I have a personal policy of not sharing photos of my daughter on social media. I realize this is pretty unusual, especially for someone who lives remotely from extended family who would like to see how she’s growing, so I thought I’d use this blog entry as an opportunity to explain my thinking on the topic of online privacy.
My Parenting Philosophy
As I’ve done my due diligence on parenting philosophy, I’ve landed on a few key principles that inform my parenting decisions. First of all, I believe that children are whole people, even before they develop verbal skills or reasoning skills. My role as her mom is to provide her with my love and acceptance, food, clothing and shelter, and to set the boundaries necessary for her to develop the skills and confidence she will need to grow into a happy, successful adult.
I am responsible for my child, but I do not “own” her. She is an individual and one day she will have to be responsible for her own life. I don’t want the consequences of my decisions regarding her online privacy at a young age to have any unintended consequences later. When she is old enough to decide for herself, I will ask her before I post pictures of her online. I don’t want her to be embarrassed by anything I’ve shared.
Kids are Smart, But the Internet is Big
Second, I believe that children are capable of more than we give them credit for. If observed carefully and allowed age-appropriate levels of responsibility, I believe children will learn and thrive. I want my daughter to understand the reach of the world wide web. She’ll need to make responsible decisions with her own social media use when she’s older.
The idea that Facebook’s facial recognition software could learn to identify her image before she even knows what the internet is just really creeps me out. Perhaps even more unsettling, though, is the thought of my daughter reaching her teenage years without a solid grasp of how big the audience really is on social media. I want her to understand that when you post something online, you put it out there for the world to see and give up control of it to some extent. I want her to understand that some things are properly private and that she has a right to privacy.
Teaching by Example
Which leads me to the third and final principal I want to discuss. Teaching the concept of consent is especially important to me as the mom of a little girl. I want her to understand that she has a say in her own life, property and body. There are many ways to teach children about consent. Waiting until she has some say before posting images of her is one small part of that very important effort.
It will reinforce other efforts we make, such as teaching her to choose respectful greetings that she is comfortable with. We can ask “Do you want to give grandma a hug, a high five or wave goodbye?” She can be given the option to shake hands or wave to a new acquaintance. And if she says “stop” when we are playing or tickling her, we will stop immediately, even if we think she didn’t mean it. I want my daughter to have full confidence backed by a lifetime of experience telling her that she can say “no”. Her word must be respected, long before she begins dating or leaves home to start her own adult life.
I know my we are in the minority by choosing not to share pictures of our baby online. Online privacy is important to us. I’d love to hear thoughts and experiences from other parents. Please let me know what you think in the comments!