I, like most new parents, think my child is just the absolute cutest thing in the world. This adorable baby could be a model, like you see on cereal boxes and diaper packages! Yet, I keep most of my photos almost completely private of my son, and there’s almost nothing outside of my personal Facebook and Instagram profiles to show for how ridiculously cute my baby is.
I’ve done this for a multitude of reasons, though not even the least of these could’ve prepared me for the story that went viral about digital kidnapping from Dr. Phil. But we will get into that a bit later.
When I was pregnant, my husband and I had a few conversations about consciously sharing our child’s life on the internet, and how I had quite a few apprehensions about the whole bit already.
My husband thought it might be nice to start a facebook profile for our son, so that we could share with family and he could have something to look back at when he was older. There is no truer millennial sentiment than this: to share, share, and share some more. Share an entire life if you will.
For me, I told my husband this was problematic in that 1) I have a strong belief in my child’s self agency, his right to life, and his right to privacy in that life. I don’t think it’s fair to make such a decision, to share his entire life with others, before he can consent to such a thing and 2) in the world we live in today, it’s already far too easy for some sick people to gain access to children, and I do not want to open that Pandora’s box for mine.
I know that I cannot protect my son from everything, but if there’s something I see that can inflict real harm or danger to him, then it is my duty to do whatever I can to protect him from it. For me, an invasion of his privacy, to make it seem as if his life may not be his own, is a thing I would like to avoid.
For him to have something to look back at in his childhood? We will have to do as they did back in my day, before the age of the internet and social media: have family photo albums.
This is a really millennial thing too, though. I don’t know if any generation nostalgias as hard as we millennials do, to be honest. But if it was good enough for me to grow up relatively happy and healthy? Certainly it can do just as much for my children.
I may just be a paranoid tiger mom, but, all things considered, I don’t think I turned out all that worse for the wear from growing up with one of these. Sure, it was a pain in the ass at times, but as I look back now, I see it for what it’s worth: a whole hell of a lot actually.
I’m not judging or condemning moms who do choose to share pictures of their children on the web, and if they are comfortable doing that, I do encourage them to continue at will in the safest manner they find possible. The internet can be a crappy place at times, a few photos of happy, healthy children, and parents who love them, is hardly a bad thing.
For my family, and specifically my son, though? It breeches a threshold of comfort for me, personally.
I don’t keep my son completely off the web, mostly just in situations when I don’t feel privacy settings are stringent enough, but still I have had the occasional family member complain about not seeing the little guy enough, or about how he’s changed so much from the last picture they saw of him, but it’s a principle I don’t wish to compromise.
Per my personal beliefs about my son’s self agency, I cannot compromise this for his own sake.
When I do share photos of my son, I take a number of basic precautions that I think most parents can and should: 1) know my audience – I have a small friends list, and I know just about everyone who is going to be looking at my child 2) never post to sites or places where my privacy settings are compromised 3) never post specifics like scheduling and addresses
Maybe I’m starting to sound really paranoid or crazy, but with the internet we’ve grasped the ability to become far more aware of what could happen when we don’t take basic precautions. And even with these in place, there are no guarantees, though the risk factor does go down substantially.
I feel horrible for the woman whose family was digitally kidnapped, but she knowingly posted pictures of her children in a public forum where there was no vetting process for members, and more than likely she did not apply the best privacy settings to her profiles to keep her children’s photos and lives private.
I certainly never want to blame the victims here, but there are a number of individuals in the world that can cause harm to you or your loved ones if allowed, and there are precautions worth being taken to avoid this. I don’t think we should sacrifice our way of life to accommodate such people, but I think that Ocean liners and commercial fishing boats are equipped with life jackets and rafts for good reason.
The internet, like the Oceans, can be a wonderful, beautiful, and majestic thing. But also like the Oceans, it is rife with danger in its depths, and can act in ways we do not expect. When it comes to how our children interact with it, it’s not wrong to prepare ourselves for the worst whilst hoping for the best in whatever measures we deem most appropriate.
I hope that with this post, I will have reassured some millennial parents about their decisions to keep their children’s lives private, or raised some awareness about the need for cyber security when it comes to these kids’ lives.