Now that Adeline is past the two year old mark, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what to share of her on the blog. I always knew I would cross this bridge eventually, but now I think we’re finally here, and it’s time to talk about it. I feel like by living in this new digital world of ours, everything has changed. There’s such a blur between what’s kept private vs. public and it’s just not the same as it was when we were growing up. Everything is free game, and our lives are being put on a silver platter for anyone and everyone to see at a moment’s notice. (Unless of course you keep all of your profiles private, which just isn’t realistic for bloggers and social media professionals.) Social media has become an extension of our bodies, and sharing, sharing, sharing feels like second nature. Our phones contain tens of thousands of photos of our littles, some of which maybe should or maybe should not be in the public eye.
I’m not complaining, I’m a self-proclaimed over-share-er and have never really thought twice about what I share until my daughter started talking and voicing her opinion. I get it, it’s so hard not to share all the things when you think you have the cutest baby on the planet. (#guilty) And for some reason now that she’s coming into her own as an individual, I feel like it’s time to start setting some boundaries and find ways to respect her privacy a little more.
I think there are a lot of points to highlight when we start to consider what “the line” is. There’s her privacy in general, consent, the permanency of the internet, and even just thinking about the future. I think there’s a big difference in sharing photos privately amongst friends and family, but the storyline changes a bit when you open things up to people you don’t even know. And that’s the case with a blog and public social media accounts! My blog audience is way larger than my immediate circle, and I think it’s important to recognize that. My content reaches the eyes of a whole host of people I don’t know, and will never know, and I will never know their intentions or values. Of course, that’s something you accept when you post things on the internet, but I think there are ways to be proactively safe, and smart. And respectful of what’s best for our littles.
When I think about privacy for Adeline, I think about what my own childhood was like. Gone are the days of albums and albums of grainy printed photos. If we wanted to use one for any reason, we’d either have to take it and “promise to put it back” or scan it in. (But let’s be real, the photos never made it back to the album, and if they did, they were never put back in the right place!) All of the photos from my childhood are safely kept at my parent’s house, and viewed only by family or close friends.
But photos these days are kept at the tips of our fingers, readily available at the drop of a hat. Baby photos, wedding photos, celebratory photos, school photos, college photos, embarrassing photos, flattering photos and unflattering photos. Kids these days have their entire lives on a device. Adeline’s entire life is literally on my Instagram account or on my blog. It’s all there! All you have to do is scroll back and maybe even search her hashtag. Talk about a dramatic contrast! But at what point is that not fair to her? She didn’t choose to have her life documented on social media, or on a blog, I did. At what point is it time to draw back and post less of her? I know I’ll never stop sharing, because I love sharing our photos, but I think the issue starts to become more of WHAT we share, and not that we’re sharing to begin with.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about at what point should I ask Adeline for her consent to post photos of her. She has no idea what it means right now, but in a year or two, she’ll be able to understand the question, “do you want other people to see this picture of you?” She already says, “no cheese!!” when she doesn’t want a picture taken of her, and says, “I see me!” when she wants to see a picture I’ve taken of her. Right now, she has no idea that her baby photos are all over the internet and social media, and I just keep wondering how she’ll feel about it when she’s a teenager. But then again, isn’t that just the age we live in now? Is that just going to be the norm? Everything I’ve ever shared has been shared with a joyful heart and out of innocent intentions, but like I mentioned earlier – you still have very little control over who views those photos. I have my Facebook pretty locked down, but my blog and Instagram are still public.
You also have to consider how permanent everything on the internet is. Nothing is ever really deleted, and all of that data is stored somewhere. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – all of it is so much more permanent than people think. Thankfully, I self host this blog and own it completely so if I really wanted to pull the plug on all of it, I could. But, that doesn’t mean someone out there hasn’t stolen my photos or content. Or even screenshot my photos. Adeline’s life has been meticulously documented on my blog, and Instagram, mostly for my own sake, a family diary of sorts. But again, it’s hard to make a blog private. And I don’t necessarily want to. I enjoy blogging about my family, and sharing photos of her, and it’s just a risk I accepted when I started. Being a blogger, that’s just what you do. You share your journey. I think there are a lot of positives too in sharing your family in a public way. With all the negativity and perversion in the media today, it’s refreshing to read about other families like your own, and shine a light on the good in our world and show the positive side of parenting.
When it all comes down to it, the future weighs heavily on my mind. What is the future of social media? Is it still going to be around when she’s in middle school and feels mortified by everything? What about when she’s 16 and starting to date? Or when she’s 18 and applying to college and recruiters are googling her name? Or when she’s 23 and fresh out of college trying to begin her career? How “searchable” is her name going to be? Is she going to feel like her mom ruined her life by blasting photos of her all over the internet and social media? Or is it going to be second nature to everyone? Are school projects going to be, “do a report on 3 of your favorite photos from your parent’s Instagram feed.”
It’s hard to find a balance between what’s ok to share, and what’s not, and I think a lot of it is just what you feel comfortable with. I really believe the long and short of it is this – be smart, be respectful, and think before you post. Remember that your kids are humans too, and won’t be squishy little babies forever. There’s a big difference in sharing sweet little baby photos, and sharing embarrassing photos as they get older. And, there’s also a big difference in sharing photos simply to make a buck off your cute family, and sharing photos because you genuinely just want to share a cute moment.
I’ve set some hard rules for our family regarding how we choose what to post, and I think they’re worth noting. It’s taken me a while to finish this post, because it’s really made me think and do some research. I never want my kids to think I’m invading their privacy, but I feel like we live in a digital world, and being able to adjust and adapt in a safe way, is ultimately what we have to do.
Before posting a photo, whether it be on a blog or social media, ask yourself these questions –
- “Would my child be embarrassed if they saw this later?”
- “Would my child be embarrassed if a future boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, spouse, employer saw this later?”
- “Does this photo or caption (or blog post!) speak negatively of my child?”
- “Is this photo being posted in exchange for money? Am I monetizing my child?”
- “Is this photo being posted with the sole intention of gaining a lot of likes?”
- “Is my child clothed? Are they wearing something that they would be okay with seeing themselves in later?”
Hard “No’s –
- Naked photos. Just no. Would you want your naked baby or naked toddler photos to be all over your mom’s social media?
- Photos or content that speaks negatively or complain-y about my child. I would never want my child to look back at my posts and think that I was upset with them, annoyed with them, or complaining about them out in the open.
- Photos or content that reveal personal details that are nobody’s business. i.e. poop, sickness, private part stories, tantrums or fits that should be kept private, etc.
- Potty photos. Please no. How humiliated would you be if your future boss saw a picture of you going peepee on the potty for the first time?
If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of “strangers” or “followers you don’t know” viewing your photos, thankfully we have the option to make our social media accounts private. I know a lot of moms who have public business accounts and more private family-oriented personal accounts. Remember that YOU are in control of the content you share. YOU have the final say of whether or not to post a photo, and if it makes you think twice, don’t post it.
And when you’re blogging, if you’re a blogger, remember that your photos, and words, could last a lifetime and may come back to bite you! Write everything as if your kids were able to read it right now, and I think you’ll be in a good place. At least that’s how I approach it. “If Adeline were to read this post right now, would she want me to take it down, or would she be ok with it?” I hope when Adeline is older, and she’s reading back through my blog (if it even still exists!) I hope she’ll be proud of her mom for documenting her childhood, and enjoy getting an inside look at what it was like to raise her.
What is your stance on what you share online? If you’re a blogger, where do you draw your line? Do you share things online, yes or no? Do you share your children’s photos on social media?
I’m sure there are lots of varying opinions on this topic, so please be kind to one another.