Picture the scene, your child has their first interview for a job they really want, a panic ensues about what outfit to wear, arrangements are made about transport, and your darling child acts out mock questions in front of the mirror.
Meanwhile, their potential future boss is at work looking over pictures of your child growing up, and creating their own profile before they even walk through the door. That’s right, your child’s future supervisor, the person who in charge of their p45 and toilet breaks is currently looking at your son aged 6 after loosing his first tooth, skipping down the stairs aged 10 to his mountain of Christmas presents and even that video you posted of him doing a funny dance to the song he never stopped listening to!
I am from a time when all family pictures were located in a box that was stored on top of my parents wardrobe, or taken with a video camera that needed to be connected to the computer. This was not 100s of years ago as my children believe, but as early as the year 2000.
Shortly after that was the well known birth of the mother of all social networking sites; Facebook. Facebook has enabled us to literally document every second of our children’s daily lives and milestones for all to see. Every single school achievement, play date with friends and family get togethers with the grandparents, is captured and posted.
The old cliche of a teenager being hideously embarrassed by parents, eager to show the new boyfriend or girlfriend photos of a time when their child frolicked naked in the paddling pool is now an online reality, and is available to future partners, peers, friends of friends or even their employer. The option of silently sitting in the corner praying that said photo box, or video camera will be packed away to gather its next coat of dust has been completely lost. Your child’s life is available for all see.
Recently, I read an article about how teenage children refuse to accept their parents’ friend requests online, and they won’t allow them to take personal pictures from fear of them being posted on social media. Of course, teenagers have this choice, they can vocalise how they feel however, our babies and young children don’t yet have the understanding, or the capacity to express their opinions on these images. Yes, as parents we think our children are the most gorgeous beings to ever have walked the earth, but given the statistics on body image and teenage peer anxiety, are we not adding further fuel to the already roaring fire of social media pressures?
A mum on Twitter had written about her son’s mobile phone content, and she accompanied the article with a picture of him looking at his mobile with his face blurred out. Her son is currently of high school age, and due to the subject matter I’m sure she had felt it necessary to pixelate him, so as not to cause any embarrassment.
I am interested to discuss how we feel we are entitled, as parents, to document every part of their lives until we realise how body conscious they have become.
We are all too aware of our children’s photos getting in to the wrongs hands, or our social media friends getting irritated at constantly looking at our children’s faces on their news feed. More important than this though, is the long term affects on our children of this constant over exposure.l have significantly reduced the number of images of my children on social media and I am more particular about the images I do post.
I will save the photo of my son’s first triumph on his potty, until he reaches his teenage years and we meet his new girlfriend for the first time! As for the video of him reenacting the moves of his favourite superhero, that will just be for me and his dad to watch, and laugh fondly at.
Many of my friends will disagree and we are all entitled to our opinion, but lets cast our minds back to our school days, when we were asked by our teachers to bring in an old photo of ourselves for the ubiquitous ‘changes’ topic. I’m sure we all selected the most photogenic snap of ourselves, not the one where we were having a tear streaked, snotty nosed tantrum! Even as adults I don’t think we ever move faster than when a facebook notification pops up to tell us we’ve been tagged!
Yes, we should celebrate our children, there is nothing on this earth that warrants more attention, but in a society that is becoming obsessed with presenting their “perfect” life online to the detriment of some children’s mental health we need to enable, and support our children to achieve their own path to self worth.