Blogging about our children, use their real names or a pseudonym for privacy?

First off, this is something that has actually be on my mind for a while but it wasn’t until a well thought out post on another blog generated a lot of discussion, including one attack, that I really felt compelled to speak up about this.

Read the blog post here: http://bigdaddyautism.com/?p=1207

PrivacyI am very honest and very sincere in everything I do, especially when it involves a topic as important as Autism. This blog not only has my real name, but it’s the title… it’s even the URL address!

The question is whether or not my son would approve of me using his real name later in life… will he be embarrassed by it? Will others use this as a way of teasing or mocking him?

Autism Advocacy

I write about Autism. This is a personal blog but it’s not my personal blog about our vacations, times we’re sick, going to visit family, etc… it’s not a diary. It’s a blog advocating Autism, or more specifically, mine and my son’s stories and experiences.

As such, I write so that others that read will know that they’re not alone… maybe they’ll even feel inspired, motivated, educated… maybe they will be able to relate to the things I say.

This means that I have a lot more readers that I don’t know than I do readers that I do know. These people will likely never meet me nor my son face to face. But those that do know me will know a lot more about myself and my son than they did previously. But this is a global topic, Autism is simply so much bigger than just me or my son.

Honesty and Trust

A great writer can capture your hearts and your trust by the words they say. Sadly, most of us are not great writers. We’re people, we’re parents… and we’re simply trying to be involved in the community by sharing what we can. Therefore, making you cry, making you trust us, making you believe the words we say are the honest to goodness truth can be quite a daunting task.

I believe that being upfront and honest with my name adds to a reader’s faith in me. That I have nothing to hide nor anything to be ashamed of.

I recently read a new spinoff Superman comic, Earth One. In it, Superman talks to his mother about the costume she made… and asks why there is no mask. Her reply to him is that, with his power, people will fear him. They need to be able to see his face, to see his innocence and honesty so that they can know they can trust him. A mask would only make people fear him more, make them question him, make them not trust him.

I do like to think of my son as a little Superman, but I realize that it’s not great power that he has. It’s a disorder. Even still, his message is a very powerful one and a mask would always get in the way of that message… it would always leave a little doubt.

Shame and Embarrassment

Let’s be honest, you could be the best words-smith on the planet and paint your child in the brightest most noble light and other kids would still try to use it against them in the schoolyard. Teasing and mocking comes from the strangest places sometimes.

If you would like to protect your child from that sort of thing then using a pseudonym is definitely a good way to go. However, don’t think that those children won’t find some other way to tease your children.

I think of it as the old pillow armour, you try to put up all this padding around your child to make sure that no one can ever do them any harm and not only do they still get teased, but they’re teasing them about your pillow armour!

Whether you use a pseudonym or not, if you write from the heart and you write with honesty and good intentions, there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

One of the most important lessons in life for every child is to drown out or ignore those that try to mock your integrity. Shielding your child away from having to face that will not help them learn that lesson. They’ll likely have to learn it eventually anyway, so what does it matter if it’s your blog that becomes the trigger?

I can tell you one thing, if one blog post of mine positively affects one other human being, I will never ever have any regrets for posting it, no matter what names or contents I had put into it. I would hope that, later in life, my son agrees with that. If I use his name and someone else’s life is better for it, he should be proud, not embarrassed.

Levels of Privacy

The average person fears the internet a great deal and has every right to do so. There is a lot to fear because really, the world is out there… the best of it and the worst of it. I still know many people who absolutely refuse to use their credit card online yet use it often over the phone. The internet has multiple levels of encryption and security, a phone has none. Hmm…

Unfortunately for all those average people, there are a lot of above average skilled people on the Internet that could find your real name with a little digging in the right places. So the only people you’re really protecting yourself from are the other average people.

If you do take all the precautions necessary and never once enter your name into a computer, then maybe… but only maybe. Because there are still ways to track your accounts back to you.

I don’t mean this as a way to scare you, quite the contrary. You’ve been online all this time and you’re fine, right? I’m still here and I’ve been online for far too long! The thing is, you can be very very very private or only a little bit private. You’ll likely never be completely private unless you really know what you’re doing.

Conversely, think of all those people who offer their children up for the brochure photos, billboards… commercials even! Those people are all still doing alright. I don’t think they’ve had to endure any more school yard bullying than anyone else.

I’m going to guess that you haven’t taken it to that extent but think about those people that have. Their children are REALLY out there. And they’re probably extremely proud to be making a difference. To be the kind, warm and trusting faces that you and I need to see in those commercials.

So Many Reasons

There are so many reasons for wanting or even needing privacy. I can’t even begin to go through them all but sometimes there are legal issues, or a disagreeing husband or wife, perhaps you’re writing about things that are much more personal than just specific Autism related stories… the list is endless.

Then again, perhaps you really are using a pseudonym simply because you don’t want to use anyone’s name without their informed consent, even your own child’s.

Everything I have written in this blog post is my own personal opinion and my own personal reason for making the decisions I’ve made. I understand completely why and how people make their own choices.

I would never, for a second, doubt that someone is very proud of their child even though they hide them behind a fake name. You don’t have to reveal an identity to reveal your pride. You also don’t have to tell us your name for us to believe you or to learn from you.

This is Who I Am

My wife is a very private person, even after joining a forum where all people see is a user name, she still never really opened up to anyone for almost a year and a half. Suffice to say, she was skeptical when I started this blog.

However, she very quickly saw the need to share who I really am and to share my son with the world. I guess I should say, my need.

When you read my blog posts, I don’t write like a doctor, I don’t write like a writer… I write like me. And to use another name is to write like someone else. To pretend to be someone I’m not.

This is who I am, a very proud father. My son is absolutely amazing and I know that so long as I believe that through and through, and so long as I write with honesty and sincerity, those who read it will think that my son is amazing as well.

I can’t even imagine writing something that would embarrass him or make him feel any shame because I can’t think of anything that would qualify. He’s an inspiration to me and hopefully, through him, I can be an inspiration to others.

My Son, Cameron.

Cameron is his name, it is the name I gave him and the name I will never be afraid to share with the world. I do not know what the future holds in store for him but I like to think that what I do now, with this blog or otherwise, that he can be proud of me.

I also hope for a future where, despite still having Autism, he continues to speak out and inspire people with me. That he has a ‘normal’ and fulfilling life but is able to continue raising awareness, continue getting involved with the Autism community.

It’s not a guarantee though. I would never force him into anything in his life. If he isn’t comfortable with that or has no such desires, that’s fine too. I will be no less proud of him, he will be no less of an inspiration to me.

I will, however, make sure that he knows that what I do, what I say, is bigger than just him. That I would do anything for him, that I do everything for him, but also that there are so many out there that need an encouraging word, a little advice.

Conclusion

I’m getting off topic here but the point is, you reading this, is very important to me. I owe you the truth. And the response that I’ve received from readers like you has been astounding.

I honestly believe that the wonderful feedback and support I’ve received through blog would not be anywhere near the same level if I couldn’t be completely upfront and honest with you.

That’s not to say that you or anyone else couldn’t use a fake name and get the same response. It’s just how it is for me. It’s how it always has been for me and always will be.

What’s truly important is that no matter what name you have, no matter what name you use, be honest and sincere. If you speak the truth and you keep the bigger picture in mind, there can be no shame in the future.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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8 Responses to Blogging about our children, use their real names or a pseudonym for privacy?

  1. Big Daddy November 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Outstanding. Btw, Griffin is my son’s real name. My decision to use an alias for me was / is complicated and was / is not done to shield him from the real world. Other factors dominated.

    As Lynn suspected, eloquent and effective post.

  2. Gina @ Special Happens November 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    I think this is a question parents go back and forth with, likely most of their blogging ‘career’. It certainly is a personal decision and I can easily fall on both sides of the argument. For me, my name is around the site…somewhere. I can easily be ‘found out’, but am not ‘hiding’ either. My kids and hubs only get their first initial as their name…I guess that’s my middle ground.

  3. Claire Arce November 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    My name is Claire. I have been the “caregiver” to a beautiful boy since he was 4 y/o, for the last 8 years. Caregiver is my title on paper. At school I’m also listed as parent or mother. I don’t have legal custody of “Puppy”; but I feel the same way about sharing our stories and experiences with others. For whatever reason, his parents won’t give up their parental rights to me. Yes, they are both living, and not even in the same city. They recognize me as his mother, and yet here I am. Hello, my name is Claire, and I am “mom” to Eloy!

  4. jillsmo November 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Very well put, thank you for writing this.

  5. Elise November 17, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Sorry Stuart I am going to have to disagree with you. Privacy is very important, not because it will lesson teasing at school,but because you never know what your child will want to do with their life and it is not fair to them to hold them up as some kind of autism doll, especially without their permission.I am very honest about who I am and the boys but no one will ever know their names and I have removed my last name from most of my posts, twitter and from my blog. If it means ppl don’t believe what I write then so be it. I am not here to impress anyone. I write to help others going through what I did and quite frankly it is very cathartic for me. I also don’t really care what others think if I am or am not honest.My aim is ultimately to still protect them from the ignorance in society. That is not going away anytime soon. For every Temple Grandin in the world who is respected for her autism, there are tens of thousands who sit unemployed and derided because noone gave them a chance because of their autism.I expect people to see my children first as human beings not the boys from my blog.

  6. Lynn November 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    As I expected, FAR more well thought out than my lark! As blustery as I can be on the topic, I can honestly see both sides of it. I just feel that there is plenty of time and plenty of avenues for recourse if at any point I decide to change my mind on this. I’m sorry but the idea that one of my daughter’s future classmates will get on the Wayback Machine 10 years from now and dig up videos of her doing a bad Hokey Pokey when she was 6 just is something that seems pretty unlikely to me.

  7. Claire Hayes November 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I have decided to use my full name and never name my daughter, as I want to respect her privacy and also that of her sister. That feels right for me- somewhere between a healthy desire for authenticity and a healthy distrust of the forever memory of the internet…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. … to pseudonym or not to pseudonym? « Autism Home Rescue - November 18, 2010

    […] happen anyway.  (See Stuart Duncan’s gentle reminders on the subject of internet privacy here.)  I personally believe the world is a better place when everyone can be authentic and real.  […]

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