The children of the mommy bloggers are growing up. In an article for The Washington Post, mommy blogger Christie Tate describes the moment her now fourth-grade daughter realized she was the topic of a blog. “Why are all of these pictures of me on the internet?” her daughter asked her. Why indeed?
Mommy blogs are a relatively new innovation. The very first mommy blog (called simply, “The Mommy Blog) came out in 2002. But it wasn’t until around 2007 that blogs became ubiquitous. So it’s only now that the first generation of children to be blogged about is becoming aware of their presence on the internet. And they’re not happy.
Leta Armstrong, whose mother Heather writes about her on her website Dooce, told Slate that she’s uncomfortable with some of the things her mother shares about her. “I didn’t want the whole internet reading about how I threw up,” she said. “Sharenter” (the term for parents who frequently share photos of their children online) Charlotte Philby’s daughter told her: “I hate this [photo], I look really sad, please delete it.”
For many mommy bloggers, the moment when their kids wise up is the moment that they quit. Mommy blogger Darlena Cunha said she decided to quit blogging about her kids when she realized they had no concept of privacy. “Being public does not bother them at all,” she wrote in an article for The Washington Post. “If Mommy thinks the Internet is a safe place for their lives to unfold, then it must be so.”
Other mommy bloggers are quitting for themselves, realizing that the act of taking the perfect photo or capturing the most amusing moments is taking them away from the actual experience of enjoying their children. Philby writes, “I’d missed out on a special moment with my kids because I was too busy trying to capture it for social media.”
All this begs the question: if kids are unhappy when they learn their parents have been sharing pictures and stories about them since their birth, shouldn’t we preempt that by honoring their privacy all along? Sure, a baby doesn’t have any concept of the internet or privacy or even what’s embarrassing and what isn’t, but shouldn’t we respect that one day they will? That one day, a ten-year-old might realize that her naked butt was plastered all over the internet when she ran streaking through the backyard at the age of two and be embarrassed? And shouldn’t that at least give us pause?
When it comes to privacy, it’s clear that little kids ought to have less of it — need less of it — than adults do. You wouldn’t leave your three-year-old alone in the bathtub because bathing is a private pursuit. You wouldn’t let your two-year-old lock himself into his room when he’s feeling angry because he needs time to himself. And anyone who has a kid under, say, seven knows that the kids themselves aren’t so into the whole privacy concept either — they’ll follow you into the bathroom while you’re peeing if you’ll let them. But there’s a difference — a big difference — between needing a grown-up to be with you and needing all the grown-ups to be with you.
As far as I’m concerned, a newborn baby has a right to privacy from the prying eyes of strangers (or even casual acquaintances). If you wouldn’t want your naked body, or your messy face, or your fecal matter broadcast for all the world to see, chances are neither would they — if they were capable of telling you. But, in the age of social media and easy blogging, many parents don’t even think twice before sharing photos, videos, and anecdotes about their kids to be consumed by the general public.
Our children have become commodities, their images exchanged for sponsorships, shares, and likes. But our children are growing up. And this thing that’s been done to them without their permission is, in many ways, indelible. And if it’s horrifying to them, it ought to be horrifying to us too. The internet is not a friendly place. We know that from our own interactions on it. Why would we throw our children to the wolves?