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Is it wrong to put pictures of your kids on the internet?
Is it more wrong if they’re half – or fully – naked?

I’ve been thinking it over lately. When I took the above picture, and hesitated to share. When my friend had her daughter’s image stolen for a sinister Instagram role play account. When I read a shitload of rants on an anti-blogger forum, full of outrage at what some parents share online.

I haven’t got the answers to the above questions, of course. Generally with any contentious issue, I’ve learned it’s wisest to find somewhere comfy to perch on the fence. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been involved with a lot of truly vulnerable children in my old job, but I do find myself seeing erring slightly to the more relaxed point of view here; then again, perhaps I’m being swayed by my new occupation, too.

Kids absolutely, unequivocally have the right to privacy, and to not have anything compromising or humiliating shared online. As parents, it seems vital to consider carefully before we share anything – once shared, content and images can truly be out there for forever. Yet, on the other hand, it seems likely that Orla’s classmates in 2030 would have to holo-google pretty hard to come back to my archaic instagram feed for teasing-fodder. Especially as it doesn’t really get any worse than this.

Is there shame in a regular childhood, shared? Even as a self-concious teen, I had no concern sharing childhood snaps of me eating ice creams, riding bikes, dressing up – even splashing nudey in the bath. I still quite like sharing them, in fact! Look how cute I was!

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me, not orla! kind of blows my mind.

Perhaps a greater danger, and one most of us never consider, is the fact that a birth announcement post usually broadcasts a child’s name, date and often place of birth. In a world of data protection and identity fraud, there’s an argument to say that these most joyful and innocent of pictures could be the most likely to come back and sting a child in adult life.

The picture at the top of this post is from our weekend at The Welsh House. I love it for the same reason I love any photograph of Orla: for the piece of our story it represents, for the way my camera captures the tones of her skin in the afternoon light. We’re just out from the hot tub, and she’s still warm, her curls damp, refusing to get dressed. This photo fills me with love, and there’s nothing sinister or self-serving in my want to share that (aside from, perhaps, my pride that I grew such a beautiful child!)
Does the availability of this sort of image make paediphilia more of a problem, put more children at risk? Does an increase in availability of nude images make sex offenders more or less likely to act out in violent ways? I did attempt to research this a bit, but it seems there’s no real unified data on this at the moment, and I was nervous about digging too far.
Thinking laterally, while the idea of a stranger somewhere thinking vile thoughts about my own child is entirely heinous, it is unlikely to have any actual affect on our lives whatsoever. We’ll most likely never even know. I did read one comment suggesting kids would be traumatised when the police called to say their blogger mommy’s photo had been found on a paedophile’s computer, but this seems slightly hysterical: I doubt much police time is devoted to tracking down individuals from innocuous paddling pool photos, and suggesting that child sex offenders might amass a hoard of these images seems to ridiculously underestimate the true extent of what is actually available online.

Perhaps there is a small risk of these strangers becoming obsessed enough to track down a child in real life; it certainly seems possible that there could be a lone offender troubled enough to actually go to to these lengths.
But then, I think that’s best viewed like the threat of terrorism: we shouldn’t be afraid to live our daily lives in case a sick individual uses that as an opportunity to commit a crime. I’m a parent, and I work to keep my daughter safe all the time. If I’m doing my job properly then I hope I will never leave her in a position where she is vulnerable to dangerous crime, of any kind. To say parents sharing their children’s images are putting them at risk is to get dangerously close to victim blaming: we should be able to share simple happy moments from family life without living in fear of a tiny minority.
Or, as my friend Sheona more succinctly put it, “if people want to wank over my child’s bum then that’s something wrong with them, not me.

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I know there are some who will say, but why take the risk, however small? I’ve considered this a lot, and I think my answer right now is this: it takes a village. By which I mean, we aren’t supposed to be raising our kids in these disparate little bubbles of two-bedroom semis, with only cbeebies for company – we’re supposed to be clustered together, surrounded by other mothers and kids to make it all bearable and sharable and sane. Our society just isn’t built like that any more, but in the days when I was cooped up inside with a tiny baby Orla, the network of mums I met on Instagram were that village to me, and our shared spills and tears and questions made it all much more doable. We’re so often dismissive and sneering of the google generation’s urge to share online, but surely that ubiquity only proves that it’s a very human inclination; one that has, at it’s heart, a desire for social interaction. Social interaction and likes, that is ;).

Let’s go back to my (adorable) childhood photos a moment; there’s a snap somewhere of my sister and I, aged 4 and 6ish, in skimpy 2-piece bikinis. It is a holiday camp swimsuit competition. We’re each holding boards with our numbers, lined up beside other young girls.
All of us are pre-pubescent, the audience a crowd of unfiltered adults.
At this same holiday camp, parents would routinely leave their kids in their beds in the evenings and head out to the on-site bar. There was a giant chalkboard at the back, labelled ‘baby crying in chalet number‘, and the staff would update it to let parents know if their children were awake. A paedophiles dream, no? Like a selection box of vulnerability.
That wouldn’t happen now. We’ve come a long way in our appreciation of the risks and our understanding of safe parenting, and that’s a brilliant and important thing.

So I’m on the fence, albeit with my legs swinging a little more to the ‘maybe it’s ok to share’ side, right now. Perhaps it’s all those years of child protection training, but I don’t see the kids whose parents’ love overflows online as the biggest cause for concern.  In most cases, the worst abuse happens when nobody is looking, online or off, and for some reason those issues get far less of the limelight.

 I know from looking around that most parents err on the side of caution here. Are children more at risk today than in previous times? Do you share your kids photos online? I welcome your thoughts and any sensitive debate!

Some related reading:

the insta-retreat

17 Comments

  • Jenna michelle Pink

  • October 05, 2015

This is an interesting post and something I have thought about often. Before I started the blog I have now I had another blog where I posted more family related things. It was a lot more personal. I blogged for over a year on that blog before feeling increasingly uncomfortable with what I was sharing and wasn’t really sure what to do about it. I

I don’t think my concerns were to do with predators though more worries about my sons privacy. In the end I chose to delete my blog. I missed blogging so ended up starting a new blog focusing more on creativity instead of family life. There are pictures of my kids but it’s not the focal point and I’ve used nicknames for them. Right now I feel like my blogging identity is very jumbled.. I felt and still feel very torn on this issue. It’s such a tricky area. I guess you will never know how your kids will feel about anything you do as a parent.

🙂 lovely photos BTW.

  • Sara

  • September 30, 2015

I don’t have kids yet but this post pretty much sums up my feelings in the most eloquent and educated way. I laughed out loud at your friends comment, not because it’s ludicrous, but because she’s right! I think there are a lot of blurred lines when it comes to a child developing their self expression or discovering their world and then it all becoming suppressed by a parent’s “protection”. Don’t get me wrong, I think there needs to be some precautions but don’t we all need those? I was raised to be very aware, to make smart decisions, and think things through before acting. I am cautious person, but I look at the way some of my friends are “protecting” their kids and think, “poor kid”. I do think their are some blogs out there that overshare. I think the key is to find a balance between what is shared and what is private. I think your posts pertaining to Orla are just that. Your blog has that balance. Do I think some people out there overshare and should maybe reel it in a bit? Absolutely! I think this post makes very valid points and opens people up to what’s beyond their control and what may be a very extreme (even paranoid) way of thinking.

xx – Sara

  • Allie

  • September 25, 2015

I am so very irritated that people have problems with a sweet baby girl being a sweet baby girl and yet, they’re fine with Kim Kardashian baring it all for the camera. Perhaps there is a sort of stigma in their minds about protecting the innocent, and that’s why they object to children without tops or bottoms, but they have it all wrong, in my opinion. Children should be allowed to be children without any sort of negativity floating around in the air above them. There should be no hesitation when children think of their body – they should love it and be taught to love it. And that means not being ashamed of it or hiding it.
Thank you for this post! And the photos are adorable!

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Hi Marianne! Thanks for commenting all the way from Norway!
Personally, I think that people share less for the ‘likes’ and more just for the sense of connection and conversation that it brings – our kids are such a huge part of our world (or, our whole world, sometimes!) and to leave out the most important thing seems strange and false and artificial. To me it’s the same as going along to a toddler group where everyone talks about what their kid is doing now, shares a photo of them doing something cute, etc. Only, toddler groups are hellish and I don’t have to get dressed to go on the internet! 😉
You say it’s sharing with people we don’t know, but for me it’s sort of the opposite – I have a lot of instagram friends, who I absolutely DO know, from talking daily and sharing photos for the last two years. & when something lovely or funny or interesting happens, I want to share that with my online friends, in the same way any human wants to share those things with the people in their lives.
We’re all looking for community and interaction and someone to listen and to listen to, in the end, I think 🙂 xx

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Thanks for the comment Sarah – really interesting to get your perspective! I share your opinion that it’s probably riskier letting them out to play – I heard at the weekend about a parent who turned to speak to a market stall holder, and turned back to find a stranger leading her daughter away by the hand! Luckily she was able to intervene, but it is a reminder of how those sorts of crimes are (as well as being incredibly rare) most often a crime of opportunity, rather than elaborately planned in response to social media.
ANYTHING that reduces teenage teasing is a good call in my book – why are teenagers so awful to one another?! – so I can definitely see sense in that argument! It will be interesting to find out how the next few generations feel about all this sharing as they grow older, and how that changes the internet and the ways we all share.
Thanks again! S xx

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

I know right? I wonder if I could still fit into it…

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Thanks for reading, and for such an interesting comment, Natalie.
Yes, I certainly agree tat monetising a child’s image is a whole separate consideration, and it isn’t something I’m entirely comfortable with – mostly because I don’t think kids should have to ‘work’!I wonder if previous generations of parents asked themselves these questions in relation to child models or actors? I suppose many must have done.

In reality for me, I share very little of Orla’s life online. It’s easy to see what people share and assume that they’re putting their whole world online, when in fact for many it is just a small piece of their family puzzle – no matter how closely you followed me, you’d never know her surname, or her favourite food, or where she goes to daycare, or what she’s afraid of at night. I realise your comment probably wasn’t directly aimed at me, but it made me pause to consider this all the same. I imagine the same must be true of many.
I do honestly believe, as I said above, that most people are driven to share online because of the lack of real community in real life. Whenever I met up with other mums at toddler groups or postnatal support sessions, they were all doing the same, only verbally – pouring out their worries and funny stories and cute moments to everyone listening. I never found a group that worked for me in real life, but I found it online.

In the end we all have to find our own line, based on our kids, our lives and our core beliefs. It sounds like yours is drawn in a really sensible place 🙂 x

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Thanks Julia – though I’m sorry it made for uncomfortable reading! Perhaps in the future kids will do projects at school about their early childhood online footprint, and those with no pictures at all will feel embarrassed and unloved ;). I joke, of course, but there’s really no way to predict and stop all future embarrassment, anyway! Thanks for the lovely comment x

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Jane/Ann,
I can tell you feel strongly about this topic, not least because you came by and commented twice, agreeing with yourself under two different names from the same IP address. You really should be careful about your sharing settings.

I vet people carefully before inviting them to stay, because, as you have just proven, there’s a lot of odd people out there. They stay in a separate part of the house, with no access to our accommodation. They are never strangers by the time they visit.

Also, there is no evidence that child sex offenders use Instagram or the internet in general as a sort of ‘tinder for kids’, selecting their victim and then setting elaborate plans to visit them at home and abduct them. This is fundamentally failing to understand how sex attacks happen, and makes you sounds sensationalist and slightly hysterical. Every blogger with a private domain must provide their address when registering it, and this is searchable by anyone online. I’m sure you’d read all about these crimes often in the Daily Mail (I feel confident assuming you’re a regular reader) were it such a risk. As it happens, my url is registered to another address, so I’m actually more protected than most. The truth is, kids are more at risk of being snatched at random whilst playing in the park – say, in quiet Colwyn Bay, for example.

Furthermore, our house is not visible on google street view and even people in possession of our full address and postcode struggle to find our home – especially parcel delivery men, for some reason. However if you’d like to prove me wrong, feel free to use the photo of my house to scour every street in West Yorkshire in order to match it up and find my address. I look forward to hearing how you get on.

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Oh, thank you! Well written is possibly the best compliment 🙂
I can so sympathise with your concerns about this question from your daughter (as a child I once went through the family albums and confronted my parents about why my sister, their first born, was represented over 60% more! Kids do think about these things, for sure) but, as you say, the decision is out of your hands, and there is a genuine cause for carefullness in your case. I’m sure she’ll know how proud you are of her in a thousand different ways, though! Thank you for commenting – a really interesting perspective to consider xx

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

Ah yes, the playing outside issue! Ora’s still too little, but I do sometimes think about it. Would I have let her if we’d stayed in the city? I like to imagine yes, but it’s likely I’d have secretly GPS tagged her or similar at the same time. My Mum was v overprotective when I was younger and we were never allowed to walk home from primary school or leave our street, growing up. As a teen/adult it made me incredibly anxious, as I was facing situations like buying a bus ticket or getting lost for the very first time!
Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts Tracy! You’ve given me more to think about x

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

You just have such a way with words! This post did actually come from your head. I stole it while you slept x

  • Sara Tasker

  • September 21, 2015

She’ll be very pleased to hear that, Kelly! 😉 It’s so sad that some kids are made to feel their bodies are secret or shameful, during the one stage in life when we get to be totally body un-selfconcious. I can relate to the parents just trying to keep their kids safe, but it still seems all topsy turvy. Thanks for commenting x

  • Sheona

  • September 19, 2015

Haha, you included my comment! ? and Ally’s toddler bum! I feel famous!

As you know, I’m totally with you on this. I love this post because it’s like it comes from my head! x

  • Tracy

  • September 19, 2015

I totally agree with you to. Too many of us (not myself) have turned into these hysterical media listeners and followers who think that everyone is a potential pedophile or rapist. We then install these ideas onto our children who are already stuck indoors or driven to organised play/clubs so that we can watch them constantly. What sort of people are they going to grow into? I don’t believe our children are at risk anymore than we were. Great post by the way, glad to find someone like minded, I despair some days listening to parents in the playground.

  • { Est }

  • September 19, 2015

This is SO well written. I completely relate to your deliberation! In some ways I have had the decision taken from me though, my daughter’s adopted and all advice is to avoid any imagery of her online – for her protection. BUT this doesn’t mean I don’t still long to show my photos of her beauty with the world. I really struggle with the notion that she might challenge why she hasn’t been part of my virtual world in some way, and whether I wasnt proud enough to. But ultimately I just have to keep reminding myself I’ll tell her when she’s old enough that it’s all for her protection.

  • Kelly_A place of my own

  • September 19, 2015

I love your friend’s comment. Perfectly sums it up I feel. I was at the swimming pool recently and the showers were by the side of the pool. A parent was telling his 3 year old that she couldn’t take her costume off to wash. It really makes me cross because I feel that the chances of there being anyone there that would have paid any attention was so slim but the parent is sexualising the whole situation and telling a 3 year old that their body is something that should be hidden. Seems all back to front to me.

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