social media

Get your kids off Snapchat, please – for their sakes (and mine)

May 17, 2017
kids Snapchat Sacconejoly vlogging blogging

Ah, kids and Snapchat – or, really, any form of social media. When we talk about social media in terms of our young ‘uns, it feels a little like that age-old cliché: won’t someone please think of the children?! And think of the children, we do; there have been plenty of think pieces penned about kids and social media, and whether exposing them online is doing them more harm than good.

I touched on this a little yesterday morning on Snapchat and Instagram Stories (yes, I’ve succumbed; right now, I’m doing both, and trying to provide different content on each platform – but it’s tough, and soon enough one will go…) and, judging by the reaction, it struck a chord with a lot of people. I was referring to snaps I’ve seen from a host of different bloggers, vloggers, influencers and stay at home mums, who have appealed to their audience not to screenshot their kids, whose faces you can frequently see on their various channels.

The great picture paradox

Eh, what? I can only presume that these individuals are asking for people to refrain from screenshotting because they’re concerned for the safety of their children, and sure you’d never know where those pictures will end up. But if you’re all that worried about your kids, why are you putting endless photographs and videos of them online, anyway?

The thing is, I’m not. Worried about the kids, that is. Though there is a school of thought that suggests that allowing photographs of your children to circulate online is not wise, it is very unlikely to do harm to your children themselves. They are no more likely to be abducted, say, because their mam loves videoing them in the playground; paedophile rings aren’t (to our knowledge, anyway) trawling through snaps picking out the most photogenic toddler.

The kids are(n’t) all right

What does worry me is the issue of consent: your children can not, by virtue of them being children, consent to your publication of photographs and videos of them. You are taking away their right to anonymity.

This came up, I think, when the Saccone-Jolys were on The Late Late a couple of years ago. They pointed out that their vlogging has enabled them to give their children a standard of living they otherwise wouldn’t have; it’s opened the door to a whole host of opportunities, and they’re pretty much assuming that, by the time their kids are teenagers, they won’t really mind. (Sure, it’ll be too late then anyway!)

But what if your child grows up and wants to become a politician? What if he or she wants to go into the Secret Service, or work in cyber intelligence? Your child – with neither her knowledge or consent – has got a massive digital footprint that you can never erase.

The platform doesn’t matter – it’s the product

And let’s make something clear: it doesn’t matter if you’ve got your privacy levels up to max and no one can possibly see your photographs bar your closest 300 friends (scoff!). Once you’ve published a photograph online, it exists online forever. You can delete it, but it’s still there, somewhere, floating around in cyberspace.

The moment you publish imagery of your child online you have effectively denied them the right to anonymity, to privacy, and I just don’t think it’s defensible.

Sure, you can say that, as parents, people make decisions on their children’s behalf – without their consent – every day. But, as a rule, these decisions are made because it’s in the child’s best interest. Can you honestly say that making an Instagram account for your child, or focusing 30% of your daily Snapchat story on them, is in his or her interest?

One last thing…

Before you write me off as a child-hating crank, let’s get one thing clear: I like (some) children. I love (most of) the children who are related to me. There are some children I have never met, about whom I feel… well, weirdly affectionate feelings. I follow people on Snapchat with babies who make me smile, or toddlers I think are “only gorgeous”. And that feels so odd to me – why do I think (at all) about children I don’t know?

What’s weirder is: if I saw these children out and about, even without their mothers (whose Snapchats they feature so heavily on), I’d recognise them. I’d be able to look at these babies, toddlers, small children, and say their names. I’d be able to call them. I’d be able to tell them things about their mammies and daddies. I’d be able to lie to them, and say I was friends with their mammy – I could call her by name, and their daddy too, and probably their grannies. I could tell them where they live and I know what their favourite toys are. If there was such thing as a Snapchat-focused paedophile ring, it’d be a seriously easy job.

Let’s hope there isn’t – for all of our sakes – and get back to my curmudgeonly view that, firstly, your children have a right to privacy. And, secondly, by and large, nobody cares about them anyway. Take some videos to send to granny via Whatsapp and leave the rest out. For all of our sakes.

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  • Reply Makeup Monster May 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I definitely think it’s up to each person and it’s lovely seeing cute kids and babies on people’s feeds but personally I wouldn’t feel happy with it and our toddler will never be on social media until he’s old enough to have his own accounts himself. It’s just something we wouldn’t feel comfortable with and we’re the same with our relationship and stuff, everything is kept private which may seem slightly backwards nowadays!

  • Reply Mrsmaggot May 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Also (and possibly more controversially): I really want a family but for medical reasons I can’t right now. I am really upset about this and I really struggle with baby spam. I KNOW they only do it because they love their kids and are so proud of them and it’s NOTHING to do with me, but a constant stream of it actually really and inexplicably hurts – it’s like a constant reminder of my physical inadequacy. I have unfollowed a lot of snapchatters and friend’s Facebook accounts because of constant baby snaps because it’s just too painful. I know this sounds silly and there’s probably some mammy brigade with pitchforks at my door AS WE SPEAK for slandering their little dears. But for what it’s worth, I really wish they would just pare back a bit.

  • Reply enormous May 17, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    One thing I don’t get is when people check into their kids’ school AND do all that social media stuff. Asking to be picked up by some weirdo.

  • Reply anna May 17, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    The thing about posting these pictures of kids is that they could never give permission , and people are exploiting their own children for attention…if someone took my picture and posted it without permission i would ask them to take it down but children can’t …i’ve seen people put pictures of their children on facebook lying in a hospital bed which is so demeaning, just so the parent can get likes/sympathy , it’s a total lack of respect for your own child

  • Reply Shaka May 17, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Totally agree. It’s the recognising other snap chatters children that is very worrying. I don’t want to know about them but I do, it’s weird.

  • Reply mairead mcdermott May 17, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Love this article Rosemary. Kids are being plastered all over the internet and have no idea where their image is ending up. I’ve heard of someone seeing a picture of a child they knew in a Chinese magazine selling some crap or other. As a mother to a toddler, I didn’t post any pictures of her online until she was 2 and a half and even then it was the back of her head. I’ve worked in the area of child safety online and it is scary how easy it is for someone to handpick a child from anywhere. And it happens. People tag their kids schools, their football training, they even have their home address online. People are so f**king stupid! Apart from the safety thing, it’s a complete violation of a child’s rights. There’s gonna be a lot of angry kids full of issues down the line. And we thought the snowflake generation was bad!!

  • Reply Rachael Fitz May 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Another mommy shamer. Mothers have enough pressure on them from society. You don’t have kids so you can’t tell people not to show them on social media. Your favourite saying is ‘ just infollow if you don’t like them’ so why don’t you just unfollow them if you don’t want to see their kids. Bitter hag

  • Reply Emer May 18, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I happen to agree with Rosemary, I don’t post any photos of my little guy online and I ask my friends/family to respect that and somehow this gets misconstrued as a criticism of their parenting if they post pics of their little ones. I don’t care what they do with their children, I assume in any aspect of their parenting they are doing what they think is best and whats in their kids best interests and thats exactly what i’m doing. My baby is only 17 months old, I don’t know what his preferences are about pictures of him being in the public domain, I don’t know if he’ll be happy when he’s older to have had his pictures out there so I choose not to make that decision for him. My husband did ask the question a while ago, what if when he gets older he asks us did we not love him enough to share photos of him and we both got a good laugh out of that. Bottom line for me is that he is a person in his own right, he’s not my property. If he doesn’t understand now he will some day and you can be sure if I raise him the way I want to, he’ll have an opinion on this and I hope that by opting out of sharing photos of him I’ll have respected that opinion.

  • Reply SueOR May 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Last year I sent a message to a blogger who was constantly videoing her son on snapchat…like, phone in the face, he couldn’t get away from it situation…and in the next snap she mentioned how he had become really bold overnight; aggressive, hitting, shouting etc. I know toddlers are generally little buggers when they want to be, I have one of my own, but we discovered that his behaviour definitely worsened the more we used our phones in front of him. So I messaged this blogger and mentioned our discovery – I wasn’t expecting a reply and I didn’t get one. So aswell as their privacy, the safety aspect, there’s also an issue of bad behaviour when a child is mostly dealing with a parent who is stuck behind their phones the whole time. All they want is the right kind of attention, from a human, not from a device!

  • Reply Gina May 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Actually paedophiles are going through social media looking for photogenic children. Over 50% of the images found to be shared by paedophiles have been ‘stolen’ from social media accounts. (Australian study from 2015, look up Susan Mclean)
    Many mummy vloggers backed off from showing their kids when it became clear where their views were from: they were being embedded in certain sites and passed around. Innocent stuff like kids in the bath or just with their top off, close-ups of open mouths eating are a particular favourite. The average person is terrifyingly naive about just how widespread online paedophile interest in children really is. Anyone working in the field can only be horrified by what Youtubers allow to be seen.
    Also, the ‘Right to be forgotten’ is currently a hot issue among researchers and legislators for precisely the reasons you write about. The LSE do some interesting work in this area with the ‘Parenting in a digital age’ group. But there has never been such a huge financial incentive for parents to pimp out their kids on Youtube and elsewhere and we urgently need safeguards for kids whose parents are simply stupid and/or greedy.
    Apart from anything else there’s the obvious psychological damage done to a child whose concept of reality has been distorted by having daddy push the camera in their face every day . There’s no divide between home and ‘performing’ as there would be for a child actor.
    This is the first generation who have grown up with the pressures of social media. Any decent parent would do anything to protect their child’s privacy and dignity; those that don’t will pay a heavy price.

  • Reply E May 18, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    100% agree Rosemary!

  • Reply E May 18, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I could not agree more Rosemary!

    Sadly I think it says a lot about society today that so many people disagree with you on this and I think it’d very sad. I agree completely with you and think you made the point very well.

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