Remember back in the day when your parents would pull out the old photo album and show baby pictures to your boyfriend or girlfriend? Or here’s another gem, bringing your friends over, and they catch a glimpse of the family portrait; you and your brother in matching outfits. Classic.
What a privilege it was to grow up in a time when embarrassing childhood photos and videos were kept behind closed doors only to be shared with a select few. Not to mention that said photos were in your parents’ possession where no one could tag, share, or copy them without your consent.
Fast forward about 30-years and here we are raising our own children in a world where their entire childhood is documented. I cannot scroll through my Facebook timeline without being figuratively smacked in the face with dozens of pictures of children belonging to various friends, family and acquaintances. I’m guilty, believe me, my kids are proudly plastered all over my page too. While I get that we all love our children, and want to share that love with the world, I think we are missing an important component in the equation. The child.
When you post a picture of your child on social media do you ask them first? Perhaps your answer is yes, in which case I applaud your approach to parenting. Even if children are old enough to consent to their photos being shared on social media, do not have the maturity to consider how they will feel when they are older?
True story: A friend of mine posted an embarrassing picture of her 11-year-old daughter sleeping.
“Why would you post that Mom!? “That’s so embarrassing, all my friends will see that and tease me!”
My enraged friend’s daughter has a point. Who are we as parents to post pictures of them without their consent?
Before the trolls chime in, please understand that I am not judging parents who choose to post pictures of their children on social media. I get it. I have two beautiful children and am tempted to post their cute little faces all over the place 24/7. If I do that, how will they feel when they are 16, 18, 20, 30?
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t help myself sometimes, and I still go ahead and post the irresistible photos. I also take all the precautions: share with just friends and family, be careful about where I check in, prepare my defense for the picture when they are 16. The truth is even people I don’t intend to see these photos can still see these photos. Or photos I never posted, or intended anyone to see can be shared. I can put all the privacy settings I want on my account, but a family member takes a photo of my kid and tags me in it, game over.
I worry about the culture we are creating where our children have no voice in the decisions that could have a negative impact on their future. I worry for my friends and family who will eventually have teenagers that resent them for documenting their lives from the time they were babies until the time the child says ‘ENOUGH!’
Hopefully, someday there will be a social media technological ‘eraser’ created by the time these kids are old enough to think for themselves (your welcome software creators/engineers/developers…you can cut me in on that deal). A way to cut away the embarrassing photos from the social media accounts in a similar fashion we did as kids cutting or throwing away horrible images of ourselves.
This is uncharted territory for millions of people in our generation. We are raising the first generation of Facebook, of social media. What will we do? Imagine going on your first job interview and the employer has seen your baby pictures. Awkward. Or you upload that video on YouTube of your baby Sophia’s diaper blowout, she will just love that when she starts liking boys. This could be the reality for our children.
Perhaps I am making a mountain out of a molehill here, after all social media is supposed to be lighthearted fun, right? But isn’t it our job as parents to protect our children? If what we are doing now could cause emotional damage later, then is it worth it?
Tough call. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I need to make some calls about my idea on that social media eraser. I may need the cash for my kids’ therapy for ruining their lives by documenting them on social media.