Should We Post Naked Photos of Our Kids?

Family Matters on 04.30.11
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Photo credit: John Sylvester/First Light/Corbis

The other day I was reading some of the work by my colleagues on Parentables when I came across a post by Monica Rodgers about television making your kids snarky. I was reading through until I came across a photo in the post that made me sit up a bit. It was of her daughter in the bath. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it, and I fired off a quick email to our editor, saying I thought it was "questionable". She wrote back to say she thought it was fine. I've been giving this some thought since then, and I think it could open an interesting debate.

I want to say up front that this is in no way a criticism of Monica, or of her post, which is good and you should read it. Nor is it a criticism of the photo. It's a cute photo of a little girl rolling her eyes at her mom, she just happens to be in the bath and the photo happens to be on the internet. But it did start me wondering if it is acceptable to use photos of naked children in this public manner.

To me, it is an issue of privacy. I feel that our children have a right to their privacy, and as a parent, I want to protect that right. When I suggested that children are too young to understand and consent, my editor suggested that that is what parents are for, to make these decisions and to consent on their behalf. And I say, yes and no. I've used photos of my kids in posts before, and I usually tell them about it in advance, but they are adults. But when it involves nudity, who knows how a child will feel down the road when they see photos of themselves on the internet? And how can you stop it being used in a different context? You can't.

We all have pictures of our kids naked, sometimes in the bath, sometimes outside, because they are adorable. I have a great photo of my son about age 3 painting in the back yard, naked on a hot day. But in the past, we showed these types of pictures to our family and friends. Now they are on view for thousands and thousands of strangers to see. As the mother of adult children, I can tell you that there is a time you stop pulling those photos out to show them around, because your kids are embarassed by them. But how can you stop people from seeing them on the internet? You can't.

I think, perhaps it comes down to the ubiquity of the internet for me. We tell our teenagers and young adults to be careful what photos they post on Facebook because it can come back to haunt them when you go for a job interview, or even try to make a new friend, but if we've already posted pictures of them naked, what message are we sending?

I'm really interested to know what parents out there feel about this and I'd love to hear what you have to say. Please remember that this isn't about judging parents either way, I'd just like to have a discussion about the issue.

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