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Are You Comfortable Posting Your Child's Photos Online?

My kids.

When I first started my personal blog back in 2002, it never occurred to me that anyone would actually read it –  anyone, that is, beyond my own mother and grandmother. So I enthusiastically uploaded adorable photos of my three oldest children to my new blog, and I reveled in the feedback left below each photo, comments gushing over the adorableness of my offspring.
As it happened, the vast majority of these early comments were, in fact, written by my own mother and grandmother. Before too long, however, it became clear that other folks were reading my blog, and thus, were looking at the photos of my children.  Friends began asking me whether I worried about kidnappers and perverts seeing the photos, and these same friends were surprised – and not necessarily in a good way – when I would nonchalantly answer, “eh, not so much.”

But it was true; the fact that people I didn’t know might see photos of my kids on my blog just really didn’t concern me that much. That may be because I grew up as the daughter of a small town daily newspaper editor, meaning that my siblings and I served as not-infrequent illustrative fodder for my own mother’s published print features.  As a kid, I got used to being recognized around town by total strangers who had seen me posing in the newspaper with my prizewinning dairy heifer, or frolicking in the water with my younger brother and sister at the ribbon cutting for the new municipal swimming pool. Because of this experience, I totally identify with my own kids’ status as “the blogged about.”

Between about 2001 and 2008, public criticism of the way those shameless, exploitative mommybloggers kept publishing photos of their kids online grew louder and louder. Didn’t we understand the RISKS? Did we not understand that we were dealing with THE INTERNET? (Said the disapproving mom who was a-okay with her own kids’ photos appearing in the school yearbook, the church bulletin, on her family’s annual Christmas card sent out to hundreds of people etc, etc, etc)

And then came Facebook.

Today, 95% of the parents I know are active to some degree on Facebook, and the great majority of these folks happily publish photos of their kids there, including a lot of women who would still tell you that parents who publish photos of their kids “on blogs” are courting disaster.

Given the fact that most parents are now regularly uploading pics to Facebook (and sharing cute baby videos on You Tube, etc)  I kind of thought that this lengthy cultural conversation would essentially be over. But it absolutely isn’t. When I attended the Mom 2.0 Conference last week, almost every panel of bloggers I saw ended up at least touching on the apparently still-hot topic of whether and when it’s okay to share photos of one’s children on a personal blog.  And in Salon this week, (wonderful) writer Mary Elizabeth Williams addresses the same issue in an essay explaining why she doesn’t post photos of her own kids anywhere online. To her credit, Williams makes a point not to judge other parents who do proudly publish dance recital pix on Facebook.

What about you? Where do you stand on publishing photos or video of your kids online? Have your views evolved in one direction or another over time? If so, why? Do you judge bloggers who post kid-pix on their blogs? Are blogs different than Facebook? Tell me in the comments below how you feel about parents publishing photos of their kids online.

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