Picture-taking is in my blood. Tucked away in my closet is a musty, old storage bin containing old images. My father always had a camera hanging down from his neck like a fifth limb. Landscapes, locations, hobbies, family, friends, experiences are all in that bin. Memories I can physically hold onto when I forget. As a stay-at-home mom, my son is a constant presence in my life from sunrise to sunset and every moment in between. It only felt natural to take and post photos of him. Building an online mom community, having that interaction, and bouncing compliments off each other.
However, the internet is eternal. No matter if you hit the delete button, those photos are there for good. The tantrums, the marker face, the allergic reactions, the too-quick camera click, the bath photos. When it goes up, it never goes down. I lose control over who sees it and what happens to it when it gets published on the internet. Our moment becomes the moment of many. Those photos and videos will follow them into teenage years and into adulthood. This is the world we live in and the world our children will grow into.
Like in the real world, I want my son to learn how to set boundaries. I want him to understand what the term consent means, what boundaries are, and that he has a right to them. I don’t force him to hug anyone if he doesn’t want to, his doctors ask before examining him, I remind him he’s allowed to tell people no if he’s uncomfortable or doesn’t want to be touched, I listen to him when he says he doesn’t want his picture taken or to stop tickling or roughhousing with him, I tell him when I don’t want him climbing on top of me. I give him choices, I give him boundaries, I teach him consent yet I felt I should be the one that controls his online presence? Why does consent stop here?
In Psychology, there is something called positive reinforcement. Basically, each time you receive likes and comments you are being reinforced or validated in your actions which means it’s likely to cause you to continue that action in the future. Being aware of that is one reason I realized how relaxed I became with sharing photos of my son online and one reason I vowed to change it – self-control outside of the psychological catastrophe of social media.
Swapping stories is important. It gives us a sense of connection we may be lacking in our real life whether it be with distant relatives in another state or strangers we don’t truly know. For me, I want to change the way that’s done. I don’t want strangers to know him unless they want to make an active and intentional effort to know him. Relationships have become lazy and I feel I’m participating in it by sharing my life unabashedly. At three years old, I don’t want to put social media’s weight on my son’s shoulders. My online choices should enrich our real world life as a family. There’s no doubt that the internet is important to me – for blogging, for writing, for connecting, for sharing. But it’s not everything, it’s not my son’s everything. My son is sacred, his feelings are sacred, and I’m proud of him – without wires.
I posted 4 photos on Facebook with his face in them since August 20th and only 3 posts on Instagram since August 28th with his face showing. In ways, it still seems like a lot but I feel much more comfortable with his digital media presence and knowing I am giving control back to him.
How do you view social media and photos of your children?