Walmart withholds 'inappropriate' baby photos from mom

A Newfoundland mom has her "inappropriate" photos of her two children confiscated by Walmart employees.

kids-bath
Photo: iStockphoto

It seems like we can’t go a few weeks without some sort of photo controversy involving parents.

Back in May, there was quite the buzz about a woman who had her Instagram account deactivated because of some breastfeeding photos that were deemed inappropriate.

Read more: Mother’s Instagram deactivated after breastfeeding photo>

This week, a new debate has opened up after a Walmart employee in Newfoundland confiscated a handful of baby photos after flagging them as inappropriate.

The mother in this story was absolutely baffled when the employee informed her that the pictures of her daughter clutching an empty beer bottle were unsuitable for printing. The store also added they would not be printing another picture of her infant daughter and five-year-old son as they prepared for a bath—presumably because their bare bottoms were exposed in the image.

This has a lot of people talking about the boundaries for appropriate photos involving children.

Read more: Is it time to stop sharing photos of our kids online?>

Let’s start with the pair of photos with the baby holding the empty beer bottle. The tradition of taking pictures of kids holding empty beer bottles goes back at least to the 1970s—when I’m sure there were a lot of parents allowing their toddlers to have a tiny sip from the bottles as well.

I will openly admit to having a couple of photos in our archives of our kids next to alcohol. When our oldest daughter was about 10 months old, we thought it was hilarious that a glass of beer at the pub was almost as big as she was—so we took a picture of it. I personally don’t see any harm in a photo of a child next to alcohol provided:

a) the child is not consuming any alcohol

b) nobody in the picture appears to be intoxicated

c) the child is not being made to pose in a crude manner

I do realize that everyone’s taste and limitations are completely different in this area. Even my own boundaries are somewhat vague and fluid when it comes to photos with kids. While I have no issue with a kid being photographed holding an empty beer bottle, I would take offense with a picture featuring a child holding a cigarette. Even if this cigarette wasn’t lit, I just find that image a little more inappropriate than one of a child holding an empty beer bottle—even though the logic is virtually the same. I think this just goes to underscore how different everybody’s opinions are when dealing with photographing children; it’s a moving target.

Read more: The debate: Should you post about your kids on Facebook?>

When it comes to the photos of kids going into the bathtub, I think this is a more popular picture genre than ones of kids holding empty beer bottles. We definitely own a handful of pictures of our kids getting ready for a bath or inside the tub—mostly when they were younger than two. For the most part, these photos are innocuous and completely harmless. It’s like the picture of the Coppertone baby exposing her bottom. Nobody has taken offense to that, and I’m pretty sure Walmart still stocks the sunscreen on its shelves, despite the partial child nudity on the bottle.

Most of us figure we will hang onto these bathtub photos and use them at a future wedding—provided they are still doing slideshows in the year 2034. So when it comes to naked shots of kids, here are my guidelines for what I think is acceptable:

a) there is no frontal nudity

b) child is preschool age or younger

c) there are no sexual references or innuendo

Again, your definition of what makes an appropriate photo could be vastly different from mine. And as the Walmart story seemed to indicate, there is a massive grey area in this topic, as even the company’s policy appeared to be vague at best.

However, I do have an issue with the store withholding these pictures from the mother for a couple of reasons. For starters, if an employee thinks that a child is endangered or in a compromising situation because of some pictures they see, they have an obligation to report this to the authorities. This shouldn’t be a “no harm, no foul” situation where they say the photos aren’t appropriate—and then take no further action. Sure, there is a grey area we are dealing with, but common sense needs to win out in this situation.

Furthermore, the idea that any pervert or pedophile would use a photo lab in the year 2014 is absolutely insane. Sadly, these creeps were using Polaroid cameras 30 years ago and now have the means to either print their own photos on a home printer or simply exchange digital files over the Internet. While the Walmart employee might think that he/she is on the verge of exploiting a ring of child pornography, the sad fact is that none of these degenerates would show their face in public and print their pictures at a photo lab. So anybody who takes their digital files to a photo lab in the year 2014 is obviously doing so with a fairly clear conscience.

Personally, I think the woman should have been allowed to go home with all of her pictures from the store. After all, if they start deeming pictures of kids in bathtubs as inappropriate or illegal, they’re going to have seize most of the photo collections from parents across the country.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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