Every time there is a school holiday, social media is plastered with photos of families and kids engaged in all sorts of vacation fun. Then there are those other pictures, the ones that reflect something more than family fun. This year, in particular, there was a peppering of photos that made me stop and ask, Why did [parent] post that photo?
Obviously, a parent posts photos of his child, thinking it will be “liked.” My friends will love this one! No one intentionally posts a cringe-worthy picture of her child. But does the parent consider the child’s feelings or the message the child gets by being put on display by the parent?
Recently, I read a story about a child who asked her mother to stop blogging and posting photos of and about her. https://wapo.st/2RMD61Z The story was about the mother, but to me it was more about the 9-year-old child. It is understandable that the child didn’t want her life broadcast in the blogsphere. She wants to live her life out of the spotlight; she wants privacy. In fact, there comes a time when many kids do not even like to be talked about to mom’s friends or the grandma or anyone, let alone be publicized. And that can start as young as 6 or 7 years old.
This article reminded me of some of the Facebook photos I had seen over the holidays. In particular, I thought of one family who posted photos of their teenage daughters at a beach resort, wearing bikinis. I actually have no idea if the girls objected to the posting. Maybe it didn’t bother them to be showcased. But it sure bothered me. It was the parent shouting, Look at my girls in their bathing suits; look at their bodies!
It’s one thing if teens themselves post pics of themselves in bathing suits (and whatever bizarre get-ups) for their friends to see. It is their choice, their fitting in, their speaking teen language. It is certainly true that celebrities and influencers post photos of themselves, their “look,” all the time, which can make body posting seem perfectly acceptable. But when it is the parent who draws attention to her child’s body, it’s a whole different story.
We are living in an era of #metoo, of women power, of helping our daughters and sons to feel worthwhile, powerful, and beautiful from the inside out and not because of their appearance or physical attributes. Even so, we are still fighting the body image battles. Can posting a photo of a teen in a bathing suit (not doing anything in particular) give any other message besides the importance of appearance to you, the parent, even if it’s because you’re proud? And when the parent posts that photo, doesn’t it shout that you want all your “friends” to see your child’s body…in a bathing suit?
Whether it is your intention or not, your child will absorb your values and ideas about what counts. What matters to you carries a lot of weight with your child.
Parents need to ponder the message they may give, even inadvertently, beyond the actual post.
When your child is old enough to see your postings, let alone have his/her own social media accounts, it is time to rethink what you post when it comes to your child. Not only must you consider the message s/he gets about your values, but it’s time to ask for your child’s permission. S/he needs to give the green light for you to post a photo, to share a story. Doing so is respectful of the child. And if he says NO, then NO wins.