14/08/2014 12:46 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

When Is It OK To Talk (Or Write) About Your Kids?

Your teenage daughter has been bullied relentlessly on a public forum for 'dressing like a slut' at her 14th birthday party, according to the posters' comments. You are partly to blame. No matter what excuses you come up with, you didn't behave like a responsible parent: your daughter wore the outfit and you were there. The buck stops with you.

What would you do? Cuddle her, console her and feel guilty? Or write about it for a national newspaper and allow them to publish the photograph of your daughter in tiny glittery gold shorts for millions to see? It's a no-brainer. Except sadly it isn't. Today Shona Sibary wrote about her daughter and allowed the photograph to be published.

Barely a day goes by without certain journalists washing their dirty laundry in public. This includes their sex lives, divorces, dating, and often their children's and partner's lives.


It's one thing choosing to write about your own personal life, if it's remotely interesting to anyone, but another to invade your children's.


I can see how an impressionable 14-year-old might like the notion of a few minutes' fame. Or maybe the promise from Mum of some extra pocket money for co-operating. Or even being led to believe that her experience might help others. But at 14 are they mature enough to make a decision? Do they appreciate the possible long-term consequences? Or rather, does the parent?

Emily is a journalist and a parent who makes the point: "How is she going to feel with this on the internet forever with her name and photo?


Today's newspaper is no longer tomorrow's fish and chip wrapping but is online in perpetuity.


Amy is another journalist who says, "I think it's fine to write about topics like this anonymously and with name changes, but I wouldn't write about any of my children and identify them when they are under 18."

But it's not just journalists who need to decide where to draw the line. All parents must.
A tweet today is there forever - that cute picture of your three-year-old is in the public domain. And unless you are meticulous about your privacy settings on Facebook, people other than your friends can see your photos.

Social media has made it possible to share our children's lives in a way that was not possible 10 years ago - but is this progress? It's no longer a case of passing round a few snaps over coffee then popping them in the family album.

Julia agrees that putting photographs online may encourage bullying. "I am always careful not to post any pictures of my little one on Twitter, even though they may be harmless in themselves. I use Facebook for this and only allow people I know and trust to see the images. I am hugely conscious of not publishing anything that may embarrass her in future."

But social media aside, what else is acceptable? What do you share about your child?

Dani says, "My daughter is six. I have told friends about cute love letters of hers I've seen. I suppose I feel a bit guilty and it's easy to share information when it comes up in gossipy chats with girlfriends. I'd hope that when she was older I'd discuss things with her first, like does she want my friends to know she has started her periods?


It's easy to betray trust when you are chatting to friends.


When our children are young, we love to share their lives with everyone, from their first word to funny anecdotes. But when does pride in their achievements and concern about them become an infringement of their privacy? Do you tell your friends when your teenage son has split with his girlfriend or keep the news to yourself?

If your child tells you something in confidence about a friend, do you share it with other parents?

Does your child's pet-name for something become a source of amusement across the social media or even the school playground?

Alice says: "My daughter, aged seven, had a huge falling out with her best friend at school. I was upset, especially as I felt my daughter was not at fault, and blurted out the whole tale to my friend.

"Of course two days later it had all blown over. A week later my friend asked my daughter about the 'row'. My daughter looked upset and afterwards said, 'Mummy, how did she know about that?' I felt very guilty."

Nobody I have spoken to believes that Sibary and similar journalists are right in exposing their children's lives to the media.

But do we all cross a line somewhere, some of the time? Where are your boundaries?