A question I get asked quite often is why we don’t share pictures of our girls online on any social media (with the exception being our private snapchats).
After our first was born, it was something I would get private messages about often and as she has grown, the question still arises, just less often. However with a move comes new friends and with new friends, the question eventually re-emerges.
I’ve wanted to write about this for awhile now but never seem to finish any of my drafts. Yes drafts. I’ve tried multiple times. I think a reason I’ve struggled with it, is because it’s such a personal decision and we didn’t make it for one reason or two… there was a plethora of reasons behind this decision. I often wondered, how I can adequately and concisely address them all.
It’s also a heated topic. I’ve gotten into discussions with people about it after they ask and have had them get really defensive with their decision to follow a different path than us. This topic in particular, seems to make people uneasy.
Curious friend: why don’t you post photos of your kid?
Me (this answer varies by how quickly I want to end the conversation): because I tend to be an over sharer and don’t want to overshare too much about my kids without their permission.
Curious friend: I don’t post that many pictures of our kid… What if your child gets upset that they don’t have any photos on social media when all their friends do… I have to share pictures because we don’t live close to our family… I want to keep a record of everything… and so on.
It’s never a topic I bring up. It’s usually asked after I become friends with someone online. If anyone scrolls my page they will notice an absence of my children (not anecdotes about them, but their faces and names are clearly not there) and so the question of why inevitably comes up at some point. It’s sort of like when someone notices that a vegan isn’t scooping up the chili or chicken wings at a potluck. People will usually ask why.
Sometimes people tell me how great they think it is and that they were thinking of doing the same thing when they have kids. Sometimes they explain why they’ve made a different choice than we have. Sometimes that explanation is on the slightly defensive side.
I’m writing this simply to explain why we have chosen what we have chosen. I am not saying anyone’s way is better or worse. I don’t think you’re a bad parent if you share photos of your kid online. Heck, would you even care if I did?
It’s easy for parents who opt to not share their kids online to be seen as if they believe they are holier than thou. I get that. I don’t judge anyone when it comes to this topic. I say you do you and whatever works for your family. Keeping our kids online identity private works for our family. I don’t think parents who share their kids online are doing anything wrong. I don’t think we are doing anything wrong. We are just doing what is right for us in this moment.
they have a right to their own online identity and privacy: The example of a conversation with a friend I shared earlier is true. I really am an oversharer on social media and everything I’ve shared has been my choice. I want our kids to be able to make that same choice with their own online identities. I want them to create it versus me creating it for them. I want them to narrate the story of their life the same way I narrate mine. I think their online identity is a way to express themselves in the future. I think it’s a way for them to tell the world who they are (if you have or know a teen right now you’ve probably noticed they have curated a particular image meticulously online. Check out a teens IG account if you need an example.) and I’m not comfortable putting my expectations on their expression. I know that sounds a little hippie mojo for some people (I’ve been told as much) but this is a really important reason for me. I don’t want to force social media on my kids. They have the right to make that decision for themselves. I want them to know they have autonomy over their lives, including their online life, and that I respect it.
we can’t control who has access: this one is very controversial when I say it in conversations. So I have learned not to say it anymore. But the truth of the matter is, once something is online, anyone can access the content. “But my facebook is set to private. Only my friends and family can see what I post.” Yes, but what about when your friends or family share a picture on their account. You’re picture went from being seen by your 300 friends to your friends 300 friends and so on. I don’t like the idea of personal intimate pictures being seen by strangers (and unless you’re friend list is literally only the handful of people you talk to often, it is filled with acquaintances. Maybe they were old high school friends but if you haven’t talked to them in 10 years, they may as well be strangers). Maybe that makes me seem paranoid. I’m okay with that.
memes, viral videos and pictures, and screenshots: I have been guilty of taking a screenshot of a picture of a kid I’ve seen online and sharing it with a friend because in the picture the kid was doing some cute or silly. I don’t have any malicious intent and usually delete them when I remember so I don’t have random pictures of unknown children on my phone. However, if I can take a screenshot of someones picture, so can anyone. This goes back to the point above, but you truly don’t know everyone who will access your photos and if they take a screenshot, who they will share it with and why. They could even just steal the photo to make a viral meme. Internet fame is pretty forever y’all.
online anonymity may be a prized thing in the future: Snapchat is one of the most popular social media sites among teenagers because they can share a moment, a photo, a silly video without the long term effects of posting something online. It seems like kids are pushing back on documenting every moment online and like having a little anonymity may be a good thing.
‘sharenting’: The final reason we don’t share our kids online is because I couldn’t rationalize why to in the first place. Half my family lives far away from us so sharing online seemed like the obvious and easy choice but we didn’t go that route. We use group chats to share with family far away. And video calls. So I had to ask myself why would I post pictures. Was it to get ‘likes’? Was it to construct a certain image of my family life? Would this construction and portrayal of our reality benefit my kids in the long run? In the end, I couldn’t come up with a compelling reason to share. So I opted out.
So there it is. Our 5 reasons for not sharing our kids identity online. I’ll share stories but there will not be a name or picture of their face attached to those stories. I extend this belief to all children in my life. In the past I only shared pictures of kids with given permission from the parent. However, I recently revised that. I won’t share photos of kids unless they and their parent tell me it’s okay.
I know I can’t control this to a T. There will, and has been in the past, times when someone takes a photo of my kids and takes for granted that everyone posts everything online and won’t even think to ask before posting it. I usually just ask that it be taken down and so far there hasn’t been any drama concerning this. People are usually pretty accommodating and respectful. If nothing else, if a picture winds up online, there won’t be a name to attach it to since their names are not even on social media (hence Baby Kola and Lil’ Kola). They will still be unsearchable. And I take a little comfort in that.
Once again, not sharing our kids online is a choice that works for our family. In this moment. In five years that may be a completely different story.
What do you all think about this? Do you share your kids online or not? Let me know in the comments below! I know it’s a touchy topic but it’s one worth discussing.