I have wanted to post about this since reading about an Austrian teenager suing her parents for exploiting her privacy by posting intimate childhood pictures to Facebook. The crazy fact about this story is she asked her parents to delete them, and they said no! While the posting of intimate photos initially was disrespectful, it was likely unintentional. However, refusing a request to remove them is intentionally disrespectful and I cannot imagine doing that to my teenage child.
As a new parent and a Millennial, I am fully aware of the permanence of online photos. Enough to rigidly tighten the privacy settings of any social media platform I am using. Enough to pause before I post a photo, and consider the consequences.
Our babies are cute and new and exciting. We want to show the world! Friends and family love to see their faces and watch them grow. From personal experience, the baby pictures I have posted attract an increase of “likes” over anything else I post. The “likes” and positive comments trigger the release of “feel good” chemical dopamine (Ritvo, E., 2012). This encourages me to post more photos, and on it goes.
This is uncharted territory for many of us, since social media did not exist when we were growing up. As parents, we have a responsibility to consider the future repercussions of any pictures we post of our children online. Before we post, we must think: is this something that my teenage or adult child would be embarrassed to share with hundreds of strangers? Is the picture respectful? Are they fully clothed, especially in case of babies (e.g. naked newborn photos, toilet/bathtub and diaper photos)? Does the photo have an intimate nature, more appropriate for a private family album than a public forum?
Some Millennial parents are refraining from posting pictures of their children at all. This includes asking family and friends to refrain from posting pictures. If you are posting a picture of someone else’s baby, it is absolutely essential that you ask permission first. Even if the parents do post pictures of their child, they have the right to complete control over what is posted. Alex & I were not happy when an enthusiastic family member posted pictures our newborn son before we had the chance to evaluate how we wanted to handle social media. Please, don’t post pictures of other people’s kids without asking first.
I do not share pictures of Gabriel on The Intelligent Elephant website, Facebook page, Twitter, or Pinterest since I am actively working to increase traffic to these pages and have no control over who is viewing them. What I share of Gabriel on Facebook is limited to portrait-style individual photos where I dress him up to celebrate a monthly birthday or milestone. I have also posted a few family photos of me holding him or the three of us (Alex, Gabriel, & I) together. Some photos are sent to close family members via private email and group messages. Others are just for us as a family and not meant to share with anyone at all.
This leads into a broader discussion about children and respect. Self-respect and integrity are taught. Children learn respect by how we treat them, and how we treat ourselves. Over-sharing of intimate photos online teaches them that we – parents – care more about our social media presence than we care about embarrassing them. We cannot afford this harmful message. Our children deserve their privacy. They have the right to choose what they will or will not share with others.
When Gabriel grows up, I want him to look back and see the pictures we did share as appropriate and respectful. That we didn’t hide him from the world, yet maintained responsible and deliberate control over the content we posted.
What are your thoughts about baby and childhood pictures on social media?
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