Apart from changing nappies, feeding and tutoring their kids, parents today have a lot of new things to deal with that previous generations didn’t. Sharing pictures of their children on social media is just one of these new responsibilities. How can she have a baby and not post about how blessed she is to have one? Did the child really turn 3 without a post dedicated to her 3rd birthday? And really, is there any point in wearing matching mommy baby clothes for Eid if you won’t post your annual family Eid picture?
We all know mothers who post relentlessly about their kids; about an achievement or milestone, concerts, birthdays, art, etc etc. In fact last week, on Mother’s Day my social media feed was full of people sharing images of not only their parents but their children as well. And why shouldn’t they? We’re living in an era when using social media has become an instinct. We post pictures of food, the gym, the outfit of the day and so on and so more.
I personally love posting pictures on social media. I have an entire library dedicated to each year for the past 12 years; which is visible only for me to muse over. With my kids, I am more liberal. I remember feeling vaguely confused about my decision to post something personal about my child 3 years ago, yet went ahead with it. I still have an old video of my daughter on my Instagram from when she had just started talking. I recall being so proud of her legible words, and the response I got. “Love this!” and applause emoji, the overwhelming love from people. I started to feel empowered by the decision to share, rather than restricted by it. I am not going to lie, I love that people are interested in my children and actually ask me about them. It also avoids that awkward moment of telling an anecdote when you meet up with someone in real life, because you have posted about it and assume everyone knows how clever or funny your child is.
But it wasn’t until I found out that my daughter’s swimming instructor was sharing her student’s photos that I actually thought about how social media inevitably makes you lose control over your personal life and the audience that is following it. Once it is out there; it is out there for good. According to my research, there are unfortunately not many laws to protect images from spreading; especially images which were willingly shared by people.
According to Facebook’s stated policy, children under the age of 13 are not allowed to have an account with the service. The most obvious reason for this is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, commonly referred to as COPPA. This act creates strict requirements for services that collect information from children under the age of 13. Hence, this act only applies to information collected from children, not about them; when parents upload their children’s images; it’s a different ballgame altogether. Think about it, photos showing every stage of your child’s development have been handed over to a company even before he/she is legally old enough to have a Facebook account? Further, you never know who might be interested in the information or whose hand it may land in. From identity thefts to stalking, to photoshopping decent images; the threat is great, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Concerns over social media’s services, such as Facebook and Instagram, handling of personal information have long been debated. Massive slip-ups, followed by scandals, serve to constantly remind us that personal data once shared can never be taken back. And as the recent hack of roughly 50 million Facebook accounts reminds us, it’s not just Facebook’s potential use of your data that you have to worry about. Whatever information you hand over to any company could one day be used against your children by anyone who finds a way to access it.
Even celebrity parents have weighed in on the debate over whether or not to share pictures of their children on social media. While some like the Kardashian clan sell pictures to magazines, others like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis famously refuse to share pictures of their children online. They have famously said that their child’s private life belongs to them.
I totally get it the urge to share images of precious moments. We are the first generation capable of sending real-time images and videos to our loved ones. And while some parents feel okay with sharing pictures from family vacations and other occasions, others would rather keep these moments private. Perhaps the next time we share a happy moment with our families, we should take a picture and send it via text to those who really matter. Maybe it is time to reclaim our and our children’s privacy.