Obey Your Children

There are times when children are right and parents are wrong.  We’re so often trained to think that children know nothing when they actually know quite a lot when it comes to their thoughts and feelings.  It’s just too easy for parents to overrule their children just because they “say so” and because they’re older and taller and heavier than the kids below them.  Sometimes parents need to obey their children.

The most recent case-in-point appeared online over the weekend in this mother’s odd attempt to overrule the necessary need for privacy of her nine-year-old son who did not want his photograph posted to her public Facebook page:

Last fall, while on a family bike ride around Central Park, I took a photo of my 9-year-old son. His cheeks were flushed, his big brown eyes were lit with happiness and the golden sun made his light-olive skin appear to glow. It was a great picture and one I wanted to share with my friends online.

My son, however, was opposed to the idea. “You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you?” he demanded, flashing me the look my husband and I had long ago named his “dark and stormy.”

Yes, I told him: “You are my child, and I’m proud of you.”

“But it’s my picture,” he said. “And I don’t want it on your Facebook page.”

“Dark and stormy” or not, the child is, of course, absolutely right.  If he doesn’t want to be his mother’s pet and be adored online, it is his face, his life, his craven image, and his right to tell her “No!” and the mother must obey.

The mother did not obey.  She waited until her son was playing with Legos and posted his photo online anyway against his wishes and behind his back.  Of course, the son found out and was rightly infuriated by his selfish mother.

The mother finally did relent, but only later, and only after getting advice from child psychology experts.  I find it odd and sad that a mother won’t listen to her own son’s directly expressed needs and wants, but will willfully follow the advice of any self-assessed expert.

One of the first articles I wrote for Boles Blogs — way back on July 13, 2005 in the Urban Semiotic blog — was “Take Your Children Offline Now” and even today my hard advice still rings and resonates with unfortunate, but common, truths:

A child is not legally old enough to sign a contract but you, as the parent, decided it is in their best interest to publicly place them on the web for viewing?

How can one condone that attitude and support that behavior if you really want to protect the identity, privacy, and innocence of your children? Even if your child begs you to have images on the internet it is your duty as a thoughtful parent to deny that request in their best interest unless and until you carefully password protect those images and you know precisely who is seeing what you provide.

There are other odd child privacy violations that parents seem to love to exploit for their own enjoyment.

Some parents will theoretically heed the advice of protecting their child’s privacy in online photos, but won’t hesitate to pose with their child as their online Avatar! It’s an odd disconnect between reality, rationalization, and not paying attention to the details. Or, maybe, they just don’t care.

Other parents go even deeper into despair against their kids by impersonating them online — as I wrote in “Hiding Behind Your Children Online” — on October 6, 2008.

You may have witnessed this parental trend when people post messages without using their real name — they use a fake name to hide their identity — and if you click on their username, their information is marked private and withheld from public view.

Some of those private users create usernames based on the names of their children instead of using their own name.

A few examples I’ve seen online include, “ZachsMom” and “CharlottesMom” and “BobbysDad.”

What is the point of hiding your identity — yet exposing the name of your child to the world?

The longer you live online, and the longer you write a record of the truth online, the more quickly you begin to see behavioral patterns in others that start to set away dismay.

You recognize the trend and can see the pain barreling down the road against an unsuspecting person who thinks they’re making history and being completely original while, in fact, that rock has already rolled over many hundreds before them and squashed them all along the side of the road, just out of sight — but never out of mind — until the next parent in line steps forward to publicly lose their mind and start rolling the same deadly boulder back up the hill in a foolish, public, perpetuity.

3 comments

  • fascinating piece. what a dilemma. I know lots of people who won’t post pix of their kids on line just cuz of the possibility of creepies seeing them and targeting the, but never thought of this.

    • Hi Nancy!

      Yes, it’s an odd condition. I think the mainstream trend is most parents putting images of their children online — especially when they’re young and can’t object to the objectification of their childhood.

  • Rule one – always ask before posting a picture of anyone on-line.
    Rule two – let them tag themselves if they want to.
    Rule three – if your child says NO – they mean NO

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