Is it okay to post my children’s photos online?

A few days ago some mothers (including me) in a Facebook groups discussed whether we shared our children’s names and photos on our blogs. Some did, some didn’t.

At the New England Holocaust Memorial

When I began this blog several years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Also I really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew nothing about blogging, except that the word blog stood for web log, and that some people had written blogs that got them book deals. I wasn’t looking for a book deal, at least not for this blog. I’d had fiction published before, and the occasional piece of non-fiction, but I wasn’t sure what impact sharing a process of inquiring into beliefs about parenting might have on our family.

It turned out so few people read the blog in those early days that it had no impact, but I didn’t know that then.

I also didn’t know who would read it. (I knew even less about SEO than I did about blogging – not even what it stood for!) I wanted to share a process that made a huge difference to my experience as a parent and my life in general, but I worried that I might be inviting people to judge me. Would someone randomly stumble across it and think I was a terrible mother for admitting to feeling angry with my kids – and even worse for yelling at them? Would people think my children were neurotic, and so – by default – I must be too? Since this blog was about sharing the process of working through The Work of Byron Katie to question and release stressful beliefs, would people read my thoughts and think that because I’d believed them once, I still did? Would they think I was neurotic in my own right?

On top of this, several times I had massive doubts about whether what I wrote could be of help to anyone else – after all I was very definitely still a work-in-progress with a long way to go. Shouldn’t I leave dispensing wisdom to the masters? The result was I blogged infrequently, hiding behind an alias and giving my kids aliases. It seemed the thing to do.

What it is we fear?

For me, it was mainly that someone at school would come up to my kids and taunt them about something I’d written. Occasionally I’d also have a vague worry that someone (some man) would find photos of them and use those photos for sexual gratification. Of course, if that were to happen, we’d never know and so it’s not actually harming my children. It’s also extremely unlikely since there are many, many photos of children on the internet wearing everything from snowsuits to nothing. I doubt very much that men who get their kicks that way do so by looking at pictures of children in snowsuits, or even from pictures of children running on a beach.

Children have opinions too

DSCN1871When I started this blog, my elder daughter was ten, and the younger one eight. They were old enough to express opinions. The year before this, my older daughter had been chosen as a model for a campaign by a neighbouring city to host the Commonwealth Games. At the time, hoardings displayed large posters of her in a swimming costume alongside top competitive swimmers. She was interviewed for newspapers and television, and was happy do it. But she’d had enough. She didn’t want photos of herself on her mum’s blog.

It was, and still is, important to me to honour my children’s wishes on that. Besides, if I was unsure of the implications of writing about them or sharing their pictures, how could they come even close to understanding it? So I chose caution. You will find photos of my children on some of these posts, but mostly they are deliberately blurred, or taken from the back or with the girls at a distance – like the photos I’ve chosen for this post.

Yet, if people are comfortable with writing sharing their children’s names and posting their photos, does that mean they are wrong?

No. Absolutely not.

Perhaps it all comes down to intention. Yesterday I read a post by Samantha Ryan of The Marble Jar about taking action from fear or from love. This is something I often ponder and Samantha’s post was a thoughtful one that got me pondering again. Perhaps it’s not what we share or don’t share that matters, but how we do it. If we avoid posting because of fear then we create stress for ourselves. But equally, if we do post and then regret it, that’s stressful too. It’s also possible to post personal information out of a desire for approval, which comes back to fear. (We don’t crave approval if we trust we have it.)

On the other hand, if our action comes from love, then we create sense of trust, of safety. We know intuitively that it’s okay.

When love motivates us action feels peaceful and right, in a way action driven by fear never can.


Love does not push fear away; it gently holds it and then lets it go.

Taking action out of love feels hugely different from believing we shouldn’t feel fear, and trying to make ourselves push past it. It’s easy now to see that not using my kids’ names because a belief that someone might taunt them was fear-driven. But if I’d told myself not to be so stupid and done it anyway, that would have been fear-driven too. The fear is not so obvious, but it’s a fear of fear itself and a fear that I might not be good enough if I make certain choices.

Fear of fear is so universal that most of the time we don’t even notice it. We’re so busy pushing it away, resisting it, that we don’t realise we are consumed by it.

On the other hand, not posting photos of my daughter because she asked me not to, is respecting her wishes. It’s an act of love.

And yet –isn’t it also love that leads us to want to protect our children? Misguided, fearful love perhaps, but still love. I have a sense that even fear is love, or is contained in love. What we are is love and fear isn’t separate from that, any more than a wave is separate from the ocean. It’s smaller, yes, and when the wave has passed, the ocean is calm again. But the ocean doesn’t try to get rid of the wave. A mother doesn’t push away her frightened child, but holds him, soothes him and allows the fear to dissolve. Love doesn’t judge, doesn’t say we shouldn’t fear, holds us through our fear. Love doesn’t push away fear, but holds it in awareness and allows it to dissolve.

In then end, for this blog, my children’s names don’t matter, so I will probably go on using aliases, not because of fear, but just because.

love and fear

Comments

  1. I love how you are able to lead me through your own self- examination so I can more easily walk through my own. I struggle with fear though lately I’ve been feeling this desire to learn how to honor it and hold space for it. I’ve been practicing appreciation of the usefulness of fear and the desire to protect myself while breaking free from the bondage of living in a fear and anxiety-ridden mind. I question my choice to share such personal information as well as family photos. My son likes seeing himself on my blog and I still question. Sharing for me seems freer, so share I do. Thank you for writing this. I always read your posts and leave more peaceful than when I came.

  2. It is such a tough question…. especially for those of us with young kids who don’t really get an opinion. Right now, my kids LOVE seeing themselves on the blog, but there will come a time, most likely, when they don’t want to be on there and I will respect that. I don’t think the mean girls are reading my parenting blog and gathering ammo to use against my children from it … or at least I hope not. I guess when it comes to privacy, there is so much out there that if someone really wanted to see a picture of my kids or figure out their names, it probably wouldn’t take more than 7 seconds of research. Thoughtful post, Yvonne!

    1. Author

      Sarah, yes I think you are right and the mean girls won’t be reading our blogs! It is funny, now I think about it, that I worried about that years ago.

      Kids do go through a more self-conscious phase and don’t want their photos on their mother’s blog – at least mine have. (Yours might not, who knows!) My girls don’t post selfies or have Facebook accounts,so it is important to me to respect their wishes.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Author

    Samantha, it’s comments like yours that keep me blogging. If you can read something I write and leave feeling more peaceful, then it’s worth it.
    I think your point about appreciating the usefulness of fear, while not being trapped by it is a good one. What I’m slowly learning is that fear does have a use, but it’s not always pointing to what I think it is. (More often that not, it’s revealing some belief that’s outlived its usefulness.)
    Thanks so much for your comment.

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