We all know one. You might even be one yourself – those parents who just can’t help filling their social media feeds with photo after photo of their little bundle of joy. While we're big fans of all baby pictures, there are many others who think differently...
We were shocked to hear about the ‘poison pen’ letter that Australian mum Jade Ruthven was sent by her so-called ‘friends’, asking her to stop posting pictures of her daughter on Facebook.
The letter said: “Look, we all have kids that we are besotted with – guess what – every parent thinks their child is the best. But we don’t ram it down everyone else’s neck! She crawls off the mat – we don’t care! She’s six months old – big deal! We can’t wait for you to get back to work – maybe you won’t have time to spend being on Facebook quite so much.”
Harsh, we think you’ll agree. But, while these vicious ‘friends’ certainly went about it the wrong way, the point they are making rings true to some extent. In fact, we are coming across more and more mums who say that they don’t post pictures of their children on social media sites at all. While for some it’s a question of not wanting to appear self-indulgent, or not wanting to ‘jinx’ things in the case of certain mummies-to-be, for others it is an ethical or safety decision.
The fact that you might annoy people with your prolific baby posts is the least of your worries, says blogger Roma Kijima. “This generation of kids is the first one in human history to have their lives shared in a forum as public and easily accessible as the internet without their permission... Fundamentally, I have an issue with overexposing children to the opinions of other people,” says Roma.
It’s a fair point, and many experts recommend that you think twice before posting images of your little one online. There are safety concerns for starters – photos that identify where you live or that include a child’s full name and date of birth could put little ones at risk of someone stealing their identity. There’s also the question of their digital footprint when they are older, and how it could affect their future job prospects for instance – according to the recruitment website CareerBuilder, around a fifth of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, and 59 per cent say they would be influenced by a candidate’s online presence. Experts advise not tagging your child in pictures, using a pet name for your little one rather than their real name, and of course tightening up your privacy settings so that only your friends can view the pictures (although how many of those online ‘friends’ whom you haven’t spoken to since primary school do you really know and trust?).
But there is also the issue of consent – the idea that by posting pictures of your baby before he or she is able to agree to it, you are guilty of an ethical transgression. Looked at from that point of view, it’s almost akin to spending the money in the savings account that you created in your baby’s name – just because you made it, doesn’t mean you have the right to do as you please with it. It’s an uncomfortable thought.
“Kids are sensitised to please Mum and Dad, they are part of your badges of success," says parenting expert and author Steven Biddulph, who believes that sharing pictures publicly of your children without 'informed consent' could have a negative effect of pressurising them to be a certain way. He said in this article to The Times: "Parents see their kids as a measure of them. We don’t know if the parents transmit the stress of this to the child or if the child perceives it. [But it means] the kids feel they have to be good-looking, well-dressed, have fantastic holidays and be rich.”
So should we all stop posting baby pics on our social networks? Maybe; although we hope not. The odd grinning-tot photo is charming, and parents have a right to be proud of their offspring. But we’ll definitely be thinking twice before pressing ‘post’ next time.