No doubt you have cringed or have wanted to sink into the floorboards at some of your children’s antics over the years. Millions of people have now viewed a particular BBC live news interview with Professor Robert Kelly but I am certain the vast majority have no idea what he is talking about. I have watched it myself several times and still haven’t a clue – because, as he witters on about Asian geopolitics, his pre-schooler daughter pushes through the door in the back of the shot, closely followed by her toddler brother in a walker and they photobomb this very serious interview.
Professor Kelly struggles to keep talking while trying to push the kids away. Then Professor Kelly’s wife slides broadside through the door in a panic and hauls the protesting children out. He almost keeps his composure but flickering around his professional face you can see that inside he is dying with embarrassment. It is hilarious. In the same week, news channels endlessly replayed the clip of a toddler snubbing the Queen. The Queen has seen too many tantrums in her own family to be all that fussed. The humour in both these clips is that we all feel the agonising embarrassment of the parents. We’ve all been there. When I was a very small child, I said to a very large friend of my father that we had named our cat after him, because our cat was fat too.
Maybe it is part of a child’s job description to embarrass their parents, but it is certainly not our job to embarrass them – any more than we can avoid, anyway. With my appalling fashion sense and supply of dad jokes, I will inevitably embarrass my children. But one place I do try to hold back is online.
More than a quarter of British teenagers reckon their parents embarrass them online, and a third of them block their parents on Facebook – or run multiple accounts to keep their parents from embarrassing them. Embarrassing pictures are the top offense, followed by comments on their feeds and their friends’ posts.
Today’s young people are not just more tech-savvy than us, they are usually more concerned about their online privacy too. And they are not grateful for all those pictures you’ve posted of them. Even those ones you uploaded years ago are still there – just a few clicks and scroll away. If you have got kids, even young kids, think before you post pictures of them.
My advice – become their social media friend when they are young, then settle back. Don’t like, comment or post on their page. Let them forget you are there! It will be such a valuable window into their world during their adolescence – so don’t have that window slammed shut by being embarrassing.
John Cowan, The Parenting Place
Improving and equipping families to thrive.
Read more from John and The Parenting place here.