M y twin preschoolers are all over the internet. I genuinely delight in capturing and sharing every adorable little moment of their lives. Snapping photos without abandon, I relish in every like, thumbs-up, or share that each photo receives. From Instagram to Facebook, their tiny little faces – along with embarrassing anecdotes about potty training (or the lack thereof) – have been irrevocably immortalized on the World Wide Web for all to see.
I recently read an article on Slate.com written by a woman named Amy Webb. Mrs. Webb happens to be on the opposite end of the sharing spectrum. In her article, she shuns over-sharers like myself and seemingly admonishes anyone who could be so “reckless” with their children’s identities.
Amy made the executive decision prior to her daughter being born, that she would take control of her little girl’s digital footprint from the beginning. Her and her husband researched their child’s name, making sure there was no negative content associated with it. Then Amy created an email account and social media accounts in her unborn daughter’s name; and once Amy and her husband deem their daughter “mature enough”, they plan on handing her the passwords to her accounts, giving her the opportunity to begin “cashing in on parts of her digital identity”.
Amy and her husband did a few other things to protect their child’s identity. Their primary concerns were that the advances in data mining and facial recognition technology will ultimately mean that the digital footprints that we create for our children today could hurt their chances of being admitted to college or even affect employment prospects in the future. I personally believe that this is a bit of a reach, but I encourage you to read the piece. It may inspire you. It may scare the crap out of you; but I encourage you to educate yourselves and form your own opinions.
Are Amy and her husband smart in choosing to take steps to “protect” their daughter? Sure. Does it make me wrong or irresponsible for not doing the same? Absolutely not.
I won’t deny the fact that social media can be problematic; but Amy’s approach seems like a bit of an overreaction if not downright obsessive. She went on to end her article by basically reprimanding her friends for sharing pictures of their children online – quite pretentious if you ask me. The beauty in being a parent is having the ability to decide for yourself how you’re going to go about parenting.
My husband and I have made the decision to publicly display photos that involve our parenting journey because we take great joy in cultivating a community where we can collectively share in our children’s failures and successes. Every comment that I receive on my blog or Facebook fan page from a parent telling me of how relieved they are that they’re “not the only one” only reaffirms for me that I’m creating a meaningful dialogue about life and parenting that actually helps people. Parenting is hard. Knowing that you have a supportive community of like-minded individuals that are only a keyboard click away is an often underutilized tool given this social media age that we live in.
Outside of the cathartic aspect, blogging, and sharing my children with the world is something that I personally deem necessary. Positive depictions of African American families and children within social media come few and far between in today’s society. In a previous article, I wrote at length on how portrayals of families like mine are needed in my community; and I stand by that strongly. Telling me that I’m careless for sharing my children – to me – is a careless statement in and of itself.
Contrary to what Amy, and people like Amy, believe, I respect my children, their lives, and their privacy. I do not publicly share photos of them that contain our address or divulgences of our location. I‘m also quite adamant about not sharing photos of my children partially nude or in the tub – no matter how cute the image may be. (Diaper photos don’t count as I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t appreciate an adorable diaper clad baby.)
If there are days when my children aren’t receptive to being filmed or photographed, I do not push them. For those of you who may follow me regularly, you may have noticed that there are times where I may photograph one of my children more than the other. That’s usually because the child who is absent may have had a week where they weren’t feeling particularly social. I respect that and leave them out of publications accordingly. The next week without fail, that same child is clamoring to be in front of my camera lens.
I blog and post to social media channels as responsibly as I can; and when and if the day comes when my children are tired of being “exploited” by their dear mother and are wary of having their personal lives plastered across the internet for all to see, I will handle it with grace, respect their wishes, and concentrate my efforts elsewhere – just like any good parent would.
How do you feel about sharing photos of your kids online? Are you strongly against it? Are you apathetic? Let me see your thoughts in the comments.
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