“Do you have a hashtag for your kid? I’ll tag you when I post this.” is a phrase heard at preschool, at the playground, and even at Grandma’s house. While many parents are happy to provide #LittleJohnnyJ or #PrecociousPenelope, we typically answer a different way:
“Actually, I don’t post photos of my child on social media.”
In today’s day and age, when our lives are lived online, it’s a normal and logical question. People have entire Instagram accounts for their dogs, their businesses and even their eyebrows; why wouldn’t we have one for our kid? For us, the answer is simple!
It’s about privacy.
For the large majority of us, childhood photos are hidden in dusty photo albums. The cutest were framed to sit on the piano or hang above the staircase. We referred to them as “family photos.” I don’t post photos of my child on social media because I believe my child is entitled to privacy.
When he googles his name one day, will he find his photo with banana smeared all over his face? I worry about what future employers may stumble upon, or what his crush may see. I wonder if a bully might dig up a seemingly innocent video of him playing peek-a-boo with his Halloween bucket and find a way to use that to hurt him. When we post photos online, they stop being just our photos.
One day, he’ll want his own Instagram account, and we will have a conversation about privacy and protecting yourself. We will discuss what type of information is OK to share, and which things we keep within our family. Until that day, I’ve decided to protect my child’s right to privacy by limiting which photos we share on the internet.
It’s about control.
As moms, we try to control everything that comes within a five-mile radius of our child. The toys they play with, the food they eat, who they interact with. We meticulously research daycares, pediatricians, and the safest parks to go to. When it comes to the internet, we voluntarily seem to give up this control.
I don’t post photos of my child on social media because I’m not comfortable with not knowing who can see them. I don’t know what they might say, think, or do with it. It’s no secret that babies are cute, and of course I think my kid is the cutest, but that doesn’t mean I want him ending up as a meme. I have no control over how this sweet photo may be interpreted or what the caption or content might be.
…but it’s not just funny sayings that worry me. Michigan is the sixth highest state for human trafficking in the US. While that may seem crazy over protective, studies have been done showing that many of the photos found on child pornography websites are actually just everyday photos predators found via public social media profiles (often referred to as digital kidnapping).
It’s my job as his mom to protect him, whether it’s his health, his education, or his school picture day photo.
It’s about consent.
When I post a photo of myself in my latest dress rental on the Rent the Runway website, I am giving consent for this photo to be used. I’m a 30-something-year-old woman who understands any potential ramifications of this. My one year old does not. I don’t post photos of my child online because I believe he has a right to consent, too.
Many parents ask their school-aged children if they are OK with mom or dad sharing a certain photo whether it’s a text to grandpa or on their Facebook page. Since my child is too young to understand the concept of consent, I have to decide, to the best of my ability, for him.
I ask myself, Even though I think this photo of him wrapped up in a little lobster towel is adorable, is this something he would be OK with me showing others? If I were in his shoes, would I be OK with this?
It’s about being careful.
As a family, we don’t avoid social media altogether, but we do sensor. We take precautions to protect our child while still being able to share special, select moments with our friends.
Privacy – My husband and I both have totally private accounts. Those who follow us are all people we know, in person, who support us and our lifestyle. When we do share photos, we make sure they are ones we feel our son would be OK with.
Control – We ask our friends and family to not share our son’s photos on their feeds even if their social media is private. These conversations can sometimes we awkward, but everyone has always been respectful of our request.
Consent – When we are in public places, we ask that he not be filmed or photographed and leave the area when necessary.
I won’t lie: sometimes the idea of him becoming the next Gerber Baby or the poster child for Detroit Tigers Kid’s Club is appealing. The bottom line is though that the negatives of posting our child’s photo on social media outweighs the positives, for us, as a family.
So, next time you’re at Detroit Kid City, and your friend asks you to please not take a photo of their child, remember, it’s not personal! They may just be a family who doesn’t post photos of their child on social media…#Keepin’itPrivate.