“Adik, can you pose for me again please?”
I call out to my 4-year-old daughter while swiping my phone to camera mode, ready to snap a picture of her.
Taking pictures of our children to immortalize their milestones, with their cute and innocent faces, is normal for any loving parent. They are, after all, our pride and joy.
But how much of our children’s day-to-day should we share with others, especially on social media where strangers can see and screenshot everything you post?
Celebrities such as Jay Chou, Joanne Peh, Rain and Kirsten Bell have resisted public pressure to reveal their children’s identity to the world.
Rightfully so, for this group of people, who are constantly judged for what they wear or what they do, understand the value of privacy.
Singer Pink learned it the hard way when she was slammed last year for a photo she shared on Instagram of herself and her children with a pelican, in which her toddler son, Jameson, was not wearing a diaper. Many users called her out for her #parentingfail and she fired back at her trolls for being “disgusting”. However, the question remains, how much of our children should we share with the world?
Other social media influencers have also been criticised for using their children as “part of the package”, which brings up the debate on how exploitative is that behaviour?
Earlier this year, Myka Stauffer, who boasts a loyal following and several high-profile sponsors on her YouTube parenting vlogs and Instagram posts, came under fire when she revealed that she had “rehomed” Huxley, her adopted son from China, who has autism and other developmental issues.
Netizens accused Stauffer and her husband, who has four other children (none of whom are adopted), for exploiting a special-needs child and monetizing the process through their YouTube videos which documented their 2017 adoption of Huxley.
Although Stauffer insists that she did not adopt a child to gain wealth and followers, she still lost major brand partnerships with companies like Big Lots, Danimals, Playtex Baby and Suave. There is even a petition on Change.org to have Stauffer’s YouTube channel shut down entirely.
But for non-celebrity, non-influencer people like us, we should still ask ourselves: How far should we go to protect our children online?
Nora Kamal, 35, a healthcare worker and a mother to a 4-year-old girl, believes in protecting the identity of her child. Even with a ‘Friends-only’ account on Instagram, she still makes it a point to cover her daughter’s face with a mark if she decides to share her photos online.
“I believe in the evil eye. Someone out there may be jealous and envious of you for whatever reason, and if it gets out of control, they are capable of causing harm or misfortune to you or your child.”
Parents should also keep in mind that overly-curated photographs, apart from breeding unnecessary comparison between children, can also be a treasure trove for child predators.
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There are many stories about paedophiles and child-kidnappers that should deter us from posting their personal photos online. So in this day and age where sharing our life with strangers is a norm, how can we post about what we like, but still ensure the safety of our children and family?
Don’t take their photo while they are undressed or using the washroom
It may be cute for infants and toddlers, but it can also be damaging in the long run. We as parents, should respect our children’s bodies as our own, especially since they cannot speak for themselves yet. More terrifyingly, all it takes is a download or a screenshot for sexual predators to use the photograph or video as they please.
Avoid too much detail
Hold off on that “first day of school” picture! You may want to avoid revealing their full names and information such as where your children go to school and class, lest someone impersonates as a relative to pick them up.
Switch off GPS and location-tagging features
Avoid tagging a location to any of your posts. Location-tagging allows others to find out your usual hang-out spots and even where you live. Is it really necessary to tag your child’s tuition centre, music school or even the playground? Probably not.
Think about how you engage online
As adults, we are often quick to share our opinions with friends and family, or sometimes even complete strangers, online. Sometimes, we feel strongly about certain issues and we let fly with our comments, sometimes cuttingly so.
Now, there’s always room for strenuous debate. But sometimes tempers fray and accusations fly. If you are someone who engages frequently on social media, be careful not to implicate your family and children by being rude, vulgar or questionable in your posts lest online vigilantes try to use your family photos against you. Not only that, do you really want to have a profile picture of yourself with your children in it if you’re arguing with strangers on the Internet?
Being a good role model for your children does not just mean in the physical world, it also extends online. So before you post your children’s photos online, think about whether your behaviour reflects your role as a parent.
Stop others from photographing your kids
Even if your child is basking in the attention, never hesitate to stop people (relatives included) from taking too many photos of your children if you feel the slightest bit of discomfort. In these circumstances, do not worry how rude you’ll seem to be, or how awkward or difficult the situation is. You never know how those photos may be used on social media.
As a mother, I understand parents’ enthusiasm of sharing your children’s accomplishments, the adorable quirks they display, and their cherubic faces – certainly, we want to hang on to the moment for as long as possible, as it passes by quickly and inevitably.
Scrolling through the thousands of photos in my phone (most of them of my children), I find myself in awe of how much they have grown in just a few years. I catch myself smiling at their antics and thinking how lucky I am to have saved that memory as a memento.
So sure, go ahead and take those pictures, but before you hit the upload button, think twice about what you are sharing. Loving our children doesn’t just mean being proud of them, it also means being wise enough not to put them in a vulnerable position.