I just wanted to get some parents in the right frame of mind before reading this post. Which is kind of interesting because you would think I would be a lot gentler to the people whose trust I need in order for my organization to be successful.
Did you know we also have our own social media app?
Seriously though, you don’t have to stop posting pictures of your kids altogether but I wanted us to maybe have a bit of a discussion about some of the implications of that activity. Particularly for the safety of your kids.
I just noticed this year the uptick of parents posting pictures of their kids before their first day of school. I don’t know if you parents feel it, or know that you’re feeling it, but I get how huge this is for you. Or at least I think I do. I’m a stepdad and my youngest is old enough to vote.
But from the moment they come home from the hospital it seems that children steadily start moving away from you. First, crawling from mom to dad. Then he’s walking to the table. Then Josie can run to meet grandma and grandpa at the door. THEN it’s the first day of school. Graduation. College, perhaps. Then they’ve moved away…
You and your child, your first 18 to 22 years or so, in one paragraph.
That would be heartbreaking. I get that. All that work and the love and the strife, you want to hold on to every last moment. You want to share every last moment because you are a proud parent and DAMN IT IF ANYONE IS GOING TO TELL YOU ANY DIFFERENT!
So no, I do NOT want you to just stop posting pics of your kids. For some of you – cousins in particular – your kids are the only ones I’ve got! So I want us to have a little bit of a negotiation about the pictures themselves.
Don’t Let Your Memories be Used as Bait
Yes, I am going there.
I was once censured severely by my father for a picture I posted of him. It wasn’t that he was in the picture or what he was doing in that picture but what else was in the picture. We don’t often realize the details we give away for free. Nor do we realize who takes advantage of them.
Take the picture, for instance, of your 8-year-old in his new back to school outfit and his new backpack, standing at the front door ready to get his learn on. There’s the cat at his feet, some shoes in a pile (cuz, really, you got better things to do), and a picture of the family on the wall. He’s really proud of his Ironman/Batman/Pokemon/My Little Pony backpack. I don’t know how far I need to go into my explanation but I suspect that you already know where I am going. This picture is loaded with tidbits of information that a child predator can use to gain your child’s trust.
For those of you who have had babies since the dawn of the social media era, you will show pictures to anyone who will look. And you SHOULD. Absolutely…
This is already the beginning of a potentially treacherous game here. Those baby pics can be saved. Same as when little Corinne is 2 and she is picking out her own outfit for fun. Then she’s 5 and off to kindergarten. Here Corinne is 10 and walking the dog. These all get saved and again we are looking at handing an ENTIRE NARRATIVE to a child predator to use in order to get just into grabbing distance of your child.
Or when your daughter is 20 and she goes on a trip to Europe or even the other side of Canada, Mexico, Bangor, Maine… WHEREVER. Then she gets approached by someone luring girls into sex trafficking.
Sorry. No, I am sorry.
I know, you only post pics of your kids on Facebook and the only people who can see your pictures are your friends and family. You edited all your privacy settings, you can’t be found at all on Facebook – let alone Google – unless you actually reach out to someone and friend them.
And that’s just Facebook. How many of you mothers are on Instagram? How many of you are on Instagram to share pictures of your family? Particularly your kids. How many followers do you have? Some IG moms I follow have over 1,000 followers! 1,000 followers! Let’s think about that for a moment. Thank goodness for the graces of private accounts but not all of you have private accounts. And for those of you with private accounts and over 1,000 followers: “How do you know who all those people are?”
So What Can We Do?
Okay, now that I have hopefully put you in a state where you are seriously questioning the whole practice – and I haven’t even started on your child’s own activity on Facebook – let’s look at some things we can do to keep your kids safe while they can still grace the newsfeeds of their aunts and uncles. These are actually quite simple, when you think of it.
- TURN OFF LOCATION SERVICES FOR PHOTOS (always a good start);
- Take your pictures in a park – with only trees in the background;
- Know photography? Use a wide depth of field. That means blur out the background. That also makes for STUNNING portraits!
- Leave out some details: love the new back to school outfit, leave out the backpack;
- No pictures of pictures, this seems silly but we are trying to prevent people from connecting dots. Like the picture of a late grandmother or something;
- Limit how many pictures people post of your kids and limit yours from being shared;
Don’t ever take pictures of your children with the family petNO! I’m not that insensitive! However, how would y’all feel about not letting anyone know the dog or cat’s name? The exception to this is if you happen to be a breeder of prize Cane Corso Italian mastiffs. Nothing spells deterrent like a pic of your five-year-old with a few 120lbs. hunting dogs. Don’t bet the farm on it, but it can’t hurt;
- Familiarize yourself with privacy functions and when they change.
Get Your Kid’s Permission
This portion has to do with your child’s right to privacy. He or she will probably turn 13 and start posting tons of pics of his or her friends all the time but that is a choice he or she gets to make. If it is getting increasingly hard to find out how to remove past content – including images – from social media platforms, it might land you in hot water if some of those pictures get dug up by someone who uses them against your child or teen for other purposes. Maybe it’s a cute pic of your 3-year-old boy who put on his sister’s princess dress. It’s fun, and cute, and it’s absolutely harmless. Until bullies get a hold of it four years later and post it all over school. This is totally irrespective of whether or not your son enjoys – or feels most comfortable – in dresses. This part of his life is now known to his world before he even gets to decide if he wants people to know.
Then there are the employers. Increasingly, larger companies are making more laboured cases of how they want to see everything about you before hiring you. They will pay good money to find out. So what if something you posted about your child ends up costing her her job later in life? It seems like a stretch but a couple years ago you would not have taken very serious the idea of needing to get screened for your predisposition to cancer before being accepted for life insurance. Technology advances at almost a weekly rate and we have got to stay apprised of it.
That includes when taking pictures of our kids.
This one is hard, I realize that. Especially when it’s so easy to take beautiful pictures of your beautiful kids and show them to the world. It’s too easy to forget that something so small and innocent can have such a lasting impact.
And that goes doubly for parents who are really quite close with their teenagers. Don’t shoot your kid in the foot by posting pics of him or her doing tequila shots. Just don’t.
Sigh… Social media, and right to use it, can get so contentious. That’s why I have chosen the course of this post very carefully. I didn’t want the focus to be so much about whether parents use it to document every stage of their children’s development but how they do it and under what circumstances. I am also not ignorant to the fact that our precious civilization has woven itself tightly into the neighbourhood where we lock up our children and let the villains run free.
This is a lot like the discussion about violence against women. When a woman is assaulted at a frat party or while jogging in the early morning, some still fancy saying “Well she should not have been drunk,” or “She should not have been at the frat party,” or “What was she doing jogging? By herself? In the early morning?”
The work should be done to stop the perpetrator from perpetrating. A woman should be able to attend college – and college parties – without fear of assault and a parent should be able to share all kinds of pictures of his kids without fear that someone will use those pictures to abduct them or worse. Yet, for the nonce, at least as far as our kids are concerned, we need to take precautions. If for no other reason than to prevent any complications later in life. It may seem like a bit extra work, but your little effort beforehand just might make your streets a lot safer your kids when they go for a bike ride.