By Today's ParentUpdated Mar 30, 2017
Caron Court, mom of one
I guess you could say my six-year-old, Owen, is a rising social media star—at least in my eyes. I’ve been posting his funny expressions on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #owenisms since he was a toddler, and I’ve shared more than 4,000 photos of us on Instagram.
It might look like I’m showing off, but I have deeper reasons for putting my kid on the Internet. After Owen was born in 2009, I almost died due to complications. This left me very aware of my own mortality. I worried I’d die before Owen would be able to remember me. On top of that, Owen’s dad and I broke up 18 months later, which only heightened my fear that there wouldn’t be anyone to share photos or stories of me with Owen if I died.
Around the same time my relationship ended, I got my first smartphone. Owen and I soon became selfie experts—there was no one else to take photos of us, and I didn’t want to miss out on documenting those special moments. I started adding the photos to Instagram so I could crop and filter them. As for the #owenisms, they give people a laugh, and they create a digital journal, both for him and for me.
I know there are risks to sharing my kid’s life on social media. But I think the benefits outweigh them. And I take steps to protect him online. I avoid identifying the location of his school and activities; I don’t post comments or photos he would find embarrassing, either now or in the future (in fact, he now reviews my posts); and I never shame him — I choose to share moments that show off the best of my smart, funny and precocious little boy’s personality.
I now know there’s a large community of people who could tell Owen about the fun adventures he had with his mom and how much she loved him.
Owen recently told me he wants to be a YouTube star and asked to create his own social media accounts. I said yes. I’m glad he’s becoming Internet savvy at a young age, since social media is here to stay.
Roma Kojima, mom of one
The moment my baby girl was born, my brain exploded. I’d made a person! This tiny, pissed off, wrinkly puffball was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. Pride kicked in with such force that I wanted to show off her epic cuteness to the world, Lion King-style.
But once the adrenalin wore off, it just didn’t seem right. In person, I’ll happily whip out my phone and show baby pictures to anyone who so much as makes eye contact. But online, I post no photos at all.
The decision seems counterintuitive to friends and family, since both my husband and I are digitally savvy, open people. But extending this openness to another person without permission has always felt wrong.
The digital space can feel secure and private—between me, my phone, my privacy settings and my friends. But the sands are constantly shifting. I can never really know whose news feed a picture will appear in because a mutual acquaintance hit “like” or a developer tweaked some code.
We’ve all read the horror stories: Instagram “adoptions,” where stolen pictures of real babies are used like perverse ’90s Tamagotchis, and people with questionable sexual proclivities collect images of kids. If I won’t give my kid a toy I deem unsafe, it seems irresponsible to leave pictures of her in places with questionable privacy.
I know the chances of misuse are relatively small. I also know nothing digital is ever truly secure—someone could hack my email account and steal my photos or take a picture of her without my knowledge. My goal is to find a balance between maintaining her privacy and my sanity. To make it just inconvenient enough for someone with ill intent to keep surfing. To empower my daughter to make educated decisions about her digital presence when she’s old enough.
Maybe this is a fool’s errand. Maybe I sound like a lunatic on a soapbox. But it’s a small price to pay to keep my baby girl's privacy out of the hands of other people.
A version of this article appeared in our March 2016 issue, with the headline "Do you put your kid on social media?", pg. 88.