Registration for 2016 Sixth Annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics →

Is Mommy Ethical?

  • AuthorJen Westmoreland Bouchard
  • Published Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
  • Comments10

I click “post” on my latest blog entry and a pang of regret hits instantly. I wonder if perhaps I shared too much about my daughter in that post. I click “edit” and begin to pare down the details. After all, some aspects of our lives together are too private, too precious for public consumption. Moments later, as I am scanning Facebook, I click on a link that leads me to a blog post containing a photo of a red-faced, screaming child, accompanied by a mother’s rant about her “toddler from hell.” I flash forward to what this child might think if he or she were to come across this blog post in ten or twenty years. My focus immediately turns inward. What will my daughter think of what I’ve shared about her life on the Internet? Even though the things I’ve written about her are flattering, is it my right to share anything about her online? Or am I participating in an ethical breach that will impact both of us in the future? I close my browser, filled with more questions than answers.

The Genre of Mommy Blogging

Unlike generations before them, the lives of many members of Generation Z (children born after 1990) are “on view” on a daily basis, perhaps none more than the children of “mommy bloggers.” According to eMarketer, a digital media analytics firm, there are nearly four million American moms who blog, and this number is growing steadily. In her article on the “radical act of mommy blogging,” Lori Kido Lopez describes the genre as such: “women categorized as ‘mommy bloggers’ are simply women who are mothers and occasionally write about their own children. The language used in such blogs is extremely informal and usually narrative, and the most popular writers employ a great deal of humor and levity to entertain their audience… Nothing is off limits to these writers, and yet the recurrent theme of writing about children positions these women in the category of ‘mommy blogger.’”

This continually emerging genre blurs the lines between parenthood, hobby, social outlet and, for some, career. At best, mommy blogging is a way for mothers to connect with others by sharing articulately rendered experiences during what can be a particularly isolating and challenging and/or joyful and inspiring time (and a range of experiences in-between) in one’s life. At worst, mommy blogs provide a forum for child exploitation: using shocking or vulgar written imagery (often accompanied by photos and videos) of one’s children intended to provoke a strong reaction, thereby gaining a larger readership and more notoriety for the blogger herself. The reality is that most mommy blogs fall somewhere within this range, between “appropriate” sharing and exploitative practices.

Both journalists and academics have weighed in on why the genre of mommy blogging is significant from a feminist perspective, positing mommy blogging as a “radical act” that subverts the themes, style and expectations associated with the traditionally masculine blogosphere. These articles address how mommy bloggers shape public discourse and perceptions of motherhood through revealing private details of their own lives, and, of course, their children’s lives. The ethical issues pertaining to mommy bloggers have been discussed frequently online over the past few years, but usually the focus is on product endorsement (whether or not it is ethical for mommy bloggers to accept free products and money for posts, their disclosure practices, etc.). Far fewer articles, however, mention the impact of mommy blogging on its unwitting subjects: mommy’s children.

What are the ethical implications of the child-based connecting and airing of grievances, and the catharsis that is mommy blogging? Moreover, how much information about one’s child is, indeed, “appropriate” to share in a public forum? The truth is there is no way to fully grasp the ramifications of the widespread trend of mommy blogging (or social media in general) on Generation Z, given the fact that the reactions and outcomes of mommy blogging on these millions of children will be different depending on the particularities of each situation. We can, however, identify some broad, concerning trends.

Parental Overshare

Of course, mommy bloggers are not the only writers who engage in sharing information about kids online; plenty of father/grandparent/aunt/uncle writers/social media users do as well. Most parents or family members who use social media, whether the medium is a blog or a social networking site, have engaged in some sort of sharing about their children (i.e. a photo, an anecdote, a video). The “appropriateness” of what is shared is a subjective (and slippery) concept that differs from social media user to social media user, blogger to blogger, reader to reader. Most often, this type of everyday online sharing is done within one’s social media community, and is not intended to be read by a wider audience.

For mommy bloggers who are motivated to reach large numbers of readers, this sharing can quickly turn into what Atlantic contributor Phoebe Maltz calls “parental overshare.” She describes the concept as such:  “First, the children need to be identifiable. That does not necessarily mean full names. The author’s full name is plenty, even if the children have a different (i.e. their father’s) last name. Next, there needs to be ambition to reach a mass audience.”

Child Shaming

At times, parental overshare is centered on the negative, resulting in public “child shaming.” Closely related to the “bad mommy” genre (in which women blog about what horrible mothers they are in an attempt to find solidarity, redefine traditional maternal roles or attract readers), child shaming involves posting photos or anecdotes of children engaging in “bad behavior” in order to “shame them.” At times, the blogger even goes so far as to call her child a derogatory term. It’s typically intended as comedy (sometimes not), but one can’t help but wonder what types of serious psychological consequences this practice could produce in the child being “shamed.”

Potential Consequences

The future consequences of parental overshare and child shaming are numerous; these of-the-moment anecdotes will continue to exist in cyberspace as their subjects mature, potentially impacting their view of themself, the way the world views them, and their future personal and professional relationships. However, the ethical implications of parental overshare and child shaming don’t simply pertain to the future; there are immediate ethical questions to consider, the first of which is safety. When a blogger publishes details about a child’s preferences, weaknesses, appearance, whereabouts, etc., the public nature of this information only exacerbates the already vulnerable position of the child in today’s society.

Second, whether the information published on a blog is of a positive or negative nature, the very act of making it accessible to a wide audience calls into question in the notion of consent. It’s safe to assume that many mommy bloggers do not ask their child’s consent before publishing information about the child online. Even if they do, he or she may not even understand what the concepts of consent or privacy truly entail, depending on the age of the child.

When it comes to parental overshare and child shaming, it’s easy for critics to focus (or place blame) on the mommy bloggers themselves. There is another element to this equation, however. As I read through mommy blogs at all points along the sharing/over-sharing/child shaming continuum, it becomes evident that the barometer for what is socially acceptable to share about children online has been recalibrated by the mommy blogging phenomenon. If this is indeed the case, what has the role of the reader been in this process?

Mommy bloggers write to be read; without readers, the cycle is incomplete. If a blog post featuring a particularly personal and embarrassing anecdote or photo of a child gets a lot of views, then a mommy blogger who is looking to gain readership or notoriety is likely to post similar content in the future. Thus, readers who continue to visit these blogs are complicit in the disrespect and potential endangerment of children. As we move further into the cyber future, there needs to be more awareness of how children are (and will be) impacted by the actions of mommy bloggers who engage in parental overshare and child shaming, and how those who read these blogs participate in this ethical breach.

Jen Westmoreland Bouchard is the owner of a boutique writing, editing and translation agency, Lucidité Writing, LLC.

10 Responses to “Is Mommy Ethical?”

  1. Sheena says:

    Mommy bloggers seems to be a very controversial topic. I
    agree with most of the ideas in this article. Being a mommy blogger comes with
    a lot of responsibility and requires a lot of censorship regarding certain
    articles that may or may not be considered inappropriate. Personally, I don’t
    think that people who share pictures or videos on social media sites should be
    considered mommy bloggers. If there social media site is solely dedicated to
    pictures and information of his/her child, then maybe they could be considered
    a mommy blogger.

    I do agree with the fact that mommy bloggers don’t look into
    the future to see how this child’s life may be affected by their actions today.
    I know I wouldn’t want to read my whole life story on a website that was
    dedicated to discussing problems my mom had with me. I also agree with the fact
    that blogging about specifics regarding the child is very dangerous in today’s
    society. I certainly would be very paranoid if I published information about
    where my child goes to school and what sort of things he likes.

    Mommy blogging does raise a huge ethical issues and I agree
    that the readers can enforce this issue by constantly returning to the site.

  2. Kameron Habucke says:

    I think there is a lot of controversy surrounding the concept of “mommy” blogging and the ethics behind it. However, I also think that questioning ethics depends upon the degree of which the author incorporates their children’s personal lives. If a woman writing a blog about crafts, bedroom decorating ideas and after school snacks, then there is obviously nothing questionable about it. On the other hand, if a woman is writing a blog about her daughter, personal problems and family drama then there is a question of ethics. The author of the article states “I flash forward to what this child might think if he or she were to come across this blog post in ten or twenty years.” Personally, I think there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to blogging in an open community. This woman may be striving to have a successful blog, but sharing intimate details of one’s children should not be the way to achieve that.

    There is also the question of safety when it comes to openly writing about one’s children. By posting personal information about their children such as photos, school information, etc. these women are welcoming the entire internet into their home. The author says “When a blogger publishes details about a child’s preferences, weaknesses, appearance, whereabout, etc., the public nature of this information only exacerbates the already vulnerable position of the child in today’s society.” Is having a successful blog worth putting your children at risk? There are plenty of other approaches to discussing motherhood than sharing intimate details.

    Overall, I don’t think there is anything wrong with “mommy” blogs. They are a way for mothers to communicate, share tips and discuss similar problems. However, I think that there should be limits as to the kind of information disclosed. In my opinion, it is not ethical to share personal information about your children at an age where they cannot give consent. If I stumbled upon a blog my mother wrote about the problems I had as a child, I would be incredibly upset she put such personal information out to the world.

  3. Cheryl says:

    The concept of “parental overshare” and mommy bloggers is an interesting topic, and one I have thought about
    before when reading some of my favorite bloggers’ posts. When I first started to follow a “mommy blogger”, she had not shared much information about her kids and keeping everything very secretive. I think she initially thought that it would be dangerous for her kids and inappropriate. She understood the controversy of letting information of her kids out to the world. Now, she is a very famous blogger and reels in thousands of viewers everyday, and is very public about her children. Most of her blog posts now contain pictures of her children as well as details such as what they like or dislike.
    Seeing a mommy blogger start our being very secretive and aware of parental overshare but becoming extremely public is an interesting change, which prompts the question why.

    Initially, I thought it was dangerous to publicize your children’s information. However, hypothetically, because the children belong to her, she should have the ability to choose how or what she wants to write about them much like she could share information about a bag she owns. Some worry about what the children would say when they grew up and looked back at these posts. I am not necessarily encouraging sharing your children’s information, but I think it is okay for mothers to do so if they please. People are worried the children may be scarred or embarrassed, but whose mother doesn’t embarrass their children. No one has control over how a mother raises her children and blogging about them is part of the mother’s rights as the guardian of her children.

  4. Kameron Habucke says:

    I think there is a lot of controversy surrounding the concept of “mommy” blogging and the ethics behind it. However, I also think that questioning ethics depends upon the degree of which the author incorporates their children’s personal lives. If a woman writing a blog about crafts, bedroom decorating ideas and after school snacks, then there is obviously nothing questionable about it. On the other hand, if a woman is writing a blog about her daughter, personal problems and family drama then there is a question of ethics. The author of the article states “I flash forward to what this child might think if he or she were to come across this blog post in ten or twenty years.” Personally, I think there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to blogging in an open community. This woman may be striving to have a successful blog, but sharing intimate details of one’s children should not be the way to achieve that.

    There is also the question of safety when it comes to openly writing about one’s children. By posting personal information about their children such as photos, school information, etc. these women are welcoming the entire internet into their home. The author says “When a blogger publishes details about a child’s preferences, weaknesses, appearance, whereabout, etc., the public nature of this information only exacerbates the already vulnerable position of the child in today’s society.” Is having a successful blog worth putting your children at risk? There are plenty of other approaches to discussing motherhood than sharing intimate details. Some people may argue that people share images of their children, family, etc., over social media all the time. I think that there is a difference between sharing personal information in a closed community such as Facebook versus sharing information in a blog that is supposed to be open to the general public.

    One of the most interesting parts of this article was the idea of feminism attached to this type of blogging. The author talks about how this is a “radical act” for women in a “traditionally masculine blogosphere.” However, I felt that the idea of women blogging about things such as motherhood, household experiences and product endorsement puts them back in a 1950s role. I’m sure that there are plenty of women blogging about much more interesting things than how to remove grass stains from soccer jerseys or punish a child who is throwing a tantrum. Speaking as someone who lives with a very radical feminist, I would think motherhood and housework would be a topic feminists would choose to stray from.

    Overall, I don’t think there is anything wrong with mommy blogs. They are a way for mothers to communicate, share tips and discuss similar problems. However, I think that there should be limits as to the kind of information disclosed. In my opinion, it is not ethical to share personal information about your children at an age where they cannot give consent. If I stumbled upon a blog my mother wrote about the problems I had as a child, I would be incredibly upset she put such personal information out to the world.

  5. Kara Vensel says:

    Blogging about your children, “mommy blogging,” can be unethical when used the wrong way. Mothers who blog about their child’s personal life without their consent is wrong on a few levels. Mommy blogging the right way would most likely consist of motherly advice whether it be disciplinary or about the workplace. Blog post that shame the children or jeopardize their reputation or public image is very unethical.

    When mothers delve to deep into their child’s personal life and post it for the world to see, especially with the goal to embarrass or teach them a lesson, it becomes an inappropriate blog. Depending on how developed the child’s understanding for what’s going is, these type of post can have negative effects mentally.

    Taking into consideration the age of the child and what kind of relationships they hold outside of their mothers blog, these post, without consent, could display a public image that the children never asked to have. If pictures and post are saved in shared by readers, they can end up in places they may damage the child’s future relationships.

    Merely mentioning the children in a blog but leaving the blog to be more about motherly duties seems to be an antidote for this issue.

  6. Mary Beth de Haas says:

    Mommy blogging is something that I have actually though a
    lot about. While I am new to the blogging world through a communications class
    I have noticed quite a few moms on other social media sites posting about their
    children. I quickly come to the conclusion that I would not want to be that
    child. I see posts from cousins with young children, past teachers, neighbors,
    families I used to babysit for, and more posting about their kids. These posts
    range anywhere from naked baby shots to birthday parties.

    Fortunately my mother did not get Facebook (the only social
    media she partakes in) until I went to college. At this point in my life she is
    past the mommy blogging phase and refrains from posting about me. I often
    wonder about the question brought up in this post of: What will the children
    think when they are older? I know I would not like finding picture of myself as
    a chubby baby or posts of my tantrums on Facebook.

    Not only are children being exploited through Facebook but
    pictures and video through Instagram and Youtube exploit children too. What
    will the child that went to the dentist think when he finds his mom posted a
    video of him on laughing gas and it went viral? What will the children who were
    subjects of Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween candy trick think 15 years from now? As a young adult I urge moms and everyone else
    to think twice before posting anything about a child. Think about what you
    would want to find on the internet when you get to high school or college.

  7. Daniel Park says:

    I feel that ‘mommy’ blogging gives mothers an outlet or tool to share their everyday
    experiences with to those who can similarly relate. It can be incredibly
    helpful to many, but as the article suggests, it can raise ethical questions to
    the content of what can and cannot be shared online. Part of what makes a
    successful blog is being genuine to the audience one is trying to reach. But
    that doesn’t mean these ‘mommy’ bloggers should share every detail of their
    motherhood. ‘Mommy’ blogging should not be utilized as a tool to exploit their
    children, but rather as a resource for other mother’s to learn from.

    Obviously, every situation is going to vary. But I believe that mother’s are intuitive
    enough to realize what deems appropriate to share online. I understand that
    sharing certain details of their child’s life may be beneficial to some and
    provide insight. However, there are certain aspects of a child’s life that
    should be left between the mother and spouse.
    In addition to, the motives of these mothers should not solely be to
    gain readers by ridiculing their children or putting out stories with negative
    connotations. Ultimately, it’s going to draw in the wrong crowd. Gaining readers
    is a progressive process that will naturally come by developing a trust with
    the audience by giving out meaningful stories that mother’s are can relate and
    learn.

  8. Lauren says:

    I agree with this article that some mommy blogging is going too far and sharing too
    much personal information with readers. However, I think mommy blogging is not
    as unethical as some people think. Child shaming and parental over share are
    definitely two things that should not be a part of mommy blogging. Posting
    pictures and videos to shame your child is completely unnecessary. A mom who
    partakes in those kinds of activities is showing bad parenting skills. Moms
    should not bad mouth their children and use derogatory terms to describe them.
    You have children because you love them. You choose to raise them and using
    derogatory terms contradicts what it means to be a parent. It is not worth the
    laugh in blogging to use offensive language when discussing your children. Moms
    would not want other people calling their children insulting names. This is why
    moms should not use derogatory language for their own children. Mommy blogging
    can be fun and ethical if done correctly. I think it is completely acceptable
    to blog about your children as long as you do so with their best interests in
    mind. Moms can share funny stories of what their kids do at the playground or
    funny sayings they have said. Pictures and videos are acceptable as well
    because it is not like moms will be posting videos of their kids harming
    society or anyone in it. If moms want to post a video of their kid singing a
    song, go for it. I do not think kids will be angry when they grow up as long as
    moms use common sense when they blog. Posting baby pictures is not going to
    affect a kid’s schooling or career when he or she grows up. They will also
    probably not resent their parents for blogging about them and sharing stories
    with other moms. Big deal if your mom shares funny stories about you. This can
    be another outlet the child can look back at to read memories of his or her
    childhood. Some people may have an issue with consent in this type of blogging.
    I believe moms have the right to post pictures and share stories about their
    children because they are the guardians of the children. They legally take care
    of these children until they are eighteen years old. Once the kid grows up to
    be a young adult or teenager, that is probably when parents need consent to
    share something but even then is not like moms are sharing stories that will
    get their kids in trouble. My mom does not need my permission to post a picture
    of me somewhere. I know she is not going to cause me any harm with what she
    posts because she uses common sense like mommy bloggers should be doing. I
    think the common sense line is crossed when moms are angry. They may have days
    where their kids were misbehaving and the moms go on a rant about how much they
    resent having children. That would be a lack of common sense because you are disrespecting
    your children and as a parent, that is something you should never do. I do see
    there can be gray areas within mommy blogging. Maybe a mom did ask her young child
    if she could post a funny video online and the kid said no. It could be a
    harmless video of the child singing a song and the mom may still want to post
    it. This is a gray area of decision making because the mom may know the video
    is harmless and want to post it anyway. I think she would be justified doing so
    because even if the child said no, he or she may be too young to understand the
    situation. Mommy blogging becomes unethical when moms begin to shame and
    disrespect their children. As long as moms are smart about what they share,
    blogging can be a great tool.

  9. angelic venegas says:

    Mommy bloggers are taking over the world! Just kidding but
    they really are influential and seem to be quite the trend these days. I think
    it’s safe to say that it’s wrong to shame your kids or write articles titled, My Toddler from Hell. I understand that the bloggers are going for comments and views but that doesn’t make it right.
    Even if the coverage is positive it’s still questionable how much a parent
    should share about their children to the online web. I’m 22 years old and my
    mother still post embarrassing pictures of me. Even if I un-tag myself from her
    not so flattering throwback Thursdays, all her friends still know who I am. I
    work at a restaurant and I have had at least six or seven people come up to me
    explaining that they are friends with my mom through Facebook and see what I’m
    up to. “Congratulations on almost being done with college.” The people aren’t
    harming me and my mom isn’t posting to traumatize me but people I don’t know,
    know things about me, and I had no control in that. Of course I’m old enough to
    tell my mom to tone it down on the, “I’m so proud of my daughter,” posts or to
    lay off the horrifying throwback Thursday pictures but she’s my mom and
    whatever makes her happy, is alright in my book. These kids through that aren’t
    of age or even old enough to know what a blog is or what their parents are
    sharing about them can be harmful. Every parent has embarrassed their kids on
    purpose or unintentionally but sharing their childhood on the internet, good or
    bad is going to serve up an interesting dinner conversation when they’re
    sixteen years old.

  10. Grace Runkel says:

    The idea behind mommy blogging is great. Being a parent is the hardest job someone can have, and having an outlet through which you can share your experiences and read about other people’s can be a great resource. However, it is getting to the point where too many personal details are shared about the children. Parents have always shared horror stories about their kids, but for the first time they are actually getting published. Parents need to keep in mind that once they decide to put that information on the web it is there forever, for their children and everyone else to see. However, I have seen mommy blogs that protect the privacy of their children: they use nicknames, never post photos that show their children’s faces, and keep personal details out of all posts. I do not see a problem with blogs like these. I wonder how mommy blogging will evolve when our generation begins to have their own families. For the most part, we have grown up with the internet and have become comfortable with documenting our lives online. Will we better understand what should and should not be shared when it comes to our children? Or will the lines become even more blurred since posting our lives online has become a part of our daily routine?

Leave a Reply