Most parents are aware of the risks involved when we post photos of our children online. Depending on our privacy settings, they may be viewed and downloaded by others. Some of those others may be friends and family, but sometimes strangers are looking at pictures of our children too.
The problem with ‘sharenting’
Online images may be used as part of scams, identity theft or as part of child exploitation-related behaviour. It’s all pretty horrible and definitely something all parents want to avoid. (Read up on that here).
But there are other problems with posting images of our children online. Problems that extend even to discussing our kids on social media or blogs. Those problems are around the digital identity and privacy of our children.
In this age of smartphones, the old ‘point, shoot and share’ seems like second nature to many parents. Indeed some parents make whole career out of this, taking their children along for the ride. (Hello Influencers In The Wild!)
But what happens if your child grows up and realises that glimpses of their entire childhood have been shared publicly, along with ‘cute’ stories about important firsts, supermarket meltdowns, school triumphs and more?
Some kids are fine with this, having grown up taking this ‘sharenting‘ for granted. Indeed many of them have been trained to be not only in front of the camera, but behind the camera too.
But others are horror-struck, feeling their entire life has been exposed without their consent, long before they’ve had the chance to forge their own identity.
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“There’s so much out there about us”
Cue a story about a teenager who felt this very way. This particular young person has popped up on Reddit to explain that despite their pleas for privacy, their parent continues to share details of their life and create a parent-forged identity and digital footprint for them online.
“I am a teenager and my mom is kinda famous on Instagram and blogging. She had a mommy blog all when I was growing up and of course me and my sister were always involved,” this young person writes.
“It sucks because there’s so much out there about us and it’s what’s gonna come up when I’m looking for a job, when I’m dating, when anyone looks up my name.”
The teen requested “no new pictures of me or mentions of me online. Remove all pictures that include me that you’ve ever posted. and delete any writing that mentions me.”
“Respect my privacy”
When the teen’s parent ignored these requests and continued to post about them, the teen took matters into their own hands in a pretty genius way.
“I found a website that will print custom jackets, print all over the front and back and arms. And I ordered some hoodies that say a bunch of phrases all over them,” the teenager writes.
The phrases included on this custom hoodie included: ‘no photos’, ‘no videos’, ‘I do not consent to be photographed’, ‘no means no’, ‘respect my privacy’, ‘no cameras’, ‘no profiting off my image’.
“I got one for me and one for my nine year old sister who’s started to not always want photos,” the teen continues.
“I guess the idea is that my mom can’t take good looking pictures, even candid ones, with us in the hoodies without them having a pretty strong message that we don’t want to be in pictures.”
“No photos, please!”
The teen’s mother is … FURIOUS about this turn of events. She’s angry not only because she derives income from including her children in her public posts, but also apparently because she thinks the discussion of consent on the hoodie alludes to sexuality and is inappropriate.
The teenager asked Reddit if wearing the ‘no photos’ hoodie when they were around their mum is an unreasonable thing to do.
The good folk of Reddit responded in their thousands. Clearly they’d been waiting for this part of the influencer equation to surface and they were pretty much fully supportive of this teen’s quest for privacy and their need to decide and control their own online identity.
“Your mom has exploited you all your life, for money,” the top comment reads.
“That’s shitty enough, but then to try and guilt-trip/manipulate you into continuing to participate even though you’ve told her explicitly you don’t want to be a part of it anymore? That is beyond the pale. It’s not like being an influencer is the only job on earth. Go work in a travel agency or something! It’s also not like she couldn’t continue to be a blogger – she’d just have to rebrand to one that doesn’t focus on being a ‘mommy’ (yuck). Surely being a Mom isn’t the only interesting thing about her?”
A cautionary tale about sharing photos and stories about children, indeed. One that doesn’t only apply to influencers …
“That’s who I am”
Indeed, this is not the first time (by a long shot) a child has asked their parent to stop sharing their image or blogging about them. In January of 2019, mummy blogger Christie Tate wrote a piece for The Washington Post titled “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t do that“.
The story outlined her daughter’s realisation that her mother had been sharing photos and stories about her.
“Could I take the essays and pictures off the Internet, she wanted to know. I told her that was not possible,” Christie writes.
“Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her,” she continued in this piece. “My daughter didn’t ask to have a writer for a mother, but that’s who I am.”
That said, Christie went on to explain that she and her daughter had agreed to negotiate what she shares in the future, on a story by story and/or image by image basis.
Christie’s blog Outlaw Mama now seems to be private, although it’s not clear whether this is at her daughter’s request or because of a backlash against her Washington Post piece.