8 November 2021

Childhood and Digital Privacy - Why we don’t share our son’s face on social media

If you scroll through my iPhone’s photo album you will see pictures of my son. Hundreds, nay thousands of them. Photos of him sleeping, photos of him playing, photos of him smiling and photos of him with his face smothered in avocado. Not a day has gone by since he’s been born when I haven’t taken a photo and a video of him. I am obsessed with him. I know all parents think their child is the prettiest but mine is objectively a cute little cherub. Only you wouldn’t have seen his face. Not many people have.

Even before he was born, my husband and I agreed that we will not share his face on social media. A bold and controversial choice given that we’re both obsessed with Twitter and Instagram (unhealthily so). We are both quite active on these apps, having shared the mundane and extraordinary parts of our lives for years. Trips we have taken, the day we eloped, our pregnancy journey. But when it comes to our son’s face, you will not see it anywhere. We have shared the occasional Instagram story with close friends showing his face but only because those disappear after 24 hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of my son and I am tempted to share his cute little face every day, but as more and more parents today we opt not to. And there is a number of reasons why.

The most obvious one is privacy. Privacy is so hard to come by in today’s digital world. I am part of the last generation that has grown up during a time when our many mistakes and embarrassments will only live on as stories told by close friends or photos in dusty albums shoved in our parent’s desks. My son by comparison will grow up in a world where every move of his, everything he does and says will most likely leave a digital footprint that he can’t erase. That is the simple reality and if I could prolong the time he has to appear in the digital domain, then I will.

I am also a bit iffy about exploiting his cute face for likes. Because let’s face it, that’s what social media is all about. Flaunting the best bits of your life and I just don’t feel I could do that to him. To share his childhood, our most precious and intimate moments with strangers. I don’t want random people to know who my son is and what he looks like. There are too many creeps out there.

And I don’t want to limit his possibilities in the future by having photos circulated around of him naked in the bath. Lately there have been so many photos for example of young children wearing slogan t-shirts with anti-vaxx messages or messages calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus and questioning basic science. This child doesn’t have the choice or understanding to disagree with their parents’ political statements and ideologies. How will they feel about being used as political statements on their parents’ Facebook pages? No, I refuse to do that to my kid.

I also don’t want my child to be bullied in the future. Kids are mean and I don’t want to give them ammunition. What if let’s say 10-12 years from now one of his class mates finds a photo go him showing his poop explosion as a newborn, or a photo in the bath showing his private parts. Whether your child cares about old photos and stories about them on social media, others may be able to use that information to make fun of, insult, and even bully your child as he or she grows older. What’s to stop a peer from sharing a photo that your child finds embarrassing with his or her own networks? What if that share catches on? It doesn’t take much for a photo to go from an inside family joke to gossip fodder for an entire high school. If you could prevent this from happening, why wouldn’t you?

Even though all of these points make sense to us, it’s still not been an easy thing to enforce. Every time I see his cute face I am full of mama bear pride and want to show the world, but I have to catch myself and remind myself of the reasons we keep our son’s life private. We also have to police our family’s behaviour and tell people that it is in fact not okay to share our child’s face on social media.

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