The topic of our children, pictures and social media is a tough one for kids and parents. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Ayme of We Thrive Online to help us fully understand what today’s kids and experiencing with their bodies and digital images.
The Lesson I Almost Missed
I enjoy taking pictures. One of my favorite things to do is photograph is my son. My phone is crammed full of sweet and silly pictures of my favorite subject being himself. I want to document us. My wife does the same. We want to have plenty of photos of all of us as a family so that we can capture every entertaining and special moment. While I don’t like to take selfies, I make an exception for him.
My son actually took his first selfie before he could crawl. Before the term “selfie” even existed as a matter of fact. One Sunday before church he and I played on the couch. I pulled out my phone and flipped the camera around so that he could see himself. Then he reached up, tapped the screen and snap! His first selfie.
When visiting a fun place like the zoo he’ll ask for me to take his picture with an elephant statue or something. He’ll climb on it and make a goofy face. Then he’ll ask for me to take a selfie of us together. Other times he’ll surprise me during something completely mundane, like riding in the car for a picture of the two of us.
It was during one of these everyday activities that I had a shocking revelation. One evening I helped him out of the bathtub and wrapped him in a towel. He pulled it down over his head and stuck out his tongue and tried to lick me. This is the danger in raising a boy, random licking. Then once he settled down he asked, “Selfie?”
I realized in that moment I had not imparted a very important lesson to my son. While I had taught him to look both ways before crossing the street, what to do if he found a gun and stop, drop and roll - I hadn't taught him something that is afflicting too many of today’s youth.
I had never thought to share with my young son that it isn’t okay to take a picture without your clothes on. I genuinely wonder how likely it was that I would have ever thought to tell him that.
As parents there are many lessons that we take for granted. We feel that if our children watch us live life, and they do, then we are naturally showing them a wholesome, safe way to live. We take for granted things like knowing the stove is hot, don’t drink anything in the cabinet under the sink and wearing sunscreen. So I had glossed over telling my child that nude pictures were not acceptable. You may have not told yours as well.
As I helped my son dry off from his bath I gently explained that it isn’t okay to take a picture without your clothes on. It’s not something that should be done. I also assured him that I understood that he didn’t know that. As a dad, I explained, it’s my place to make sure you know what’s good and what’s bad. Pictures are for only when we have on our clothes.
Our children’s bodies are sacred. They are not to be exploited in any way. Yes, there are naked baby pictures of us all somewhere in some photo book under a coffee table at your parents house. But they are physical copies that aren’t shareable a thousand times a minute.
The game has changed since we were young. Kids today need to know that they are precious and that pictures without clothes are not acceptable, especially in this lightning fast digital age. And this goes for us as parents too.
I have friends who post bath time photos of their kids. While the intention of these photos is for making friends and family happy, there are too many unintended consequences. I’ve actually had one friend post a picture of their fully nude toddler using the bathroom. That is not acceptable.
Think about how today that image can be used by a monstorus pedifile. They can manipulate that image any way they want. Do you want pictures that you took of your children to end up on the dark web as “entertainment” for the worst of all human beings?
Then consider what it’ll be like for her has she grows up. That picture will still exist. In this geo tagging, facial recognition age we live in, this image has the potential to follow her the rest of her life. In a few years, this image could pop up in Google searches when someone looks for her online. This one image could be the thing that defines her.
And as she continues to mature, will she know the value in her own body? If her mom posted naked photos of her it must be okay, right? If her mom shared these kinds of photos then why shouldn’t her teenage boyfriend do the same? Or why shouldn’t she share them herself for a new online admirer? The potential consequences for sharing naked photos of our kids far outweigh the fleeting satisfaction of few likes.
Please stop sharing photos of your kids without their clothes. No more potty pictures, no more bath time videos and no more nude children on social media. Model for your kids a foundation for them to respect and protect their bodies. Show them you love them and that they have value by respecting their privacy.
In the second part of our series, Ayme of We Thrive Online will share how our kids can build a foundation behind the screen to appreciate themselves and not waste their most precious commodity - their bodies - for a few likes or the approval of an online predator.
Her insight into this subject is powerful. Please consider sharing both articles with your friends. It might just change their lives.