Posting your kids’ pictures on social media? It seems only fair

There not being enough hand-wringing and parental guilt in the world, NPR provides a public service today by telling us not to post pictures of our kids on social media.

You know, like this:


We were making suet that morning.

Or like this:


That’s one of my favorites. Flying a kite on a beach in Maine the day before we moved to Minnesota. It doesn’t get much better than being a 6-year-old kid flying a kite at the beach.

Where were we? Oh, yes, violating the little critters’ privacy by posting their pictures online.

“We’re big proponents of bodily autonomy and not forcing him to hug or kiss people unless he wants to, but it never occurred to me that I should ask his permission to post photos of him online,” says Burbridge, a mom of two in Wakefield, Mass. “Now when I post photos of him on Facebook, I show him the photo and get his okay. I get to approve tags and photos of myself I want posted — why not my child?”

It’s a fair question, I guess. Do children have privacy rights? “Bodily autonomy” as they say on Facebook.

The American Academy of Pediatrics meeting last week invented a new term for this: “sharenting” and says by the time your kid is 3 or 4, start asking them whether it’s OK for you to share a picture online, according to the pediatricians and the parents who believe them.

“We’re in no way trying to silence parents’ voices,” Steinberg says. “At the same time, we recognize that children might have an interest in entering adulthood free to create their own digital footprint.”

They cited a study presented earlier this year of 249 pairs of parents and their children in which more than twice as many children than parents wanted rules on what parents could share.

“The parents said, ‘We don’t need rules — we’re fine,’ and the children said, ‘Our parents need rules,’ ” Keith says. “The children wanted autonomy about this issue and were worried about their parents sharing information about them.”

She pointed out that the American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidelines to parents on monitoring their children’s social media use, but not the other way around, something David Hill, chair of the AAP Council on Communications and Media, expects will become an important part of AAP’s messaging.

I used to write a blog about being a father but I haven’t updated it much in years. Why not? Because my kids are adults now and to write about them — especially to write honestly — would violate their privacy. I wouldn’t post pictures of them on the blog either. At some point, they own their lives.

Where is that point? I don’t know. But it’s not 3 or 4, when, as I recall, I didn’t ask the kids whether it would be OK with them if they had to go to bed.

There’s logic — I guess — in asserting the hypocrisy of not extending adult considerations and courtesies to kids at a younger age. And certainly not putting pictures of your kids online that could be digitally stolen and turned in to child pornography is common sense.

Some parents find the best route for them is not to share at all. Bridget O’Hanlon and her husband, who live in Cleveland, decided before their daughter was born that they would not post her photos online. When a few family members did post pictures, O’Hanlon and her husband made their wishes clear.

“It’s been hard not to share pics of her because people always want to know how babies and toddlers are doing and to see pictures, but we made the decision to have social media, she did not,” O’Hanlon told NPR via Facebook Messenger.

If you don’t want to put your kids’ pictures online, that’s fine; don’t put them online.

But one of the reasons parenthood is so hard is because there are so many people in the business or pleasure of telling you how you’re doing it wrong. And there’s no greater expert on how to be a parent than the ones who’ve been doing it for a couple of years, tops.

At some point, we stopped listening to them at our house and neither of the young men who once lived there is serving time. Yet.

We made a different sort of unspoken deal that most parents, who we now suspect are probably doing it wrong, make instead: Your mother gets to experience hours — sometimes days — of pain for the privilege of spitting you out of a small orifice, we’ll wipe your tush on a regular basis, your parents will give up sleep in your early years, then exchange their youthful energy for the privilege of keeping you safe until you reach an age when you tell them you hate them and you wish you’d never been born, emerging from your cocoon (your room) years later to reveal you plan to attend a $60,000-a-year college in Europe, a place they’ve never been to because they put their money aside so you could go to college and come home after one semester to remind them how uneducated they are in the way the world works; and when we die, you get the cash, the house, and all the mementos of you we’ve hoarded over the years.

In exchange, we get to post a picture of you online making suet and flying kites.

That may not seem logical, but it feels more than fair.