Do I Post Pictures of My Kids on the Internet? Yes, I Do.

Posted on July 1, 2011 by

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Saturday night. It was a beautiful night on the east coast.

My son, Jake, 7, and I were sitting on the front porch playing chess while New York sparkled in rainbows just 12 miles away from my suburban New Jersey town. Jake had been clocking in a 103 fever since the night before, and finally, the fever broke (at least temporarily). He had been holed up in the house for the past 24 hours, rotating a steady stream of television and Wii, and so I suggested he come on outside and sit on the porch with me.

“We’ll do something old-fashioned,” I said, “like talk and play a board game.” Jake had been wearing a pair of skull-adorned underwear and a Yankees’ cap for the past day, but I told him to put on a pair of shorts. A shirt? Eh, he’s seven. Little boys can go without shirts.

So there we were, Jake was killing me in chess. And then he lifted his arm in the air. He stroked the narrow creases of skin that rippled under his hairless, soft armpit.  “Do I have any hair under there, Mom?” he asked. I’m not usually so Americana, but I felt all nostalgic and old school. I shot a picture of him with Instagram and chose one of the antiqued filters. The crook of his elbow propped above his head and his hand dangled.  (This is not an ad for Instagram, I swear. I just like the product.)

Jake went to the bathroom and I got the picture ready to send out to the Twitter universe. And then I stopped myself. What was I doing sending out a half naked photo out to the Twitter-verse? Do I know Twitter? Has Twitter been to my house for dinner? Is Twitter some sexual deviant? You see where I’m going.

I never before hesitated to share a picture of my child. I don’t object to sharing pictures of my children or even object to sharing pictures of my children with half their clothes off. (See my other blog for proof.) A bathing suit picture, sure. A baby in a diaper. A kid rolling in the grass, even. But this picture felt more posed and my son looked so handsome and it frightened me to think how someone else might interpret it.

It reminded me of photos Sally Mann might have taken of her own children, particularly of her children naked in the grass with that grainy, ethereal quality. I always felt uncomfortable looking at her pictures of her children, naked with flowers cascading down the center of their bodies, or naked on the couch with dog scratches. People accused her of being pornographic and exploitive. I wouldn’t go that far. Discomfort at times, yes. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do?

Would I call my own photo sharing of my kids on the internet equally as exploitive… as Sally Mann? Uh, no. And look, no newsflash here, but thousands, no, millions of bloggers share photos of their children every day. I never thought about it seriously, until that moment with Jake. It made me think of a recent post by Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother who has also questioned sharing photos of her children. In this particular post, she mentions a reader who asked:  “I wonder if you are ever concerned that your daughter’s (beautiful) image will remain in cyberspace, with no mechanism for you — or her — to reclaim it or her privacy?”

Connor’s writes in response:

My reader worried that I expose too much, that we expose too much. I continue to worry about this, too. But I also feel, deeply, that the exposure – the candor, intentional and accidental – is necessary to our connections, to the humanity of the communities that we build, across universes of difference. I feel, deeply, that I would lose something, that we would lose something, if we kept ourselves and our children (these unique beings who are also and always extensions of myself) behind our fences, safe as houses, concealed from view.

Once he fell asleep and a few hours passed, my misgivings changed. My hesitancy was probably more about coming to terms with my son maturing. “Do I have hair growing?” is a prepubescent question–not typically from a seven-year-old. Maybe the situation made me uneasy. Just the night before, I had wiped his head with a cold compress! The very next day he wanted to know if he was sprouting hair under his pit.

And so I looked at the photo again and realized, no, this picture wasn’t suggestive at all. This was just a captured moment in my son’s life. His skinny body. His proud armpit. Goofy smile.

And now, dear reader, here I am, as Catherine Connors said, sharing it with you.

Do I Post Pictures of My Children?

Mom, is there any hair under there?

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