Everyone from Beyonce to billionaires shares pictures of their kids online. Is that a bad thing?
Thanks to social media, you don’t have to be a celebrity with a clothing line named after your kid, or a writer who documents his kids lives on a parenting blog, to have concerns about your children’s privacy.
We’ve all taken the occasional embarrassing photograph of our kids and debated with our spouse whether we should post it online. After all, the Internet lives forever, and what happens when that kid is a teenager and the picture of him in the bath turns up on Google?
The New York Times just ran a piece about Beyoncé’s new clothing line, partially named after her daughter, which features the four-year-old Blue Ivy in its commercials. The author wonders if sacrificing our kids’ privacy for profits or praise or even simply pride is detrimental to their futures, and even potentially dangerous.
From the article, “there is still something disconcerting about seeing celebrities enlist their children in service of their brands, even if there is some ancillary political value… And yet many parents on social media are doing much the same thing, albeit in less conspicuous fashion, and usually with a goal of praise, not profits.”
As a dad who writes a parenting blog (Dad and Buried, check it out!), regularly shares pictures of my sons online, and regularly mocks my kids on Twitter and Facebook, I get it. I wrestle with these questions too. At the same time, my eldest son is five, he’s still barely a person (most days, he’s more like a wild animal); he can’t do anything by himself, either because of a lack of ability and knowledge or a lack of authority and independence. Even if you grant him some measure of autonomy, I still own the child. So tough cookies, kid!
My wife and I created him, he’s our property. If I want to parade him on my blog in order to get some extra traffic and the occasional freelance gig, that’s my call. I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps, trying to make a dollar and a cent in this business, using everything at my disposal. He can sue me when he’s older. To quote one of my wife’s favorite movies, we’re adults, this is our time! He’ll have his time later on, when he’s exploiting his kids in the virtual reality landscape of our future.
Obviously, I kid – mostly. In the age of social media, it’s not always easy to walk the line between crass exploitation and honest expression, especially when it comes to your children, and especially in an environment in which information can put them at risk. Maybe I’m naive, but aside from being annoying with our overshares, I think most of us have the risks in mind. We all toe that line every day, and I’m not sure there’s much we can do but use our best judgment.
I can’t say I’m not conflicted about it. I use nicknames for my kids on my blog, and write under something of a pseudonym myself. I’m not a celebrity, I have no profile to speak of, no clothing line to promote. But I write about my life, and my kids are my life. It’s unavoidable, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to explain it to them when they’re older. So we’ll be okay. At least, as okay as anyone with kids ever is!
That said, we’d be a lot more okay if we had Beyoncé ‘s money, so I’ll be right back, I need to film my kid doing something stupid.