Since moving here, I’ve joined an online English-Speaking Parents in Switzerland group that hosts some interesting discussions. Most stuff is child-related, obviously, but child-related is life-related after all.
There was a recent thread about posting pictures of your children online, kicked off by someone saying a childless friend had posted pictures of her kids online without permission, which generated much food for thought for me. I have a few different, conflicting issues with posting pics of my kids (and others posting, and posting pics of other’s kids) online. And because I had unexpectedly lots to say on the matter, I decided to turn it into a blog post.
Reasons to be cautious about posting pictures of children online:
1. Consent – the children have no say in it.
2. Safety – there’s a lot of whacky types online. I hate to check into paedo paranoia, but there are some sickos out there. I don’t know what they look for. Shudder to think. So you want to be careful. That said, however, I would also suggest that this falls into the “critical mass” category of safety. Eg: in UK you probably wouldn’t let your kids walk to school cos no one else does and so if the unthinkable were to happen, your one child walking alone would be an obvious target. Here in Switzerland, mostly all kids walk to school and there’s safety in numbers. Pics of kids online has reached critical mass IMO so you’d be unlucky (as opposed to shame on you) if something dodgy happened.
3. Privacy – a bit like consent, we grew up with pretty much just our close friends and family seeing a few select photos of us. How weird will it be for our kids and their friends to go online and see their whole lives documented? However, I’m a bit torn here because with family and friends across the world, Facebook is an excellent way to share pics and info. However, I do have privacy settings on photos so they’re only seen by people I actually know well, eg: friends I’d invite to my house for cake.
4. Cyber bullying and identify theft are real and do happen. If I was an ID thief I reckon a great source would be all the “Belinda Mary Reynolds born 18.11.2013* mum and bub doing well” announcements! I have no idea if my fears are valid and maybe I’m too paranoid. This is not just an online issue. When I edited my local NCT magazine in London, I would only put the month but not the actual date for birth announcements. Again, I have no idea if this was warranted, but it seemed better to err on the side of caution. Cyber bullying is more of an issue for tweens and teens where I think the 3. Privacy issues are relevant, plus see 6. Setting an Example, below.
5. Ownership – FB might own the crunched down version of pics on its site but if you hold the original, it’s still yours too, right? Is this a statutory rights thing? I’m not a lawyer… Also there’d be an uproar and lawsuits if people’s pics did start appearing in ads or unsolicited places so I don’t think one should panic. Then again, FB is a free service which means as users we don’t really have much power or any binding contract with the company re: our data, so that’s something to consider. Come to think of it, so is this blog… maybe I should start paying a bit of money to (hopefully) ensure I own some rights to my content here!
6. Setting an example – our kids are going to grow up in a very different world than we did in terms of social media and “connectedness”. I’d like to think that my online behaviour sets a reasonable example for what is appropriate for them to do. Of course, they will end up doing whatever the f&ck they want and/or what their silly friends are doing anyway – for a while… but eventually I’d hope they’d be sensible. I guess it’s a bit like drug taking. I hope they’d talk to me about the consequences and would take my experience (ahem) and advice on board. At least a little bit!
In conclusion, I don’t know what is right. I try to limit the amount of pics I put in the public domain and I have a bunch of privacy settings on my Facebook as I mentioned above. I may be overly cautious but I see this as a better safe than sorry situation. For the record, I should also state that all this is just my opinion. I don’t write this to preach to anyone or suggest you should do what I do. Then again, when I read stories like this one, I wonder if perhaps I am not careful enough! And then there’s this father making arty pics of his naked daughter. Hmm. What do you think?
*a made-up name and date – any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.