It’s not often that I feel I have something in common with an Oscar winning actress, but when Anne Hathaway admitted earlier this month that she instantly regretted the one image she’s ever posted of her one-year-old son online, I could relate.
You see, just like you, I think my child is beautiful. He has gorgeous full lips, a tumble of blonde curls and the cheekiest little smile. Just like you, my phone is full of hundreds of pictures and videos of him and is always perilously close to its storage limit.
But perhaps unlike you, I rarely ever share any of those images online and even when I do, I often wish I hadn’t. I could probably count on one hand how many pictures I’ve shared of him within his short life, which is less than some of my friends post of their kids in a single day.
But where Anne (can I call you Anne?) and I differ is that she says she feels as though in posting the image of her son she’s “broken some kind of seal” in inviting people into her private life. She has over eight million Instagram followers, I have a very modest Facebook friends list of 302. Let’s be honest, no one is hanging out for an invitation into my private life.
Yet my reasons for not over-sharing when it comes to my son are twofold; privacy and security – two things all our children are entitled to, celebrity offspring or not. Firstly, like Crocs and religion, I don’t want to inflict social media on my son until he’s old enough to make that decision for himself. Will he appreciate me sharing that ‘hilarious’ toilet training anecdote in years to come? Probably not.
Secondly, I want to know exactly who has access to images of my son. Does that make me a paranoid control freak? Perhaps. Our decision not to share images of our son online was one we made well before he was even born and hasn’t always been a popular one. “Oh, OK,” people would reply when we told them of our wishes, lowering their phones mid photo-shoot in confusion. He’s now well into toddlerhood and people still question our motives.
To be honest, I sometimes wonder whether rearing him solely on Pete Evans’ DIY bone broth would have been a less controversial choice. It’s not that I don’t get it. Oh God, do I get it. Sometimes my thumb will hover over a particularly cute picture of him and I ache to share it online and say, look! Look what I made! It’s not that I’m not a fan of ‘babyspam’ either. I live on the opposite side of the world to some of my closest friends so seeing their gorgeous little ones on social media is sometimes the closest I get to hanging out with them in person.
Mamamia Out Loud asks Mia's son Luca how he feels about shareting (post continues after audio).
However, where I start to feel uncomfortable is the intimate level at which I know some of my acquaintances’ kids. These might be people that I went to primary school with, worked alongside decades ago or met once at a party. I mean, I barely know the parents yet I’m familiar with their kids’ nap times, favourite snacks, toys and even the names and locations of their schools.
Doesn’t that concern you? It concerns me. If you wouldn’t stop me in the street to tell me where your child goes to day care or that she’s obsessed with her scooter and that so-and-so is her favourite uncle, why are you telling me now via such a public platform?
I don’t mean to sound preachy, I really don’t. Parents have enough to feel guilty about without the added pressure of monitoring their child’s online presence. But in light of the fact that we’ve been warned that the images we post of our children online can somehow make it into the hands of paedophiles, shouldn’t we all stop sharing quite so much and start practising a little caution?
If you don’t want to forgo sharing images of your children altogether but are concerned for their safety, perhaps heed the advice of a friend of mine who set up a private Facebook group when her daughter was born. That way you don’t have to de-friend Sally* from the swimming club you last went to in 2004 but you can post to your heart’s content, confident in the knowledge that your child’s images and information are in safe hands.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want – Anne Hathaway included?
Do you agree, should parents stop posting pictures of their children online?