Who’s reading your blog? Some thoughts on the (unfortunate) need for self-censorship

A key reason that blogging has become so popular is the fact that anyone can write about anything they feel passionately about and easily (and immediately) share it with the world. If you are writing about a hobby or some other such activity, this is great. You can share ideas, meet new people, learn new things. The rare few can even make money with blogs.

Of course, the downside of blogging (at least the public blogging that most people do) is that the whole world can see what you write. As Jakob Nielsenwrote in his Alert Box column Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes:

Whenever you post anything to the Internet — whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email — think about how it will look to a hiring manager in ten years. Once stuff’s out, it’s archived, cached, and indexed in many services that you might never be aware of.

Years from now, someone might consider hiring you for a plum job and take the precaution of ‘nooping you first. (Just taking a stab at what’s next after Google. Rest assured: there will be some super-snooper service that’ll dredge up anything about you that’s ever been bitified.) What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile “analysis” or offendingly nasty flames published under your name?

Think twice before posting. If you don’t want your future boss to read it, don’t post.

For parents of autistic children writing about their experiences with autism, treatment methods, and working (dealing) with schools on IEPs and appropriate placement the paragraph could easily be re-written:

Whenever you post anything to the Internet — whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email — think about how it will look to the special education and support staff at your school district. Once stuff’s out, it’s archived, cached, and indexed in many services that you might never be aware of.

Years (or months or weeks) from now, your district may be preparing for your IEP meeting and take the precaution of ‘nooping you first. (Just taking a stab at what’s next after Google. Rest assured: there will be some super-snooper service that’ll dredge up anything about you that’s ever been bitified.) What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile “analysis” or offendingly nasty flames published under your name?

Think twice before posting. If you don’t want your school system and future teachers to read it, don’t post.

In an ideal world, parents and teachers/staff could work together as partners with only the best interests of the kids in mind. Unfortunately, this ain’t no ideal world. The stories of retribution from teachers and districts against parents that speak out against what they see as problems are too numerous – and sometimes too disturbing – to mention.

The result is that some parents choose to self-censor their posts so they don’t address all the challenges and issues. As the parent of an autistic son, I’ve found an unbelievable amount of helpful information from other parents via the internet. Without it, we would have missed out on quite a bit early on. For parents with newly diagnosed children on the autism spectrum, the promise of the internet as a way of gaining information and support is in danger of being undermined because of the bad nature of some teachers.

And that’s the thing, it is just some teachers. But like the old saying goes, one bad apple can ruin the bunch. When it comes to our kids, we have to weigh the potential good we can gain and spread with the ever present thought, “What if my teacher is a real ass about this?”

In the end, like everything else, it is a personal decision that we all have to make and live with.

(As a quick aside, retribution against kids for the words of parents is by no means limited to parents of autistic or other special needs kids. Through the years I’ve been appalled (shocked just isn’t quite strong enough) at the behavior I’ve seen from teachers and administrators that have lashed out at kids because parents “got involved.”)

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