There are many subjects on my mind and heart to blog about and exploiting children using social media has been one of them. Exploiting is a heavy word but I believe in many (not all) cases it is appropriate. Lately there has been some talk of this subject and very recently a parent I have interacted with on social media has been grossly ignorant when it comes to this matter and tried to justify their inappropriate actions of exploiting their own child on social media to me. This has brought me to put hand to keyboard this evening as this topic has officially been bumped up to the top of my “must write about” list.
Parents who create a social media profile for their children is something I am very passionately against. I do not stand alone in this opinion and am by no means the only parent who feels this way. I have conversed with many mothers who sincerely believe this is a big NO NO and they would personally never do it to their child. No one else seems to be highlighting or writing about this serious subject so I am happy to start and honestly couldn’t care less who gets their knickers in a knot over it!
Before I go any further I want to clarify that in this blog I am not referring to:
- Any Instagram birthing/motherhood pages
Birthing and motherhood pages are a selection and large array of photos and memoirs of experiences relating to ALL aspects of parenting and offer so much support and encouragement to women, young and experienced mothers, and parents to be. They are completely different to a parent who creates a profile FOR their child.
It’s not enough now that in 2017 an adult has their own account and tries to gain followers and popularity through that – but now they must try and use their children as an extension to that project. Nowadays, they also create an account for their toddler aged child or younger and use their account as a means to make money or gain social media fame status. Let’s face it – this is the cold hard truth to it. You don’t try and actively build an account on Instagram unless you want popularity or maximum exposure/reach. These 2 components generally lead to money – do they not? I challenge anyone to disagree with this. Let’s not be daft – we all know that large social media accounts make money from paid posts and collaborations. How would growing a large child’s account lead to anything different????
I am sure that many of you have come across a child’s social media account. I am more so referring to Instagram in this blog as my time spent on Facebook is very limited. I first came across a child’s Instagram account a couple of years ago and I was instantly shocked and left wondering, “why would the parent do that?” Then about 12-18 months ago I saw a couple more. Since then I have come across several others. My reaction is much the same but I am becoming less surprised and more angered and turned off by it. Is it becoming more common? Are these parents who create these accounts setting a trend for other parents to start one for their children? Gosh I hope not. This is a trend that should not take off and as a matter of fact I feel it should not be allowed. It should be banned. What does confuse me though is that many mothers who share my opinion and disagree with children having their own profile and would never put one of for their own child – FOLLOW and support some little toddlers accounts? I am not sure what to even to say to this? Perhaps think twice before further fueling this concerning trend? Don’t be a hypocrite, know your stance and stick with it. If you are against it – be against it and unapologetic for your choice. Don’t go following a child’s account even though you disagree or are concerned about the matter.
The very basic common sense thought comes to mind of “what about the child’s privacy?” Children are virtually the only innocence in society and this should be protected, nurtured and held dear. It’s precious. Creating an account on THEIR behalf when they have NO say, NO knowledge of it and NO control over the content being uploaded in a gross invasion of this privacy and misuse of parental control. It pulls down any veil of privacy that should be kept surrounding our children and allows full access and view to any person behind a screen with an account log in and a password. Children are vulnerable enough in life without adding to that a hundred fold by plastering their every moment on the internet for any browser to see. Isn’t it enough that we upload photos on our own personal accounts of our children? Isn’t this a risk enough? Especially to those of us that have a public account.
Parents who create social media accounts for their children may defend it by saying they want to share that child or babies’ photos with loved ones. What a great load of steaming cow poo. If this was the case – the child’s profile would be made PRIVATE for starters, no hash tags would be used on every photo (the purpose of hash tags being to make the photo as accessible and noticeable to the general public as possible) followers would be restricted to people they personally know, trust or that their child has met and lastly the parent would strictly monitor in general who wants to gain access to the photos. Are any children’s profiles I have seen been like this? Well, no. If this were the case firstly I would not have the content to blog about this and secondly would not have stumbled across or have had access to it to begin with like millions of other people do. What these parents are doing is grossly over sharing every aspect of their child’s life to the general public. They actually have a word for this now: sharenting.
Is it sensible to allow random people you have never met and your child has no knowledge of to follow your child’s account? Is this safe? Why does a parent think they have a right to start a followers or “friends” list for their child, or on behalf of their child – before that child is old enough to make educated decisions for themselves? What about the people these child or baby accounts follow back? Many accounts are followed back simply to maintain the “follow for follow” relationship. So it’s business huh? It’s a simple trade off: for access to your child’s every single memory via photograph you will follow a strangers account to keep them happy and for one extra number on the counter of followers for your child.
When your toddler grows up one day, do you think they will wrap their arms around you and thank you for this giant followers list you have grown for them – essentially that they have “inherited” from you? Are you confident that they would not have a single issue with how much of their life you have shared with hundreds or thousands of people? I hope mothers and fathers who create accounts for children without their knowledge consider these very valid and serious points. The internet is many things both positive and negative. With the negative comes a very serious and real danger element. You are a fool if you think that a sexual predator has not viewed your child’s public profile and either regularly checks it or even follows it disguised under a different name.
A parent who uploads a photo or video of their own child on THEIR own profile and wants to share this with family, close friends or others does this because they are proud parents; genuinely want to share a glimpse into their lives whilst sharing plenty of other content from their life outside photos of their children. This being said, even sharing photos of our children on our OWN account of course runs a risk, and I think every parent knows that. No, we cannot live in fear of sharing beautiful moments of our children to people we love and who genuinely want to see our life in squares and therefore never share anything. However we need to be mindful and monitor more closely who gets to see the things that are most precious to us. Our babies.
Lately I have been deep in thought about my own account and how much I expose my son on social media. I have had a couple of discussions with a few friends about this subject (Kylie and Suzie being 2 particular ladies I have chatted to about this in recent months!) and they have revealed their views and opinions on it. Their primary concern is to protect their child’s privacy and minimise exposure. Now one of these ladies has recently given birth and decided not to expose her son to social media at all or upload any photos of him. The other initially didn’t upload any photos showing her sons face, but as time has gone on and she has posted a couple of photos she has still kept uploads to a real minimum even though she has wanted to share (she has weighed up the pros and cons – the cons could not be denied and far outweighed the ). Both of these women would like to share photos of their babies but had decided even before the birth of their sons that they would opt NOT to share or overshare their child on a social media platform. Good on them.
These conversations I have had with these ladies and others, and seeing their stance they are taking has made me question my own account and how many photos I upload of Jonah and what he would think of that? I have only just started to consider Jonah’s privacy more in the past couple of weeks and admittedly was somewhat naive about it beforehand. Recently discovering a questionable male acquaintance from my past (whom I had to almost take a restraining order out against) had been watching my Instagram stories – I suddenly felt very concerned and sick to my stomach that someone would seek me out and be able to gain access to videos of my son and precious family time my husband and I share with him. It made me confront the reality of who could access my account and how much I should be uploading of Jonah. Now I would never in a million years presume to make an account FOR him or on BEHALF of him and try and build it up – however I do share photos and I have a public account. Why do I have a public account? It’s not like I actively try and build it like some people, so why keep it public? Well, I want my blog to be accessible to people to read and want to attract readers to it as time goes on. Ok, I somewhat justify that question.
I have used hashtags on Jonah’s photos. I am questioning why I have done this? The answer was simple: I have wanted people to see photos of him. Why? Because he’s the cutest kid I’ve ever seen and I want to share, I want people to appreciate his cuteness also. Why? Hmmm coz I am proud of what I have created. Ok – So I ask myself – “why do you need complete strangers to tell you your child is gorgeous, handsome, cute?” The reality is that I hear that everyday from people we meet in the park, street, shops, on holiday etc. I don’t need to parade Jonah on the internet to try and attract or receive comments and compliments. BOOM. I have also caught myself out in a wrong motive. This has been my thought process lately and I wanted to be transparent and share with you.
I am not saying using a couple of hashtags is being self-seeking and trying to over expose your child in every sense. I am challenging the need to use so many and highlighting the possibilities as to why parents use them. Are you thinking only selfishly when it comes to this with little regard to the future of your child? Ask yourself the questions I have. Why do you hashtag your child’s photos with dozens of words and phrases that have nothing to do with the photo? It’s one thing to hashtag #cutie or #mylove or something similar – but to hashtag every generic hashtag under the sun that does not relate to your photo whatsoever because you see other mums doing so – how can you justify this? I have been honest with myself and asked this question and I cannot come up with a good enough answer to keep doing it as I naively have before! Hash tags = exposure. There is nothing more to it than that. What motives do you have in wanting to expose your child/babies photos on the internet to as many people as you can?
Now I am veering slightly off subject here I know, but I do think that MANY mum accounts I have seen upload WAY too many photos of their babies and children and all these questions above need to be asked. They need to challenge themselves. Are women over-sharing when it comes to their young children? Some women I have seen periodically upload 4,5 even 6 photos PER DAY of their children or of them with their children and using the maximum of 30 hashtags on these photos trying to gain as much exposure as possible. If they weren’t trying to gain exposure to the public on as big a scale as they could – than why upload with hashtags and why upload 4 times per day? Yeah you think your kid is cute we get that but we honestly don’t want to see them on our home page 24/7 so why the bombardment of photos unless you are trying to use them to grow your account?
Many mothers seek support from other mothers and somehow justify uploading hundreds of photos of their child to achieve this? It still isn’t reason enough and still does not justify the striving to gain more followers and exposure. You don’t need a massive account of 40 thousand followers in order to achieve a support network. Close support from a handful of people is more than enough and to be honest more than many real mums have. So once again, using your child’s photos excessively on social media to boost or grow your account and hiding behind the excuse of wanting support from other mums doesn’t add up and is wishy washy. It’s time to get real and admit that children are being used unbeknown to them via social media and it’s unhealthy. This is the real reason behind why many mums do all this, and unfortunately generic mum accounts that over share their children are like the parents who start accounts FOR their children to a degree. They over expose their children for their own personal gain, whether they realise it or not. The underlying fact is that this issue is 100% about the MUM and the validation she needs for her child – which she feels is a literal extension of her – to make her feel adequate and to gain further popularity. That’s the cold hard truth. When you get to the heart of the matter it is somewhat indecent and appalling.
Two days ago I saw a little girls account on Instagram and I found it very disturbing. She was approximately 5 years old. She was posing on a beach, in a child’s bikini. The pose she was making was almost “adult like” – clearly an adult showed it or demonstrated it to her for her to mimic for that photo. It was what I would call an alluring pose – I wouldn’t go as far as saying provocative, but it was by no means child like. Scrolling further through this account (which had thousands of followers) she had makeup on in a good percentage of the photos taken. She was posing like a grown up in many of them, showcasing fashionable children’s clothing. I came across her account because one of those large baby/kids accounts that showcase random cute children’s photos posted this girl’s photo with a caption and tagged this child account in it. Or should I say the mother behind the account in the photo was tagged (as many of these baby accounts do – we all know mothers get very cranky if their child’s photo is used without given proper credit right!?) From there I sickeningly discovered the mother was and IS building a business from her daughter and it had gained an alarming momentum.
The WORST thing about all this was that particular photo this baby/kid account used from this child account had many QUESTIONABLE comments left on it. Yes I scrolled through dozens of comments. Some were from mums saying how cute she was. Some mothers were in an outrage at the fact she was 5 and in a bikini (my thoughts exactly!) BUT there were comments from MALE accounts (some foreign, some not) saying things like “so pretty” and “nice” with a wink emoji. Some men had tagged another account on the photo and left no comment, just a tag. Think deeper into this. Someone tags us in a photo because they want us to look at it right? Why would a male tag another male in a photo of a child? “But there was no sexual comment left by that account” a mother may justify. Just stop. If you cannot be intuitive enough to see the suspicion behind ANY male account that is tagging other men, or leaving borderline “nice” comments on a young child’s photo than you are deluded and living in a dangerous deception. Quite frankly: shame on you. Since seeing this account I have been deeper in thought about this subject and my future stance on it.
Our children should not be used to gain social media popularity.
Creating an account for your tiny child, trying to actively grow and expand it, accepting hundreds/thousands of followers who you do not know for the greater part, follow people back that you or your child do not know or have not met, hashtag your child’s photos for maximum public exposure and attention, caption your photos speaking on their behalf with your opinions voiced as your own – IS a form of exploitation. This needs to be recognised. If you are a parent that has started a PUBLIC account for your child and are doing the listed things above and are not aware of the ramifications of what you are doing, how it can be considered wrong, a danger, an exploitation or a gross invasion of privacy than you need to really be honest with yourself and think this over. Become aware of what you are doing and aware of the heightened risks involving young children being targeted online. Think about what this means for your child and their future? Is it fair that we offer a greater exposure of our children to online predators by creating public accounts and showcasing endless photos, precious memories and milestones?
For many months I didn’t quite get why a few of my Instagram mum friends had decided along the way to keep their accounts private. I never thought deeply into why they may have made this decision. Now as I witness social media more and more I understand completely. The answer is privacy – not just for them, but more importantly for their children.
There should be a limit to how much we exposure our little children to social media. Did you know that in France there are very strict laws in place about what parents can post? They have the strictest controls so far out of any country, which state that anyone who posts a photograph of someone without their express consent – including parents posting pictures of their children – can face a fine of up to 45,000 euro. Yes, this is a fact.
There is a line than can be crossed when it comes to what we share, what we reveal and what we allow strangers to see. As parents we need to know where that line is in the sand, we need to vett through everything. Isn’t that what responsible, protective and selfless parents do? Are we getting so side tracked by our own accounts that we cannot see this unsettling trend of children’s accounts taking off? People need to start talking about this and treating it like it’s a sizeable issue. Are we possibly becoming so desensitized to people sharing every facet of their lives that we no longer blink an eyelid or feel any conviction about a young baby or toddler having their own independent social media account that they have no control over, NO knowledge of and NO say over ANY content that is uploaded or posted? I leave these questions with you all.
Thanks for reading! Comments and feedback always welcome.