Thursday, 22 September 2016

Oversharing about your kids on your parent blog? Maybe it's time to stop. A ReadItTorial.

Today's thorny topic again had multiple inspirations, beginning with a widely-circulated news story of a girl who is suing her parents for sharing embarrassing photos of her as a youngster on their Social Media feeds:

The story, stemming from Austria surprisingly - and not the U.S - is a fairly extreme case (and of course I apologise unreservedly for including the Daily Fail as a linked reference here) sparked off quite an interesting reaction on Twitter.

One Tweeter (who shall remain nameless) seemed to take umbrage with the whole idea of parent blogging rather than over-sharing on social media, stating that it was "inevitable" that at some point a disgruntled child would naturally be peed off at their parents "hawking them on a blog just to get a load of free stuff".

The reason the tweet annoyed me was that this seems to still be the perception with a few folk whose wares (be they children's clothing, toys, books, comics etc) end up in the hands of folk who want to write about them or review them in exchange for said goods. The skewed notion that we're all in it for the freebies, and we're willing to expose our children to the nasty wide world out there just to snag a few goodies really grates, and coming from the tweeter in question (who shall remain nameless but will be trodden very lightly around from now on) felt like a solid slap in the chops to an overly-sensitive chap like me.

I just didn't really know how to react to such a sweeping and damning statement in any sane rational way at the time (so of course I'm blogging about it a few days afterwards), but it seems to be part and parcel of an underlying trend of negating the worth of blogs in general.

I get that we're not proper journalists. After all, we don't work for broadsheets or red-tops or write regularly for The Huffington Post or other more trustworthy internet sources. We didn't bust our humps at college or university studying journalism (well some might, but they're in the minority surely?) So how can our opinions even matter at all?

The "Free stuff" thing is infuriating and quite frankly I'm personally pig sick of hearing it trotted out by folk who have probably never even set foot on the blog. Perhaps indeed there are bloggers out there who wouldn't bother writing their blogs at all if it wasn't for a steady trickle of complimentary goodies. Fair enough if that's your bag. Books are our bag though, and it makes no difference at all to the reviews how they're sourced - whether they're free or we pay for them, they still receive the same critical attention.

We've said time and time again that it would make no difference whatsoever to ReadItDaddy if we didn't receive the majority of the books we review directly from publishers or PRs who want us to cover their items. We would definitely still do it anyway, we'd check them out from the library or (oh my goodness) BUY them and review them. To hammer this point home a little harder, I can guarantee you that we (like the majority of book bloggers) buy an awful lot of books.

We love books, and there's no way even the most influential book blogger can get sent absolutely everything they want to read (or read with their child) gratis, for free, for nought.

As for reviewing any old crap just because we've been contacted by a gushing PR who wants a decent list of influencers to work with - we don't do that either, in fact we're probably frustratingly choosy to work with.

I do admittedly find it amusing that there are blogs out there who'll happily stick up a glowing review of some junk-filled juice box or school lunch snack because they've been sent a boxload. Again though this calls into question the whole ethical side of parent blogging and if there is a debate to be had at all, it should definitely start with the motivations for sending stuff like that out in the first place. One tweeter quite rightly pointed out that book bloggers can be systematically taken advantage of by some publishers, who know they're going to get product coverage for a relatively small fee compared to what it would cost to pay for an ad.

The original Tweeter's insinuations that parents who photograph their children and share pictures of them on their blogs "deserve all they get" (including being sued by their little darlings later on in life) makes a sweeping generalisation that parents are really that detached from protecting their kids that vapid consumerism is a far preferable alternative to protecting them from the pond scum who do fetch up online looking for ways to antagonise or abuse innocent folk. I sometimes question my own naivety in sharing my daughter's name with the folk who come here to read about books, but when I started out, the whole "Her Opinion / My Opinion" thing was (and still is) the crux of what made this blog worth the effort. There is of course the fact that I'm hugely proud of Charlotte and her love of books - and her opinions on those books too. We still couldn't keep on doing this if it wasn't for her loving being the biggest part of what drives the blog on.

Of course, over-sharing can be pretty grim and sometimes you do have to wonder what goes on in people's heads on some social media channels where they really do take their child's entire life and stick it up there for all to see. The recent lawsuit has, if nothing else, highlighted that children's future net presence can be adversely affected when that child grows up, and the ever-present power of search engines and social connectivity on the internet means that at some point or another, some twerp is going to dig up their baby photos for a giggle, or some school bully will find that old stuff and make their life a misery with it for a hoot.

I secretly always hope that one day Charlotte will look back on this blog, and it will bring back happy memories of the times we've shared together reading books, thinking about what we like and don't like about them and then writing it up - and I'm pretty sure that most other book bloggers would like to feel the same.

This continued insulting insinuation that we're all ligging sh*tbags just in it for the freebies has got to stop though, and if you're an author, illustrator or creative who feels that you're losing out on a book sale because your publisher or PR has sent us your book gratis to review, I'm really sorry you feel that way and if you don't think that what we write is any kind of compensation for the few quid (or probably pence in some cases) you'd have got otherwise, feel free to contact us and let us know and we'll cease covering your work - and politely request that PRs don't send us your books.

Writing about books takes time - and time is the most valuable commodity all parents and book bloggers have, and if a book is seen as 'overpayment' for that time then I really don't think we'll ever see eye to eye.