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This French Law Will Make You Rethink What You Post About Your Kids Online

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My usually easy-going, smiley 2-year-old is standing in front of me, red-faced, clenching his chubby fists, and shrieking, “SHE STOLE MY LOVEY!” at the top his lungs. “She is a MEANIE! I’m not playing with her EVER AGAIN!” To prove his point, he stamps his little Croc-encased feet on the floor, and it takes everything in me to suppress my laughter.

He’s run into my bedroom to tattle on his big sister—his best friend most days, and his arch enemy other days. Apparently today was one of those days, and hell hath no fury like a toddler who’s been wronged.

And even though it shouldn’t, the very first thing that pops into my mind is, “OMG he looks so adorable right now. I need photographic evidence of this epic tantrum!”

I immediately feel guilty for thinking such a thing. What kind of mother am I?! My baby needs me and I’m thinking of a photo op? Of Instagramming him in his crimson fury?!

But that’s the ugly truth of the day.

That’s how conditioned I have become—how much my world revolves around “the photo op” or “the share”—that even with my toddler demanding his mama’s attention to right a wrong, my first inclination went to my iPhone.

I wanted to smack myself.

(Lest you think I am a horrible mom, please know I’m sharing this embarrassing story because I wonder how many of us socially-savvy parents can relate?)

In the end, I didn’t snap a photo. I comforted my son, and we marched into my daughter’s room, where I asked that she give him back his lovey and not to take it again. But the very fact that the thought crossed my mind in that intimate, vulnerable moment was enough to give me pause: technology is changing/disrupting how I parent. And I don’t like it, not one little bit.

Admittedly, I post a lot of photos of my kids. What can I say, I’m a Jewish mother! I love them to pieces and am so proud of the little people they are becoming. With our family and friends strewn all around the world, sharing photos on Facebook, Instagram, or my personal blog has become second nature to me. But even as a serial poster, I know I have to draw the line somewhere. That means you’ll never see a photo of my kids using the bathroom, naked, sick, or being punished/in a time-out. Each parent has his/her own threshold, and those photos may be fine–or even funny!–for some parents, but they don’t feel right to me.

All of which brings me to what’s happening in France—which has arguably different privacy laws than the U.S.—but is worth bringing up all the same.

According to news reports, French parents could soon get sued by their children for incriminating photos they posted of them when they were babies—the argument being, babies have no ability to approve photos which are shared or to create their own online identity, and parents who breach the law can be fined and could serve jail time.

While I think the lawsuit side of things is extreme, it does make you think.

I’ve seen a lot of bloggers take a step back after their child turned a certain age for similar reasons, and I’ve even dialed down what I share a little bit on my blog myself. The reality is, parents today need to consider their kids’ social media footprint—something we didn’t even know existed a decade ago, but now is a very real thing. And they don’t need to have their own accounts to have a footprint: We, as parents, leave their trail.

And though I may be an over-sharer, I do try to keep that in mind, especially as my kids get older. It’s why no one saw pictures of my daughter in the emergency clinic in San Salvador getting her chin stitched up after a nasty fall while on vacation, or why there are no pics in my Facebook feed of my son singing while potty-training.

Not every moment needs to be shared, I try to remind myself when I’m in situations like my son’s epic tantrum. Because it’s my nature to want to share: to flip out my phone and document my kids’ lives.

As someone who began parenting as social media took off, it’s a tough line to tow. Back then, it was a way to share milestones, big and little moments. And in many ways, it still is today. But now if parents aren’t wise about what they are sharing—at least in France—their kids could take legal action. And that’s serious business.

Though French laws don’t apply here in the U.S. and legal action isn’t on the table, I think there’s a good lesson here for all of us: parents who haven’t given much thought to their children’s social media footprints may want to start doing so now.

This could mean:

– Checking your Facebook privacy settings to be sure your images are only available to Friends

– Setting your Instagram to private if it is public

– Hiding or deleting photos that your kids could someday find offensive—even though you may think they are adorable, they may not.

– Giving greater consideration to what photos you share

– Getting permission before posting photos of other children or tagging their parents; every parent has their own feelings on this and they need to be respected.

I know it’s something I am giving more and more thought to these days. We’re entering unchartered territory as kids who grew up online begin to reject the spotlight they’ve been cast in, even if it was by their well-intentioned parents.

How about you? Do you support the French law? And what measures do you take to keep your children’s social media footprint(s) in check?


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