been tempted. But I’m not quite ready to do that myself. There are lots of people on Facebook that I don’t have any other way of contacting. I also like using it as an archive for old Caterpickles posts.

The rest of my data on Facebook, though, doesn’t need to stay there. At most, I’m ok with having about a year’s worth of entries there.

So I’ve been slowly – oh so slowly – using the Manage your posts feature on my wall to delete my old data – one post and one photo album at a time.

It’s a pain, and one day I may get fed up and just delete my entire Facebook account like my mom did.

But it’s also been fun.

I’ve found all sorts of tidbits that I’ve forgotten even happened.

Facebook post from July 8, 2011 says: "Laughing as I watch [Child Emoji] run around a spray park yelling "Cannonball!" as she hops in the deepest puddle she can find."
(Facebook post: Shala Howell)

As I delete them from Facebook, I’ll share some of them here with you, so that you can tromp down this particular memory lane with me.

What about you?

Have you changed how you use Facebook? What prompted it? Aging kids? Recent news about Facebook’s privacy and data-sharing policies? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

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4 Responses to “What’s a parent to do about Facebook?”

  1. rayworth1973

    I use Facebook for entertainment and as a marketing tool. I go into it with eyes open. I never post anything I don’t want everyone including the North Koreans, the Chinese and the Russians to know about. That includes advertisers.


    • Shala Howell

      So true. I had thought I’d been doing that for years as well, but I’m finding that my standards have changed over the years. I’m glad I’m cleaning it out, even if the Internet’s WayBack Machine will still have records of those things I’m no longer willing to admit happened. 😉


  2. Elle Carter Neal

    Hi Shala,
    I, too, am very careful about what I post about my kids online. In fact, I waited until I thought they were old enough to understand and then I first asked them if it was okay for me to share their photos with my friends (and only with my friends – not the general public). On Facebook I created a special sub-list of certain FB Friends whom I think I can trust with personal photos, and I post only to that list if it involves my family. Even then I rarely use their names, and I photoshop out certain details like the name and logo of their school if they are in uniform. And I’m really circumspect about whether they would be happy with me sharing sensitive or embarrassing incidents. I’d rather stick to the stuff they would be proud to find written about them, and photos that show them in a good light. I’m horrified by some of the embarrassing photos and videos of people’s children that go viral sometimes. What an awful thing to do to someone you love.


    • Shala Howell

      Yes. It’s really tricky. Especially if you’re say, writing a blog about being a parent. I admit, I was pretty pleased when my daughter googled herself for a school assignment and told me that the only pictures she could find were of 40 year old women. #ParentingWin.

      Thanks for stopping by Caterpickles.



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