{From the Vault} Where do you draw the line?

As I continue the ‘From the Vault’ series (where I FINALLY publish long forgotten blog post drafts), I bring to you a post I wrote in January 2014. I don’t think I had the courage to hit publish on this one because I felt that it could be perceived as shaming other parents who do things differently to me. Honestly, it was not coming from a place of judgement. I just wanted to explain why I have rarely made my son’s face public and how I’ve personally chosen to go about things. The thing is, we’re all really still exploring what it means to have a social media/blogging ‘digital footprint’ and what it means for our children. There are many ways to go about sharing our lives.

Whatever you are comfortable with is your own line in the sand, and I think a majority of parents who post photos of their children publicly have thought deeply about what is in their best interests. We’re all just doing what we hope works best for us.

I know my stance on the issue isn’t the most locked down or perfectly protected system, nor is it the most relaxed. I just hope I’ve hit the right balance for my family and my son.  

As a blogger and as a parent who is nuts for uses social media, I am always asking myself – where should I draw the line when it comes to the way I treat/use my child’s online identity? That sounds icky just to type it – “my child’s online identity”. Whether I like it or not, he has one and he has had one almost since birth. With the sharing of that first hospital photo and birth announcement, it began! For some, it begins before their child is born – ultrasound photos of a 13 week foetus!

It’s a sign of the times. I could be really hardcore about it and leave no digital footprint, no evidence of my son’s existence, because let’s face it, he cannot consent to each image or anecdote that is out there in the world. But I’m not. And I am far from being alone. I can only draw my imaginary (but nonetheless important) line in the sand. Everyone’s line is a little different from another person’s, but I think most of us would agree there needs to be one.

There are so many reasons for this and I think they boil down to these:

  • Your child’s future embarrassment
  • A need to protect your child from predators and those who do not have good intentions
  • To teach your child by example

OK, so the ’embarrassment’ factor is a tough one to draw a line on. Kids are cute and unintentionally funny. They will wear funny things, say funny things and do funny things almost from day 1. I know I’m guilty of privately posting photos of my son wearing funny costumes – I’ve loved every second of it! What a laugh! However, right now he’s only 1 and I hope that by the time he has an awareness of what’s really going on from an older person’s perspective that he will just see it as mum being a bit embarrassing and at least they’re just cute baby photos (ie not him humiliating himself as a tween or older).

I blog about my life with the Little Mister. I do humourous (at least I hope they are) posts on my blog’s Facebook page about his experiences. However, there is a lot that I do not publish. I won’t publicly post photos that reveal his face in intimate detail (unless it is an image that has already been made public in other approved and legitimate ways – even then I feel wary), I won’t publicly post photos of him naked or even just in a nappy. I won’t use his real name. Most of what I post about is the stuff that most toddlers and babies do at a given age. He’s very special and unique to me, but let’s face it – I’m describing thousands upon thousands of toddlers when I share my stories. In a way, I feel like I am portraying my own experiences moreso than his. It’s about how he makes me reflect on my own life and how much I am changing and growing through being a parent. At least that’s my intention. As he grows older, I will have to inspect my line in the sand again – the goal posts will no doubt keep moving.

When it comes to social media, my personal Facebook page is as private as I can make it. I regularly check that Facebook hasn’t done the dirty on me with alterations to the privacy settings and again, I do not post naked photos (bath photos etc) and rarely any videos of the Little Mister. Tagging can be a risk (it can expose your photographs to each and every friend of the friends you’ve tagged), but I try to make informed choices. It’s not a perfect world, but I do my best. No-one has the right to see my son’s naked body splashed all over the internet. No matter how perfect and innocent and little and cute he is to me right now. You don’t know who your friend of a friend of a friend is. You don’t know who might access these photos or manipulate and save them. I’m sure I’m not exactly as hard to track down as a person in witness protection (in fact I know I’m not) but I like to think I’ve made my boundaries clear.

Today I was accosted at the local shopping centre by a baby photography company trying to drum up business, by offering the allure of a chance to go in the draw for your child to win you $5000 in a national cutest baby competition. This means that if you pay the small fee to get your child’s photo taken, some stranger you’ve never met will look at these photographs and decide if your child is the cutest or not. I know $5000 is a lot of money and it could buy your child so much stuff, but I don’t enter these things (online or in person). I do not want to make money off of my child’s looks. I do not need some anonymous person to tell me if my kid is cute or not. Dammit, I know he is the cutest in the world because he’s mine and I am incredibly biased and I don’t care if anyone else thinks so or not as long as I raise him to be a good human!!

Some of these photo competitions offer discounts on baby products, huge educational scholarships etc. They sound like they’re wonderful (because the prize can ultimately benefit your child), but basically these brands/companies are saying that my child can get possible opportunities for a better education (by way of financial means) if he LOOKS cute enough.

It just feels like the wrong message? I do not begrudge others for doing this – again, we all have different lines in the sand – but for me, personally, it doesn’t feel right. I share photographs with friends and loved ones, because they care about our family and I do it (relatively) privately with no intentions of world wide distribution for marketing purposes!

Does my blog following/interest suffer because I do not post lots of fun, personal photographs that would let you into my world/family on a much more visual level? Probably. That’s OK with me. That is my line in the sand.

I cannot guarantee that I will feel the same forever or that I might not make exceptions in the future (don’t want to be a big hypocrite), but I do guarantee that I will always consider the best interests of my child’s online (and therefore public) identity first and foremost. It would take a shitload of good reasons lot for me to change my mind.

How do you feel about the online presence of your child/children?

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