friendship

"They're my kids, so what exactly do you think you're doing?"

There should be ground rules that all parents follow.

Last week a fellow mother posted a picture of my children on her Facebook page. I didn’t even know until I was scrolling through my newsfeed and saw that she added a new photo. Then I saw the faces and a notification telling me I had been tagged. I hadn’t been; my children were.

I started reading some of the comments from people I didn’t know and I felt a little sick.

A man I had never even met left a comment saying “What a cutie” and another woman said “He is gorgeous”.  My friend responded by saying, “They are not mine, they belong to my friend (and tagged me)”.

I felt weird.

I found this to be a breech of my children’s privacy, and my own. My kids don’t have Facebook accounts and there should be no photos of them posted online without my permission.

For a long time I resisted the online world.

I do now have Facebook and I use it often but my privacy settings are as tight as can be and the photos that I share of my children are only available to close friends. I'm not one of these people who has every person they've ever met on their list of friends. I keep mine quite small. I restrict the audience of some posts and I limit who can see what.

In my previous life, I was exposed to a lot of risk. I had a job which very much impacted my personal life and made me a target for people that wished to do me harm. It's a part of my life that's over now but for this reason I remain vigilant in keeping my children safe.

Perhaps it's overkill and a lot of people would think I overreact but I will not put my kids at risk by posting their faces all over the internet and I don't expect other people to do it for me.

Is this a part of online life? Image: istock

As their mother, it is my job to protect my kids against the world. To shelter them from anyone who may have sick motives. Seeing another person post pictures of my sons without even telling me was over stepping the mark.

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How long had that picture been up? How many strangers had seen it and what had they done with the image? Was it saved to some sickos computer?  I know it's perhaps exaggerating but my point is that I wouldn't know! I had no control over that image as it wasn't mine. Only the children in the photo were mine.

I understand that some people like to document every aspect of their lives for their online friends. This particular person is not someone I would describe as a 'close' friend but we catch up fairly regularly. She has family overseas so I can understand the use of Facebook to remain engaged with them but the photo in question didn't even have her children in it. Just mine. Yes, she had added other photos to the album which gave a timeline of our group visit to the park but the photo of my children was not hers to post.

The photo wasn't hers to post Image: istock

I think there needs to be a guideline for parents; a set of moral codes which we all must follow in relation to other people's kids. You should not post a picture online of someone else's children unless they have seen the image and allowed you to do so.

Some of my friends don't even have Facebook. I wonder if they would even know there are photos of their kids uploaded to Facebook. I'm guessing not.

The digital age is an exceptional one, but it's also one of great risk and uncertainty. I have no doubt that in time my children will wish to engage with Facebook (or whatever else the new thing is at that point) but that will be my decision to let them, and my decision on how much and what they share online.

What do you think? Am I over reacting?

Want more? Try:

Why these mums are campaigning to have their nude photos online.

There’s a Facebook for mums and you should probably (definitely) be on it.

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