“Kim, what do you think of this: A friend of mine posted picture of her kids in the bath together on facebook. The girl, who’s about 1 year old, was standing naked, and you could see everything.”
Even though I kind of knew where she was going with this, I found myself blurting out: “I’ve totally done that before!!” at the exact same moment that she said “I think that’s just really inappropriate.” So, it was more of: “I think…totally done… very inappropriate… that before,” our contrasting opinions hanging awkwardly over the resulting silence.
My friend, being about the sweetest person I know, fell all over herself trying to undo the accidental insult, but it was clear we were of two minds on this. And I wondered suddenly if I was wrong. Possibly irresponsible even.
The picture I posted, which immediately sprang to mind, was of my son, not yet two, standing in a bucket bath. We had just moved to rural Kenya and I was trying to be good about posting all that was new about our lives there. This is Facebook at its best: keeping grandparent’s oohing and ahhing over adorableness thousands of miles away; keeping friends and family feeling connected even when you’re worlds apart.
The picture was of my son holding his toy truck in the bath, and the caption was “Caleb cleans his truck while I clean him.” Maybe it was naïve or even a bit oblivious, but I couldn’t see past the red cheeks, the sweet way he clung to his toy, and the purity of his nakedness. His private parts did not register on my registry.
The problem is that I want to live in that world in which naked babies are innocence personified. But I’m told that’s no longer where we live when we display our lives online. Those images reach throughout the world to seedy corners we’d never visit and they endure throughout time, making ephemeral embarrassments permanent. It’s our jobs to protect our children from these new and expanded risks.
But here’s my defense: There is such a glut of content, with Facebook’s billion (with a ‘b’) users posting everything from family reunions to what they had for dinner, that the odds of some creep actually finding my photo are slim to none. There might just be an exaggerated sense of danger here. And even if some sicko finds this photo and looks at it with predacious eyes, my child is still technically protected, untouched. It’s a horrible thought, but no actual harm comes to my son. I suppose the shot could be embarrassing to my son in 10 years’ time, and that argument holds the most sway for me.
But taking a small and unscientific poll of my American friends it appears my cavalier attitude is in the minority, with most telling me they’d never post something like that on Facebook with its dubious privacy settings and ownership of content.
Though other people have told me not unreasonably, “Kim, it all depends on your comfort level.” Here’s my comfort level: I don’t want to live my life reacting fearfully to miniscule risks. I want to live it sharing the beauty I see with people I love. And when I share an innocent photo on the one platform that friends and family can most easily access, I don’t want to immediately think about pedophiles and predators. I want to keep thinking about innocence personified.
Still, I can almost see some of you shaking your heads at my Pollyannaish world view. And in this case, because there’s nothing gained by keeping the photo up and possibly future embarrassment for one of the greatest loves of my life, I’m taking the photo down. But down with that sweet photo comes one of the remaining bits of my own innocence.
How fearful are you of the wrong people getting ahold of images of your children? How much does this fear guide what you do?