I recently heard on the radio that a teenager in Austria was suing her parents for posting embarrassing photos of her on Facebook. My first reaction was a stomach lurch because if we’re being honest, I post a lot of photos of my own toddler. We even have an Instagram account dedicated entirely to her pictures. But when I got home and looked more into the case, it was interesting to me that the photos she was quoted as having a problem with were when she was on the toilet or “naked in the cot.” Phew, I thought. No naked pictures here.
But this got me thinking. Now that we’re in the stage of life where a lot of friends have children, every time I scroll my various social media feeds I see tons of baby pics. And while most of them are totally adorable and make me smile, I do cringe a little every time I see a naked baby or toddler (or bigger kid!) in my feed. It’s not that I don’t think naked babies are adorable; I mean, really, there isn’t anything much cuter in life than a baby’s tush. But even though my daughter is less than 2-years-old, I have always been very strict about not posting any naked photos of her, anywhere. I just don’t think it’s my right to.
I’ve heard the logic a million times, and I’ve read angry rants from parents after Facebook has removed an “innocent” photo of their little boys taking a pee in the backyard or a new naked baby being displayed in her birthday suit for all the world to admire. I get where they’re coming from, or at least, I’m willing to listen. Because yes, you did create that little naked body and yes, even without clothes on, babies and children are innocent. There is nothing sexual in your posting of the photo. But the world doesn’t stop and start with you.
First of all, nothing you post on the Internet is ever private. Never. Not even if you have very tight privacy settings and are only “friends” with your mom. Once it’s posted, and even one person has seen it, you have given up control. Second, even if you think it’s totally innocent, there are predators out there who see it differently. It’s sad, shocking, and downright horrific, but there are terrible people in this world who think that young naked bodies are a turn-on. It’s my job as a parent to keep my daughter’s body safe from the eyes of people like that, even though I know that there is nothing sexual about an innocent bathtub snap we might take.
I don’t really take many naked pictures of her anyway; but if I do it’s with a real camera not my cell phone. And it’s tucked away somewhere, never posted. Anything that is covered by a diaper is always covered around here, unless she’s taking a bath or just took one. When she’s older and goes through the naked phase that a lot of toddlers and young children do, I’ll be sure to keep cameras away and let family members know that even if they see her streaking across the room, they aren’t allowed to post a photo of it anywhere.
And this all goes a lot deeper than a potential predator getting their paws on a naked picture of my one-year-old or her future siblings. It’s about so much more than that. Even though that whole concept makes me sick enough, it comes down to my own relationship with my daughter. I am not the type of parent who believes in telling kids what to do or not do with their bodies. When she’s old enough to think about sex, I want her to understand that I respect her right to make her own choices, and will help her to build her emotional toolkit to guide her decision-making. But I won’t tell her what to do or not do, or how to dress.
Because here is the bottom line: My daughter’s body is her body, it is no one else’s. I might have created it, brought it into this world, nourished and dressed it, and yes, seen it naked countless times. But she is the one who makes the decisions about what she does with that body and who sees it. It would devastate our relationship and everything I believe in as a parent if my daughter turned around when she became a teenager (as babies inevitably do!) and saw that I had exposed her without her consent.
There may be thousands of photos of my beautiful baby girl floating around social media right now, but she’s wearing clothes in all of them. And if she wants me to take those down one day, I will, but even though they can’t be destroyed, they won’t reveal anything inappropriate. I want my daughter to grow up trusting me, and part of that trust will be built upon the knowledge that I never shared her naked body with anyone. Not even when she was young and innocent.