A few days ago I was interviewed for Corriere della Sera, one of the main Italian newspaper, about a question every parent happen to ask him/herself after having a child: “E’ giusto mettere in rete le foto dei figli?” “Is it ok to put children’s photos online?”
Looking at my blog and at my social profiles, it’s easy to find out what I think about it.
I remember my very first post after Viola’s birth. I had just learnt to use my Canon and had some beautiful pictures of her – just one week old. I was eager to show the world how pretty and how sweet my girl was, but when it came to upload the pictures I found myself editing it, cutting it to show something but not everything. I found myself protecting her. Publishing her innocent face without her knowing it, without her asking for it, seemed like some kind of abuse of her privacy. Of course I sent it to my friends via email, but never thought again about putting the pics online, on my public blog or my private Facebook profile.
I think pictures are SO important, especially when you communicate online. They add something to words, they’re able to set the mood of an article, they create an atmosphere, they move, they impress, they make you smile or cry. My choice was somehow ‘moderate’. YES: I am publishing her pictures, NO: you won’t see her face. You’ll see her energy, her tiny feet, her amazing jumps and runs, her sweet way of sleeping, her way of mismatching socks and outfits, and I think this is enough.
Here are my motivation for not sharing pictures of my daugther online:
1. Once you publish a photo, it is out of your control – In 2008, which means six years ago, I published a pictures of me, pregnant. It was just my belly. A beautiful but innocent pictures (see it here). Recently I found out it has been stolen and, with some captions added, it was used (and re-used, and blogged, and re-blogged thousands of times) on Tumblr. Of course, without my permission and even with someone else’s watermark. Quite annoying, isn’t it? And the worst thing is, once it is SO much shared, you can’t do much about it: your picture isn’t yours anymore. I heard some people say that some pictures are safer than others to be shared online. I understood it’s not like that: my photo was a pregnant tummy, a normal photo that anyone could take during her pregnangcy BUT it was a beautiful photo. Is the disclaimer: ugly photo only, unless you want them to be stolen? I don’t know, of course. I also hear many people telling ‘I don’t have a blog, I just share pictures on Facebook and I have a private profile with all the privacy settings on’. Good for you, but if even Mark Zuckerberg’s profile has been hacked, how safe do you think Facebook is? Just think about all the Apps and Website you athorize every day to access your personal informations and profile in exchange for a Login. And just think about how unsafe can be a social network entirely based on sharing and ‘friends-of-friends-updates’. Lots of articles have been written about this, and every time I speak to some friend who works for or with a social network, his advice is “never put online something you don’t want everyone to see”.
2. When it comes to her online privacy, I want for my daugther the privilege to choose – When we were born, at least when I was born, there was no such thing as social networks. Our parent could still embarass us by framing some ugly pictures in the living room, but that’s was it – and, believe me, there are still some pictures hung in my mom’s place that I want to replace SO BADLY. Our children are the first generation with ‘social parents’ so we still don’t know the effect that this could have. What will happen in the future, when this kids will realize half of their life has already been published without permission? Will they be happy about this? We can’t tell, and it’s also this uncertainty that makes me want to behave the safest way possible. In the Italian article, a psycholigist says that there’s a potential danger in building a “social identity” for our kids that comes before their actual “personal identity”. Sharing their pictures and information we leave a mark on them. They could be either accept this – does it makes it right? – or totally reject it. Try everything to keep the distance from ‘what mom told the world that I am’. It scares me a bit. It sounds a bit like an embezzlement of their identity. Same problem was earlier discussed (along with the leaking privacy of social networks) on The Guardian. To me, though, keeping myself from sharing pictures of my daugther online has something to do with the notion of ‘respect’. I am respecting her freedom to choose what to do with her public image, her privacy, her pictures, when she’ll be grown up enough to understand it (and here we could talk for months about which age is appropriate to start sharing with awareness).
3. Most of the time, it’s just your parent’s pride – If you really want to update friends and relatives about how beautiful your child is and how much he has grown up, an email does the job brilliantly. And it’s personal! Most of the times, when we share pictures of our kids online we do it for vanity. Because we’re proud of him/her, because they’re pretty and cool and sweet. So: it’s OUR need as a proud parent. Just think about it.
That said, I am a blogger and I have a public blog so my point of view is slightly different from a mom who has another job. Would I behaved differently if I hadn’t had a blog? I don’t know. Maybe I would have done the same. I’m a lioness mother when it comes to protect Viola 🙂
I know we’re talking about a very personal choice and there’s still probably no ‘right or wrong’ behaviour. Still, I would like to know what you think about it. Do you share your children pics online? What are your reasons?