Child privacy: where do you draw the line?
Essential Baby blogger Amity Dry
A pregnant performance artist is going to give birth live on stage later his month, as part of a work about childbirth. Marni Kotak will spend the rest of her pregnancy at the Microscope gallery in New York, until the baby arrives in a public display of ‘art’ titled ‘The Birth of Baby X.’
Wow, brave woman. As much as I wouldn’t have cared if all of New York had walked through the ward in the final pushing stages of my labours, I can’t imagine being too thrilled about being on display in those earlier, still coherent but not overly presentable, moments. But, each to their own. If Ms Kotak wants to make a public performance of her baby’s birth it should be her right, shouldn’t it?
At least that’s what I thought until I started to read the online comments to the story, where many questioned what rights her baby has, if any, of it’s first moments in the world being publically broadcast. Which got me thinking about our children’s rights to privacy in general and where each of us draw the line.
With the rise of ‘Mummy bloggers,’ Twitter and Facebook we are all sharing stories and pictures of our offspring more than ever. On hugely popular sites such as Dooce.com mothers write about the daily lives of their children, complete with photos, to an audience who lap it up, engaging with their stories and forming an emotional attachment to children they have never met. And closer to home many members on Essential Baby regularly write about the experiences of their children through their comments, photos and blogs.
As, of course, do I. My life has been a fairly open book to my followers on Essential Baby over the last four years, as have many of my children’s first experiences. However, over the years I have changed the way I write about them somewhat, when I became conscious that perhaps one day they wouldn’t want everything they did as babies to be shared with the world. But then, if I ever get too concerned about that I remind myself that they will be two of billions of other people who have had their whole lives documented since birth, so they’ll all be in the same basket!
From photos of pregnant bellies and ultra sound scans, to the first happy snaps of a screaming baby entering the world, we naturally love to share the joy of parenthood with those around us. But for all those parents who love to show off photos of their kids, there are plenty who are far more wary and pedantically guard their children’s privacy, refusing to have any photos of them online at all.
I sit somewhere in the middle. Clearly I write about my kids on EB and I have done many public photo shoots with them throughout their lives. But I also mostly keep my online pictures of them to my personal Facebook site, rather than my public one, and I try not to write about things I think they would one day have an issue with. Me writing about their refusal to sleep through the night, or throwing a ripper toddler tantrum won’t exactly make them special or unique amongst their peers in future years, so I think I’ll be ok.
And as far as MY experiences of motherhood and pregnancy go, well they are my stories to share and I will continue to be as honest and authentic about them as I can be. I believe one of the best things to come out of the new online world is the knowledge that we all go through the same struggles and joys as each other. And experiences shared make for a less daunting and isolating time for all of us.
I also don’t want to let the fear of the lurking predator impact on everything I do. I was at my nieces netball game recently, where my father in law was told he was not allowed to take photos of the game in an attempt to protect the children’s privacy. That makes me incredibly sad, and angry. What has the world come to when a proud grandfather can’t take a photo at a public sporting game?
The dangers are ever present, no doubt. And we do need to protect our children, but for each of us that means a different thing. So for those of you out there, where do you draw the line? Do you write about and post photos of your kids or keep their stories and images off the net all together? And what do you think our children will make of their online lives being so well documented in the future? Or will they be so busy trashing their own reputations with Facebook updates of teenage misadventures that a few embarrassing baby photos will be the least of their worries?!
Do you agree? Comment on Amity's blog in the Essential Baby Forums.