Can you remember the last time someone pulled a school photo of her child out of her wallet to pass around to coworkers or friends? Neither can we, because those days are long gone. Now, with a few swipes, you can pull up a gallery of images of your child on social media, like Instagram or Facebook.
But, a lot of parents, including celebrities like Kristen Bell and Mindy Kaling, have chosen to keep their children off social media entirely. It’s a tough choice. On one hand, there’s bragging rights about how awesome your kid is. On the other, the Internet can be a scary place without privacy.
Action: Don’t Post Child on Social Media
For web and social media manager and Western Mass mom Hannah Wareham, a lot of discussion went into her decision about whether or not to post her child on social media. In fact, she and her wife decided before their son Miles was born. They won’t.
“I work as a web and social media manager for my day job. I’m really involved with the good and the bad of social media,” says Wareham. “I’ve learned that everything on the Internet is public and permanent.”
Safety is Wareham’s number one concern, having heard horror stories about photos of children getting into unsavory hands. She also acknowledges that Miles will be one of the first generations to grow up completely inundated by social media. She wants his role in that to be his own decision.
For Leslie Musser, founder of Kinder Capsule, an organic child’s clothing line, the situation was even more complicated than just her own child. While she keeps her own son off of social media, she uses child models for her business.
Her own privacy decision has made her much more conscious and deliberate about her business choices. “We’re constantly focused on that level of protection and discretion,” says Musser. “To protect the little models by never giving out their information, tagging their parents, etc. In that way, although their faces are shown on our accounts, we maintain a level of privacy and anonymity.”
Action: Post Child on Social Media
Online personality and mom Jamee Haney Dahbar decided to show her kids online because of her own experience using the Internet. “The reason I made the choice is because I don’t think anything is private anymore,” she says. “We live in a public world where you can find out anything about anybody.” She also explains that this way, she can control the narrative and teach her kids about the joys and pitfalls of social media.
But, beyond the challenges in preserving privacy, Dahbar has found that being open about her experience as a mom has bonded her to other parents. In one instance, she revealed that her son was struggling with a stutter. She received a flood of private messages from parents with information about stuttering schools and speech techniques.
“I feel it’s very important to be honest with people,” says Dahbar. “I want to be honest in sharing with other moms who are going through the same things.”
Wareham and her wife announced their decision not to put Miles on social media to family and friends. Then, Wareham wrote about it on her blog. Local photographer Stephanie Krist says that reading Wareham’s blog post helped her make the decision to keep her child’s life private, as well.
Musser says she’s had to establish firm boundaries with family members who want to share images of her child on social media. Wareham says she’s so proud of Miles she often wants to share that with the world (particularly, this killer Halloween costume). Ultimately, both Musser and Wareham feel they’ve made the right choice.
“Overall, as he grows and gets older, I’m reassured that we’re making the right choice for our family,” says Wareham. “It feels so precious to be living a life that’s a little more private. I didn’t imagine that would resonate with me so much. Our intimate, everyday family life feels sacred, and this way, it’s just ours.”
Parents who want to take a deeper dive into this topic can read this article published in Emory Law Journal.