How do you feel when you see photos of babies and young children on social media? Does it make you smile, or do you feel slightly uncomfortable? Being a mother of three children with a huge passion for the digital world and social media, these are questions I’ve asked myself on numerous occasions. And when it comes to my own children, the realisation that I have reached a point of no return in terms of my kids’ online presence wasn’t an easy one to face.
For the past ten years, my children have all been a huge part of my social media journey. In a way, their lives and their little faces have contributed to what I can refer to today as my ‘life online’, i.e. everything I’ve ever projected of myself on my various platforms, this image of a young mother navigating life, motherhood, career and marriage.
This online journey, as a blogger, wannabe ‘Youtube mum’ and a social media aficionado, has undeniably included my children, pretty much from the moment they were born.
This was always intentional on my part, and overtime became a real habit. We live in a world in which people are encouraged to share, for all the benefits this may have – sharing experiences, updates about ourselves, our family lives… and ultimately I’ve never sought to hide my children from anyone in real life. But I’m also aware that I don’t own the photos I post. Once they’re published, the Internet owns them. I’m aware of how vulnerable children are and how hostile the Internet can be. And whilst I’ve considered the dangers, Internet safety, the possibility that exposing children online can lead to all sorts of misfortunes – from babies being turned into memes, to the more extreme cases e.g. children’s personal information being used for fraud… as bizarre as it may sound, I can’t say I’ve ever gone into the panic mode a lot of parents seem to go into. It’s a perfectly rational fear, just not one I’ve chosen to cultivate.
On the other hand, this has made me think: If I ever sensed any real danger or threat to my children in real life, I’m that mum that would stop at nothing to protect her kids. So why doesn’t this translate in my online activities? Between the temptation to share my kids’ lives with everyone – their achievements, their hobbies, their personalities, important milestones… and the necessity to keep some of our precious memories sacred, just where do I find the balance?
Of course these things play on my mind – I’ve considered at length the idea that my children may, as they become young adults, resent me for exposing so much of themselves at an age where they couldn’t have consented.
But it goes without saying, I have set some boundaries, which for me have always been obvious – for example, never would I film or publish naked photos of my children. Neither would I post photos of my children in uncomfortable or inappropriate situations – on the potty, throwing a tantrum, etc. I consider these instances to be moments for me to parent and attend to my children’s needs rather than being fixated on getting the perfect shot. I’m also trying to be more intentional with the information I share online. Recently, I found myself deleting or editing posts that simply revealed too much.
But I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, in terms of taking these precautions. If I’m honest I’m even a bit lazy about it. Even when I tell people that ‘my Facebook is private anyway’, I usually omit the fact that my Instagram profile isn’t, which let’s face it, would make my whole argument redundant, bearing in mind I post photos of the kids on there too.
And so when I wrote this post about how much or how little of my pregnancy I felt comfortable sharing online, I knew my thoughts would eventually expand to the topic of keeping children’s identities hidden from the Internet.
Sadly this isn’t an opportunity for me to offer advice (and I wish it had been), as I’m still very much in reflective mode on this one, and navigating the do’s and don’ts. The truth is, I’m still not totally convinced that the cons outweigh the pro’s – but as with all things, I’m keeping an open mind. This post is more of an invitation to have an open and honest discussion about it. How do you feel about sharing photos of your children online? What boundaries have you set for yourself? Feel free to share your thoughts with me, I’d love to know what you think.