Why I'm Not Sharing Photos Of My Child On Social Media

I reached out to parents, friends, and even a child psychiatrist, to get their take on the matter, too.

When I was pregnant with my first child (and only child, as she is still only 4 months old), the barrage of information I had to quickly sift through, and the hugely important decisions that had to be quickly made, was immense.  

There were so many "cooks in the kitchen," so to speak, that I felt completely alone in making most of these big decisions. I got so overwhelmed by all of the conflicting information that I just said, "Fuck it, I'm going to do what feels right."  

But something that never came up on any of the mommy blogs or parenting websites was eating at me. It was something that felt like one of the biggest questions of all — so why was no one was asking or talking about it?



Are you going to post images of your child on social media?

Velychko Viktoriia I Shutterstock
Velychko Viktoriia I Shutterstock

I'm going to tell you my family's decision and why we made it. Just because it's the right thing for us doesn't mean it's the right thing for you. But let's talk about it.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I made the decision not to share photos of our daughter on social media so as not to create a digital footprint for a person who cannot give their consent yet, and won't rationally be able to for many years. This was a very strange decision for our friends and family, as my husband and I are both professional photographers. But, here are our reasons why we chose this. 

1. Companies are now tracking images.

With facial recognition software, it's reasonable to assume you can be tracked from day one, and then that data can be used to sell you things, or it can be used for other nefarious endeavors. 

2. Strangers can find your photos and use them for what they want.

This was not a huge concern for us, but the idea of it is super creepy. 

3. It's important to preserve anonymity.

This was the most important reason for me. I can't tell you with confidence that what I post of my child now won't impact her life in the future. And if there is even a chance that what I post will negatively affect her — whether it be being teased at school, or preventing her from getting a job, or that she may just be a shy person who doesn't want her whole life on the internet — I would rather not do it.

"Being anonymous is wonderful" is something my dad has said my whole life. And my family knows this to be true because, for a brief moment in our lives, my father was not anonymous, and we as a family were not anonymous. Instead, scandal was thrown into our faces at home, and we were being written about by major news outlets. Those articles were found by my classmates, who were cruel and ruthless to me about them.

I did not have a happy childhood. Being bullied at school were some of my earliest memories, and the bullying lasted through high school. There were kids who ended up getting kicked out of both the schools I went to for the kind of severe bullying that I endured. It was beyond difficult, and I am still living with the side effects of the trauma. So, as a target of severe bullying, I know that kids will go out of their way to find things to make fun of you about. They will be calculated, and callous, and make sure their verbal punches knock you out on the first hit. 

I know that I can't prevent my daughter from experiencing hardship, and I know that I'm going to fuck up this parenting thing in at least one way, but I feel it is my role, and my duty as her mother, to do whatever I can to make those difficult times experiences she can grow from — not something so traumatizing she carries that baggage around with her forever. Which, to me, means not providing potential bullies with the ammunition of awkward family photos. Don't get me wrong, we will take many hundreds of awkward and wonderful family photos, and we will share them with our friends and family, but just not on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social site.

Of course, this is a personal parenting choice as many others love to share photos of their young children online. I reached out to parents, friends, and even a child psychiatrist, to get their take on the matter.

Not only was I surprised by the thoughtfulness of the responses, but also the range. And there was a BIG range from "I DGAF," to some unique and thoughtful responses from both sides of the aisle. 

A few of my friends expressed some of the same concerns that my husband and I have. 

"My feeling is that you might as well make a stack of Xeroxes and tape them to lampposts," one new father of a little girl told me.  "Who knows who's looking, or why, or where the pictures may go or linger?" 

Another person, who is not a parent, but a professional nanny equated posting photos of children of the families she works for as a breach of trust. "I find it personally more respectful to the child if I don't share details from [their] life that they cannot in good [conscience] give me permission to share," she said. " ... There is a level of permission that I would hope to gain from my children before creating a digital catalogue of their lives. After all, they may develop into a much more private person than I am, and when they are this tiny baby, or a busy 6-year-old, I have little idea of how they will feel in the future, [so I] respect their privacy in the present."

Other friends who do choose to post images of their children online have some pretty great reasons. 

James Case-Leal, a New York-based artist, uses his posts to empower other artists to not minimize their role as parents. "I personally don't think it's [a] big deal to post kid pics … I've experienced incredible pressure to minimize my role as a parent. For example, the chair of my MFA telling me they wouldn't have accepted me if they had known I had kids. Glad I didn't mention that in the interview! Kids are a bigger part of my life than anything else and maybe celebrating that publicly offers a little solidarity/advocacy for parents?" 

And Amy Sample-Ward, the CEO of Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), told me she doesn't believe we have much control over our data anyway, so we might as well give into it and make it a positive experience. 

"Max and I are very much of the belief that we live in public — there is so much that is documented, created, posted, and tracked by others, with or without our knowledge (let alone consent), that the idea that we are in control of whether our data, likeness, and even actions shared is unrealistic. We would rather embrace that reality and be an active part in creating and sharing the kind of information that we do want surrounding us. Sharing photos of our son's life is part of that — both for us and for him. We do not post photos of him when he is crying, struggling to communicate or express how he is feeling or what he wants, or that show him fully naked, just as we wouldn't post photos of ourselves or each other in those situations where we feel sad or mad or vulnerable."

And what I found out from a brief email chat with Dr. Dan Siegel, author of The Whole Brain Child and Parenting from the Inside Out, was that there is no wrong decision as long as it is a thoughtful decision. "I think questioning its impact is important for every parent to do rather than simply going on autopilot and following the trends." 

And for those parents who choose to post images of their children and family on social media, they need to be aware of the shame and embarrassment that can come with the overexposure of one-sided perfect stories. "That feeling of inadequacy and not being good enough can be a part of the emotion of shame. Shame, sadly and profoundly, organizes many people's lives, even without their knowing it — driving their behavior, shaping their emotional responses, molding their ways of being on social media — and so we need to name it to have a chance of healing it in our lives." Meaning that we, as parents, can be awesome role models and create learning experiences with the way we use social media. 

So in the end, I am still most comfortable with the decision I have made to not post photos of my daughter on social media. As she grows older, and we can sit down, and have real conversations where she can understand the consequences of what these decisions mean, maybe I will change my mind. But what I won't change my mind about is giving her agency. Once she is fully aware of what a digital self is, I will always ask permission to post images of her. And, hopefully, my respect and caution with what is shared in online spaces will enable her to have healthy and safe practices with social media. 

Cover image via Velychko Viktoriia I Shutterstock

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