A defining aspect of the millennial generation is its relationship with social media. For many, the internet played a pretty significant part of their coming-of-age (who here can truly say that didn't read way too much into their crush's AIM away message?) and, therefore, identities. But, now that millennials are having children, many are interacting with their assorted networks in a new way and questioning their personal rules for posting pictures of kids on social media. The subject is not an easy one. Social media is still relatively new, the consequences and benefits of posting photos online can be conflicting, and it seems that everyone else has a passionately held opinion on what's the "right thing to do," which creates a lot of loud, confusing noise that can be difficult to weed through, dissect, and digest to a point that you can weight your options.
Of course, the real answer is, there is no single "right thing" to do, Just like feeding your baby or effectively disciplining your child, this is an issue that everyone needs to study up on and then, after researching and discussions options, making a decision that works best for their family. Honestly, each parent should decide what they share online but, of course, there's one wrinkle with that seemingly pain-free plan: other people.
Other people are what I, humbly, consider to be the biggest parenting dilemma facing any parent. You can do everything you've set out to do for your child and do it well, but your child is surrounded by a billion other people (and so are you, for that matter) and those people can take the rug out from under you and upset all your beautiful, well-thought-out plans with their own ideas and choices. Now, I can't control the fact that my children will come into contact with, in one way or another, toxic masculinity, racism, ableism, and all the other scary things in the world that make me want to wrap myself in a blanket and never leave my couch. But I can control some of the little things, like working really hard to ensure they never see an episode of Caillou.
Controlling how my kid's images are used on Facebook is another one of those little things, but it's an attempt that definitely requires assistance from the very people I worry will dismantle my carefully calculated plans. Which is why, in the name of transparency, I'm sharing my personal "Ten Commandments" for sharing pictures of my kids on social media. I understand these rules might not be for everyone, but they're what keep my kids a little bit safer, and the way I feel most comfortable combining social media and parenthood.
Thou Shalt Ask First
Always. Every parent has their own rules about what pictures they want posted of their child on social media (if any at all), and they should always get the final say. This is an issue of common courtesy.
Thou Shalt Not Steal My Pictures
A common complaint among a lot of moms I know is grandparents and in-laws, in particular, copying pictures a parent will post of their child and then sharing it themselves. This is a problem for a few reasons
1) Remember Rule #1
2) Even though anything put online is officially out in the world, there are still some security measures in place with privacy settings. Thanks to said measures and settings, I know who's in my network and who I've allowed to see a particular photo or photos. I don't know what weirdos are in your network. Do you even have privacy settings in place?
3) Stealing is rude
4) It might not even be the actual sharing but the principle of the thing. The grandparents in my kids' lives ask and I'm pretty much always fine with it! Why steal what someone is willing to give?
Thou Shalt Not Reveal My Child's Tushie (Etc.) To The World
Gather a group of 10 parents and you will find no fewer than 11 opinions on the appropriateness of child nudity of social media or what even constitutes nudity. So, the best thing to do is to avoid posting it at all if you are not their parent. This includes any and all bathing suit areas, aka any part of the body that would be covered while wearing a bathing suit.
Thou Shalt Not Post A Picture With Too Much Identifying Information
This is another security measure, particularly related to locations. Where a child goes to school gymnastics, daycare where they live, or their favorite playground, even if they seem (or are) obvious, should nevertheless be viewed as sensitive information. Not to mention that there are certainly unfortunate circumstances where a child's whereabouts need to remain as "off-the-grid" as possible because of an abusive parent/ex-partner.
Thou Shalt Not Go Out Of Thine Way To Embarrass Mine Child
Like, okay, kids do a really good job of being completely ridiculous in ways that might embarrass them during their teenage years, and I love those pictures just as much as the next person, but there's a limit. And honestly? Your limit might not look like my limit and vice versa. So, if you take a hilarious picture of a kid that may nevertheless be a little embarrassing, ask before posting or just don't post it and save it for your personal amusement rather than share it with the world.
Thou Shalt Not Post Group Pictures Of Children Without Asking All Parents' Permission
Because even if your focus is my child, the other kids need to be taken into consideration. Just ask! Or if you don't know the people for whatever reason, as the parent of the child you do know (and are focusing on in the picture) if they can ask.
Thou Shalt Not Get Competitive
I'm not saying who this is aimed (mostly) towards (cough cough, grandparents, cough cough) but please do not use pictures of my child as a way to have weird, passive aggressive competitions with your friends about whose grandchild is better. Because it often gets ugly and always gets weird. Just, like, be cool, ya know?
Thou Shalt Monitor For Unauthorized Use Of Picture By Others
If you're posting a picture of my child, you are now the steward of that picture, and, as their parents, we ask that you try to extend the rules we have established as far as you can. If you see someone stealing your picture of our child, please ask them not to do that.
Thou Shalt Not Get Mean
I feel like this goes without saying, but don't post a picture of my kid and get snarky about it. Like, jovial, good spirited sarcasm is always fun and appreciated (though use caution). But something like, "Look at this kid's stupid face! What a stupid kid, LOL," is never acceptable.
Thou Shalt Absolutely Friggin' Not Post A Picture Of My Child And Me If I Look Like Crap
Because yes, blah blah blah, protect children online, but what about me? My good people, I carefully select the images of me that go online. So, even if it's a picture of my child and I just happen to be holding them, make sure I don't look like a doofus. Here's a handy rhyme to help you remember:
See? Easy as pie!