Updated at 4:53 p.m. on February 20, 2019.
For several months, Cara has been working up the courage to approach her mom about what she saw on Instagram. Not long ago, the 11-year-old—who, like all the other kids in this story, is referred to by a pseudonym—discovered that her mom had been posting photos of her, without prior approval, for much of her life. “I’ve wanted to bring it up. It’s weird seeing myself up there, and sometimes there’s pics I don’t like of myself,” she said.
Like most other modern kids, Cara grew up immersed in social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all founded before she was born; Instagram has been around since she was a toddler. While many kids may not yet have accounts themselves, their parents, schools, sports teams, and organizations have been curating an online presence for them since birth. The shock of realizing that details about your life—or, in some cases, an entire narrative of it—have been shared online without your consent or knowledge has become a pivotal experience in the lives of many young teens and tweens.
Recently a parenting blogger wrote in a Washington Post essay that despite her 14-year-old daughter’s horror at discovering that her mother had shared years of highly personal stories and information about her online, she simply could not stop posting on her blog and social media. The writer claimed that promising her daughter that she would stop posting about her publicly on the internet “would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her.”