Saturday, November 15, 2014

Outsourced overshare UPDATED

When discussing parental overshare, I tend to draw a line between articles written by the parent and those by a journalist unrelated to the child in question. A reporter isn't claiming to know the child better than anyone else does, or to love the child. Nor is the reporter putting his or her own parenting skills up for discussion. The end result may still be that a child's lowest moments are Googleable later on, but there isn't the same kind of exploitation going on. And there isn't that same sense, for readers, that the information provided is the absolute truth about the child. There's some kind of wall surrounding the family that the journalist isn't allowed past.

So I'm not sure what to make of this:

Often filling his worksheets with scribbles of frowning faces, Matthias barely made it through kindergarten. Then the disaster of science camp made Ms. Kendle fear first grade even more, leading her back to Dr. Diller’s office in mid-July, more desperate than the year before. (She permitted Dr. Diller to record their conversation for this article.) The doctor floated an option: adding Risperdal, which has shown promise in tempering disruptive behavior in some children.
By "this" I mean the ethically-momentous aside about how this child's doctor's appointment came to be recorded (and photographed!) for a national publication. This mother isn't writing the piece herself, but it's her decision that's allowing doctor-patient confidentiality to be abandoned, in favor (presumably) of some possible greater good that might come from addressing the question of pediatric psychiatric medication, a good that can apparently only be achieved if the child is abundantly identifiable.

Which... leads to a not-all-that-out-there slippery-slope question. We don't hear whether the child agreed to any of this, but he's six. At what age is a kid too old for a parent to unilaterally permit such a thing? A "child" is, after all, anyone under 18. Could the parent of a high school senior, in conjunction with a journalist, give that 17-year-old's doctor permission to record an appointment?


And this, from the very same paper, might give parents considering sharing their children's psychiatric visits with a reporter some pause. Turns out that disclosing a mental health condition can get a person fired! Which, unfair as it may be, might be a reason not to reveal a condition your kid has in a newspaper. Disclosure of anything for which the word "disclosure" is appropriate has to be left up to the individual. Disclosing stuff about your kid means your kid, as an adult, won't have a choice either way.

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