Why I Don’t Post Pictures of My Kids Online
Children’s online privacy is hot-button issue right now. You may have noticed that I don’t share identifiable pictures of my kids – or their names – on my blog or any of my public social media. As much as I’d love to share their adorable faces with you, I am a big believer in protecting children’s online privacy, for a few reasons.
Before I get into my rationale for keeping my kids’ information private, I should confess that I’m a bit nervous to hit publish on this one. I know I risk offending people who’ve made a different choice than I have, and that’s not at all my intent. I’m writing this post because this is a decision that I wrestled with, and I know others may wrestle with the same thing. I don’t judge people who do post pictures of their kids – I love cute pictures of kids! But I decided to be very conservative about the information I share publically, and here’s why.
I don’t have their consent
I’m a lawyer, and privacy law is a big part of my job. A key factor in privacy law is consent. My kids simply aren’t at the age where they’re able to consent.
Case in point, my oldest thinks it would be very cool to be famous on the internet, like the kids he sees on YouTube. If I asked him if he wanted me to post his picture online, he’d probably jump at the chance, because he’d love to be “famous”. He doesn’t have any awareness of the consequences or implications of that decision – nor should he at this point.
My kids can’t consent, so it’s my responsibility to make those choices for them.
It’s a huge conflict of interest
As parents it’s our job to protect our children’s personal information and privacy. We’re given the responsibility of consenting – or not – when they’re not able to.
With this blog, it becomes a little bit more complicated. Sharing pictures of my kids might help me grow this blog. People like looking at cute pictures of kids, and it makes it that much easier for you to relate to me and my family.
That places me in a conflict of interest, between my interest in growing this blog and my responsibility to protect my children’s privacy. For me, the only way to resolve that conflict of interest was to draw a hard line and decide that I wouldn’t share any identifiable photos or information about my kids.
You could argue that the same is true for any pictures of children posted online – even on private accounts – and I wouldn’t disagree with you. After all, our kids aren’t deriving any benefit from us posting their first day of school photos, nor are they ever likely to read the wonderful things we say about them on their birthday. For me, the stakes are raised – both in terms of risk, and in terms of conflict of interest – when it comes to posting pictures publicly on this blog or blog-related social media.
My line has shifted over time. When I started this blog we decided that baby pictures were ok, with the rationale that babies all look pretty much the same anyway, and only somebody who knows them well would identify them as my kids. The more time I spend with public social media accounts, and the more those accounts grow, the less comfortable I am with that stance. As a result, I’ve become even more careful about what I share and what I don’t.
They’re growing up in a different world
You and I are lucky. I saw my first digital camera at my high school graduation. Facebook didn’t become popular until I was in law school. I didn’t get my first smartphone until I became a practising lawyer. By the time I was creating my online identity, I was fully capable of making decisions about what I would and would not share (don’t get me wrong, I made some mistakes, but they were my mistakes!)
Our kids are growing up in a totally different world There’s a good chance that their birth was announced on social media. They might have had an email address or social media account created for them before they could read. Their digital footprints are going to be huge, and at this point we don’t fully understand what the ramifications of that will be.
Maybe it won’t be a big deal, because every future President or Prime Minister or candidate for the Supreme Court is going to have their potty training photos posted online. But maybe it will be. I want to protect my kids as much as I can.
The internet is a scary place
Creating this blog was my first foray into creating a public internet presence. If I wasn’t concerned about protecting my children’s online privacy beforehand, blogging would have tipped the scales for me.
With public social media accounts, anybody can follow me, and anybody can view my pictures. The same is obviously true of this blog. While I’m sure that 99.9% of the people who visit my blog or follow me on social media do so because they’re parents dealing with the same issues I am, there’s a chance that some people are here for entirely different reasons. The dark side of the internet can be a very scary place. I can’t stop those people from visiting, but I can prevent them from getting access to information about and photos of my kids.
They’re people too
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my kids are people too. None of us would want our friends or family members to share embarrassing photos or stories about us online, so I try to have the same respect for them. I would never want them to be teased or bullied because of something that I chose to share about them online.
I want to give them the ability to make their own decisions about what to share or not share online, when they’re old enough to make them. They may choose to have a very public internet presence, or they might choose to keep their online identity on lockdown, but the choice is theirs to make.
Where do you land on sharing kids’ information online? Do you avoid posting photos on social media altogether, post only on private accounts, or do you share it all publicly?