Photo: Matt Villano via Instagram
If you follow me on social media, it won’t take long for you to get acquainted with the backs of my daughters’ heads. If I’m feeling particularly cheeky, I might use a prop to hide their faces. They look pretty cute in sunglasses, too.
I also keep the girls out of my writing. When I publish posts on my family travel blog, Wandering Pod, I speak in general terms, use initials instead of first names or refer to them simply by birth order.
The overarching goal is to prioritize their privacy at any cost—a position I held even before I became a parent. My wife is even more bullish about it than I am—she’s skeptical of social media in all its forms and, as a college professor, really requires her private life to remain private. It’s easier to hold the hard line together—and in this age of cyberbullying and online harassment, why wouldn’t we?
My philosophical defence has been straightforward. Sure, I write about family travel, but my stories represent my perspective on the subject. Until my girls are old enough to choose if and how they want to share their stories, I have no right to decide for them. So I don’t.
The practical defence has been more cut and dried. Most photos contain data about when and where the image was taken—data that can be used against you. Furthermore, most photos are pretty easy for other people to copy or steal—even if privacy settings are cranked to the max. And don’t get me started on facial-recognition bots.
Still, in practice, maintaining my extreme stance about the girls’ online privacy has been difficult.
The biggest challenge has been the unspoken pressure from friends, extended family and fellow travel bloggers who have absolutely no qualms about sharing their own kids online. They’ll often make not-so-subtle comments about how they wouldn’t recognize my girls if they saw them. My response: “They’re adorable. I promise.”
Then, of course, there’s the overt pressure—mostly from clients and editors who simply can’t fathom why I wouldn’t want to run my story with photos of my cute kids. This type of pushback is problematic; I don’t want to violate my own personal privacy rules, but as a freelance writer, I also don’t want to alienate potential clients.
I’ve never caved. Thankfully, I haven’t lost work over it. At least not yet.
I’d like to think that won’t change. I’d like to think that as parents become more aware of the issues around online privacy for kids, protecting that privacy will become less of an exception, more like a rule.
Check out Breakfast Television's new podcast Moms in the Middle. Episode 3: To Share or Not to Share?