Even cartoon parents blab about their kids. The mother of Greg Heffley, unlikely hero of the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, writes a parenting column for the local newspaper. In it, she shares life lessons based on anecdotes from her own family. The column has given Susan Heffley “a sense of celebrity which she enjoys,” says Jeff Kinney, author of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. “In her articles, she refers to her kids by their names, which adds to the humor,” Kinney says. But you can imagine her son’s dismay when Mrs. Heffley writes an article called “Puberty Is a Difficult Time.”
What Compels Parents to “Tell All”?
Although fictional, Susan Heffley’s tendency to spill the beans about her kids mirrors the habits of a significant majority of parents—that is, if their online activity is any indication. According to a 2010 study by Internet security firm AVG, 81 percent of children around the world have an online presence before the age of two. In the United States, that figure jumps to 92 percent. Such an astounding number of young children with parents blogging, Facebooking, or tweeting about them is surely a cultural milestone.
Is blogging about one’s child simply the modern-day version of pulling out the wallet photos, or does the “tell-all” nature of social media put the phenomenon in a league of its own?
Brooke Miller, a San Francisco-based advice columnist, believes social media have triggered an onslaught of parental insecurities. “Even if [parents] are fairly secure with their parenting and their children’s successes,” she says, “social media has become the official second opinion: ‘I think I’m doing a good job raising my kids … but let me find out for certain [by sharing on] Facebook.'”