There is a photo of me somewhere from when I was about three years old. I was camping with my parents, and in this particular picture I am naked, sitting on a potty and wearing my dad’s “Jeep” baseball cap.
It’s pretty cute, if I do say so myself… I’d actually post it if I had any idea where it was. But that’s because I’m 37 years old and can make that kind of decision for myself. Okay okay, I will be 38 on Sunday, but whatever.
See where I’m going with this?
As much as my family and I have laughed at that photo over the years, I’m pretty damn grateful that the internet didn’t exist and that my little naked self trying to take a poop wasn’t splashed online for all my parents’ friends (and my future boyfriends and employers) to see.
I have some strong opinions when it comes to the stuff that I see posted online, and I think that sometimes (more like 99% of the time, actually) we forget that once it’s out there, it’s OUT THERE. Forever. And ever. You might think that a photo of your kid with tampons up his nose is hilarious, or that it’s just so sad and sweet that your little love is curled up on the floor next to the toilet while they fight the flu, but really… think about it.
If your child knew that you were posting this photo for hundreds of people to see, would they be okay with it?
Don’t get me wrong, I post pics of my kids ALL the time on Facebook and instagram, but I have some definite guidelines that I personally follow when doing so.
Here are the rules that my husband and I have for what we post:
– no pictures of naked bums
– no pictures when they’re sick or not feeling well
– no toilet or potty pics
– no pics of anything their future teenage friends would photocopy and paste all over lockers
– no pictures of meltdowns or temper tantrums
(I broke this rule one time, just once, because it was too damn funny. It’s on my insta if you want to find it.)
My oldest daughter just turned 11, and she now has her own instagram account. It’s a private account that I monitor very closely, but aside from her own safety, she too has rules about what she posts of her siblings. Before she posts any photos of them, she has to show it to me first. It’s not that I think she’d ever post anything inappropriate on purpose, but she’s young and she’s not a mother… she’s not able to think 10 or even five years ahead to the repercussions of something as small as an instagram post.
We all worry about what our kids are sharing online… but what about what we are sharing OF our kids?
I know that the chances of my kids not getting a job or suffering through public shame are small, but that’s not really the point. It’s our job as parents to protect them, and it irritates me when I see people using their kids’ mistakes or misfortune to get a laugh on social media.
And honestly? What if my kid goes into politics or becomes super famous one day? Do I really want photos of them smearing their own poop on the walls to be online? (NO my kids have never done that… but you know those pics exist and I pity those poor parents. Gross.) I know that there are a ton of websites out there actually devoted to parents “harmlessly” embarrassing their kids, it’s a huge trend right now. I’ve seen the memes, and yah I’ve cracked up more than once – but it doesn’t mean I’d ever submit my kids to that kind of exposure. I actually had someone comment one time about how awful I was for posting a photo on here of my son using the potty… I was SO freaked out, I knew I’d never post that! After digging through months and months of posts I finally found the photo, and it was my son – fully clothed – using his potty as a chair, with the lid down, as he played with his toys.
If my children grow up and want to share their embarrassing photos then more power to them… I will happily hand them over and they can make a collage for all I care. But for now, no one needs to see that stuff but the people in this home. We live in this ridiculous “information age” where we are all prone to over sharing. I know I am guilty of it too, I have many Facebook statuses that have been posted and then deleted because I had second thoughts – I’m only human you know! But overall I think it’s smart to have your own “online compass” that you follow, especially when it comes to what you post of your kids.
I’m pretty sure that the majority of parents out there aren’t posting things online with the intention of hurting or humiliating their children. More likely than not, it simply hasn’t occurred to them that what they see as innocent or cute photos and stories may one day come back to haunt their kids. This is unchartered territory for us, folks. Our parents didn’t have access to all the means of communication that we do now – if they wanted to gripe about us or complain to their friends, they had to pick up the phone or get together to drink and smoke while we played unattended in the creek out back!
We are the first generation to have social media at all, and the long term effects of what we’re posting remain to be seen for our kids.