We need to have a blunt conversation. I realize this may not be a popular article if you have children and you celebrate them online by posting their photos for public viewing.

There has been a lot of talk about protecting children when they are interactively online but I suggest parents take an even larger step backward and realize even one-way interaction where your children are being viewed by people you do not know is just as dangerous to the welfare of your child as an unmonitored online chat session.

I am all for celebrating your children online! Celebrate them in text only. Don’t show recognizable images of them. My advice is to take all images of your children offline immediately because you don’t know who is out there in the world watching your children grow and have fun. Perhaps you’re even unwittingly serving up your most precious things in life as masturbation fodder for internet perverts.

I realize that sounds rough and crass but for those of you who know the world and recognize the rules of the street, that is precisely the kind of scenario you risk when you place images of your children online. After surfing lots of blogs over the last couple of weeks I was shocked to see how many parents are sharing their children with a stratum of the internet audience who hunger for, but never find satiety in, ogling young children and infants.

The children don’t have to be naked or in a compromising position to provide a thrill. The underbelly freaks I am discussing will take your children however you choose to serve them up because the stimulation for the freak is in the looking and then in the creating of the fantasy.

The context of the image is irrelevant except for the face, size and shape of your child because those people are quite specific in what they wish to watch and the internet provides a large patch to pluck.

Now I may offend you even further by saying: Parents who place images of their children online are Pimps because they use the language of the street that electrifies the mind of the pervert: “Look at my big boys!” “Isn’t my two-year-old daughter sweet in her tutu?” There are likely thousands of pedophiles hiding behind a computer screen somewhere in the world agreeing with every single word you say about your kids.

They are buying the shine you are shilling off your children. Okay, let’s say there aren’t thousands of people out there hunting for children to find, view, save locally and “look at” later. Let’s say there’s just one out there.

Does that lessen the risk? Does that make you feel better that only one pervert is fantasizing over your child instead a thousand? Parents are also sloppy about leaving clues on the internet.

Blogs and websites are filled with easy ways to hunt down children via parental carelessness. Many blogs openly pony up first and last names of family members, jobs, city and state, hobbies and even the full names of the children! This unintended exploitation is the most dangerous kind. Most of us would never consider this ugly side of humanity but the internet is a great leveler — a true Democracy in action — with all its golden moments and bloody warts.

Good people and scummy people all have the same access to a web page and you should, if you are a cautious and loving parent, assume the worst of the world is watching every little thing you do while you do everything within your power to create as many golden moments for your children as possible. Continue their golden journey by taking their pictures offline. Now we have to discuss the issue of consent.

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.

You know the world is an awful enough place that will eventually beat up all children a bit as they get older, but why accelerate matters by placing them online in the one arena where they are most vulnerable to dangers you, as legal guardian, cannot feel, smell, warn against or even recognize except, perhaps, by the increasing rise in your visitor counter?

You would never send your children naked and alone down a dark street but that’s precisely what you’re doing when you give the World Wide Web unfettered access to your kids on the information super highway. We always warn our children to stay away from strangers while statistics show children are more often molested by those they already know.

Well, the internet is the one place where the invitation to connect with a child is always made first by the very adult charged with protecting them.


  1. Hmmm. Definitely thought provoking.
    I have wondered about this. I check my referral pages – and used to get hits of people searching for nastiness, but edited my posts so that the offending words no longer register. (words like naked etc) However, I have realized that there was still the possibility that someone with less than pure intentions might stumble across my blog. I figured they wouldn’t find what they were looking for and move on…

  2. Hiya Blest!
    I just revisted your site. Yeah. I’m glad you’re thinking on this. 🙂 Just the title of your blog alone might indicate some fun for the freaky few.
    Hey… I saw your links to a couple of my articles here so I added you to my Links page!

  3. I just posted on your post. Oy – what on earth am I going to do about my header bar?! Not posting further pics is easy, though I’m not sure if I’ll delete all my previous posts with pics. But the header bar… Gotta figure out something new. Can’t change the title though, I’m already decently well-known by it. Besides, I’m not buying another domain name! 😉
    I used a tiny quote, with full attribution of course, from your post to whet people’s interest. I know you’re not keen on quoting, but I hope you don’t mind given the subject. Do you have trackbacks? Cause I can’t find them on your site…

  4. Thanks for the link back here and the way you quote the article here on your site is perfect and completely proper and I appreciate you helping spread the news!
    I know you’ve taken a lot of time and effort in building your “Blest With Sons” brand. You should be okay keeping it as long as there isn’t any “fun” for the freaks to view once they find you.
    Yes, I have Trackbacks enabled. Click on the article title if you aren’t there already and then at the top, in the “Archived Entry” box on the right side you will see a trackback link.

  5. Something to Think About

    As I hope is perfectly obvious, I’m a Christian blogger. I’m aiming mostly for the Christian audience, though of course I welcome a wider readership, and I read mostly Christian blogs. But while surfing through blog explosion, I came a…

  6. Thank you for such a thought provoking post. As a retired elementary school teacher, I continue to be appalled by the way many people display their children without any thought for the use pedophiles will make of this information.

  7. Hello Dirty Butter!
    That is an interesting username! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter.
    I think some of those parents are exposing their children in an unfortunate way that would never occur to them. Perhaps this story and its comments will help.

  8. It took guts to broach this subject, David. I have never posted my kids’ photos or names online because of those scumbags. I used to think that I was paranoid until a friend told me about some guy who culled some personal information from this girl in a chatroom. To make a long story short, her parents caught him watching her at a soccer game and confronted him.
    He turned out to be a police officer, who had lost a daughter to an online predator. The three waited until the girl finished her game before her parents introduced her to the officer. She was very shocked, to say the least.
    So, it’s not just children but teenagers who need to be careful. As for the parents posting their children’s pics online, it’s a great way to share photos with friends and family. I’m sure that’s why most of them do it. It’s a shame that we should have to take these extra precautions. Due to the explosion of sex offenders over the years and a weak penal system, we have to.

  9. Hi Deborah —
    Gee, what a great comment and the story you share is fascinating!
    Yes, this was a difficult post because I had to ask good people to “think like a bad person” and to view their children not out of love but out of misguided “lust” and that is a horrible thing for any parent to consider.
    But parents do lots of hard things to give their kids the best possible life and protecting their images from being online is part of that ongoing duty.

  10. I realized that I confused this story with another, but both of them had happy endings. With the story my friend told me, the officer had followed the girl home and waited until her parents came home from work before he came to the door. They had no idea that she was participating in chat rooms, and she had no idea that she was being stalked!
    The other story I read recently involved an officer exchanging emails with another girl, who inadvertently gave away her location by telling him where her soccer game was taking place. I read this story on another blog somewhere.
    I agree that we need to think like the bad guys if we are going to protect our children. Posting images or even the slightest hint of their location is putting your child at risk. This attitude may seem hysterical to some, but it pays to educate yourself and your children of the potential dangers of the Internet.

  11. Even though I don’t have children, I changed some things a couple of weeks ago on my site, just using my first name, that kind of stuff.
    I was telling someone about how I have to bite my fingers (instead of my tongue!) to keep from bitching about my job because I don’t want to end up like the bloggers who have lost their jobs because they complained about work on their site. (Hopefully no one I work with reads your site! 🙂 )
    But the woman I was talking to made a good point: We lose our privacy when we post things about ourselves online. That’s something I keep in mind now as I think about what to write. I think it’s something everyone should think about before posting. Even if no one is reading your blog, it’s available for everyone to see.

  12. Nice to hear from you, Carla!
    There is no privacy on the web and if you choose to write on the web there is no way you can ever hope to erase what you publish.
    I feel terrible for the young kids who blog and curse and tell how much they hate their mother and father and how they want to die or live forever or go back to sleep for a year…
    Teen angst is best shared in private with a friend or two but “Coming of Age” on a blog is something Google will never let you get over and I wonder how they’ll feel in 20 years when their words come back to haunt them? 🙂

  13. Take Your Children Offline NOW

    David W. Boles of Urban Semiotic wrote an excellent article about the dangers of posting your kids’ photos on your blogs. You will never see picture of my kids on any of my blogs. I’m very private, where they are…

  14. You’re right about teenagers blogging their angst. I can’t imagine posting all my cheesy writings from when I was a teenager.
    It makes me nauseous just thinking about it!

  15. Carla —
    Yes, teenaged pain should forever remain in the private past. Who wants their teen years to roar back and bite them at 50? 🙂

  16. Hi David,
    Surfed here via Blog Explosion. I’ve found several informative blogs through this terrific service. I made many net connections using it for my other blog, which is one that contains a word in its song title that could attract the wrong crowd, but I have banning and other controls on that site. Also, most realize from the first glimpse of that other blog that it’s music/art/ecletic/family oriented.
    Thank you for strongly and clearly publicizing the imperative need to protect children. This has been a “cause” of mine long before the internet. Many people, as you have said in comment replies, are not aware or just do not want to face reality that is abhorrent.
    I’d like to direct readers of your blog to read the other comments in this thread, because someone else brought up the following info that I’m going to reiterate because it’s *that* important. (You also reinforced this so strongly about no privacy on the internet. Thank you.)
    Adults, even though they are not minors, need to wake up and “smell the coffee” regarding the info they post on the net. Like you have said, there is less obvious info abounding on so many blogs. In addition, I want to add that many people do not realize that their IP addresses are still public info, even if they sign a comment “anonymous.” That depends on the comment process (host), but even if you have your IP blocked, there are inexpensive ways to find out personal info and stats about people. That invasion of privacy bothers me and is beyond my control for public records.
    What we all can do, however, is be more vigilant about our locations, names, activities, and generally be more aware of the impact of the written word. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve privately emailed a net friend to remove the info that he/she is going on vacation on X date because that opens their home up to burglary! There’s many more instances that can be gleaned from blogs, by putting the pieces together like a puzzle.
    Some of us, cover our tracks with being real, but true to ourselves, by altering facts to protect those we love and/or the innocent. More of us need to realize that grandchildren, friends of ours of *any* age are having their privacy compromised by details of the “terrific visit.”
    There will always be those who say, “it’s too much bother.” I, for one, continue to spread the word, that even if ONE PERSON OF ANY AGE (not shouting, caps are for emphais :), is saved from harm, than the public service is worth it.
    Take care and thanks again for a post that I hope more people will take to heart! 🙂

  17. (It doesn’t appear that my previous comment posted. It was long so this will be short.)
    Thank you for a vital post! Too many do not realize this as an obvious hazard not only to children and teens, but to all people. Too many do not realize that the internet is not private. Readers: please note that anonymous comments often do leave IP trails to the hosting site and public records are open to well, the public.
    Those without children, please respect the need to protect those who visit you, such as your grandchildren, adult friends on vacation, whose homes are vacant (burglary and other horrors we don’t want to face.)
    This information spreading has been a cause of mine for a long time. Thank you for spreading the word here, David.!
    BTW, I found you via Blog Explosion, a terrific service. I’ve used it for my other blog for quite a while.I’m not interested in “numbers”, but I adore finding people with similar interests and reading information.
    My other site does contain a word I realized when I signed up, could be miscontrued, but on the thumbnail here and as soon as anyone sees my home page, it is obvious that my site is centered around the arts:visual, music, theatre, writing, ecletcic. My blog friends link me to both sites now that I have added this new one seen here. (The one that has a possible “trigger word” is “Good Vibrations” (http://Green-EyedLady.Blogspot.com) I named it for the Beach Boy song and for other reasons explained in my blog, but not for off-colour reasons.
    I bookmarked you. Thx again,
    SilverMoon aka Green-Eyed Lady (known as GEL)

  18. I have sadly removed all photos of my children from my blog as a direct result of your post. Your points were well taken. I would like to mention, however, that I believe you used poor judgement by naming a specific web ring in one of your comments which could be used by the very people you warn us against.

  19. I agree with you 100%! Sometimes I’ve seen blogs on ‘battle of the blogs’ with pictures of their kids, I wont vote for them because I dont want to encourage children’s pictures online. Finding out that that animal Joseph Duncan stalked his victims for days is so alarming, people who put their kids pictures online are literally taking their children TO the pedophiles. Sick as that is, its true.
    Excellent entry!

  20. The comments waiting for me this morning are incredible and I will give my response to the new comments in this message:
    SilverMoon – I place all comments in moderation so I can delete the spam and the nasty people who try to ruin blogs with viciousness. During the day the time between posting a comment and seeing it online is usually brief. However, when the comments come in over night the wait can be a bit longer. 🙂 Your comments in both posts are fantastic, kind, and really smart! The IP tracking is absolutely on target. I also find it odd when people use satellite image maps from the web and post them in their blogs and say: “This is where I live!” What an invitation for bad people to “come on over!” since you pinpointed your place of residence with GPS tracking.
    Kris – Thanks for the post! Your comments are welcome concerning my mention of that Webring and I removed that reference from my previous comment.
    Jane – You are right on target that the “bad guys” are more devious and, in many ways, more prepared to exploit the slightest misstep. A former professor of mine once said “the criminal mind is one of pure genius” and he went on to remark that criminals have incredible minds that process information in really interesting (from a scientific point-of-view) way. They think against the common flow. They imagine “outside the box.” They try to surprise. They work invisibly. You need that kind of thinking to invent solutions for disease and to find new ways to solve urban problems and you use that kind of thought process to question established thinking that can lead to inventions that save lives. At the end of the lecture he made the claim that if the criminal mind could be “turned around” to do good for people the world would be a much better place because all that mind power would be spent for the benefit of humankind instead of trying to exploit it.

  21. found you via BE and read your post. this is an interesting entry and so true as well. i only posted decent photos of mine when i was just starting blogging. the rest that follows are either too small or obscure which of course was intentional, that’s because i received pervert emails after that first batch of photos. pervert and weird people there are a lot of that here in cyberspace.
    btw cool blog! 😉

  22. Hey amie —
    I can’t believe the perverts emailed you!
    Think of all those who *don’t* email you but are still lurking.
    Thanks for the kind comments on the blog!

  23. I understand the position you’ve put forward, but I disagree strongly with it.
    I have posted — and will continue to post — pictures of my kids because I choose to share and celebrate them. If I were to live my life fearful that some nameless person were furtively masturbating over pictures of my kids, I’d never get much done.
    I choose to share photos and stories of my wife, my parents, and my friends.

    Let’s say there’s just one out there. Does that lessen the risk? Does that make you feel better that only one pervert is fantasizing over your child instead a thousand?

    Does it change the equation at all if the pervert is fantasizing over your spouse, or your friend, or even you? Do you propose that we remove all photos from our sites?
    Removing all photos of your kids from a website is like sticking your head in the ground, and does little to actually protect them. There will still be perverts in your community — at the grocery store, at the park, at your chuch — who will watch your living, breathing child. Do you also suggest we take steps to make sure our kids are never seen by strangers in public?

  24. Dear Skippy —
    I appreciate the work you do for the WordPress community.
    I am surprised by your comment. I do not believe you need to celebrate your kids in images online to give them greater value to you as a parent which, if I understand your comment, appears to be one of the main points of your argument. I am curious why you, as a parent, feel the need to publicly share images of your kids with the world?
    I believe you are taking a needless risk in revealing your children in images online and if you don’t see how that is different than taking them to the grocery store where they will be “seen by strangers” then my point will never be made with you.
    I don’t care if a pervert fantasizes about me or my wife because we are adults. We choose to have our photos online or not. Children do not have that choice and should not have that choice available to them.
    Protection of children is held in degrees and exposing them online to serve your own parental need to “share and celebrate” them comes off as selfish and disinterested in doing everything possible to lessen the opportunity for exposure and exploitation.

  25. We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’m not interested in arguing to change your point of view. Your’s is a perfectly valid position. I just happen to hold a different one. Accept my comments as a counter-opinion, and we can leave it at that.
    I don’t have a need to share my kids online; nor is sharing my kids and their activities done to improve their value to me. I share photos of my kids for all sorts of reasons, none of which I need to enumerate here (because as I’ve noted above, I’m not interested in swaying your opinion).
    I don’t feel a need to share my kids with the world; but I don’t mind sharing some things. My kids and the world at large are going to connect in all sorts of ways, whether I want that to happen or not. I’d rather that connection be as positive as possible, and that my kids be prepared for the good and the bad.
    As a parent, I also enjoy reading about, and seeing, other parents’ children. I learn, I grow, and sometimes I connect. I know other parents feel similarly reading about and seeing my kids.
    I disagree, also, with your closing jab at me: “disinterested in doing everything possible to lessen the opportunity for exposure and exploitation.” You have no idea what kinds of conversations have taken place in our household, nor what sorts of things may have happened, so I think it’s presumptious in the extreme to imply that I am disinterested in what’s best for my kids.
    On the contrary, I think it’s important to be honest with children about the dangers posed by anonymous communication with strangers — online and off. Instead of striving to prevent it, I’m striving to inform my kids about it.

  26. I have to say, I agree with skippy. He stated the exact thing I was thinking when I read your article. Of course, I do not have children, so I cannot relate directly.
    I don’t see it as big of a problem to share funny stories and pictures of kids. A number of school websites post pictures of students together, showing what’s going on at the current time. And like you yourself said, David, children are more likely molested by people they already know–maybe we should check where we get our film developed next time or decide which relative we invite for dinner.
    At the same time, I don’t see why you are posing those questions to skippy — and not blestwithsons. “I am curious why you, as a parent, feel the need to publicly share images of your kids with the world?”

  27. Hi Jake —
    I didn’t ask that question of Blest because, according to her site, she is actively in the process of removing all the images of her children. She’s still working out a new header, I believe, but all the other images she had online were removed yesterday and I admire her great, selfless, mind and fast action.
    Skippy, on the other hand, appears to see no danger in continuing to post images of his kids online and that was why I posed that question to him.
    Parents who post images of their children online aren’t doing it for the benefit of their children; they are doing for their own self-interest.
    You make an excellent point about schools posting images of their students on the web. I believe those images should be removed from public view as well because, on the web, you are exposing those images to potentially millions of eyes. I don’t see that kind of exposure as equal to the person who develops your film.

  28. It is equal, however, to the “risk” of going to the mall.
    Negligible, and miniscule.
    If it’s not kids in the bathtub, or naked pics, and you’re not giving out personal info – anything they do to those pictures alters them – and it’s no longer your children.
    It’s an altered image. I don’t get the hysteria factor about *any* image. It is perfectly legal for any photographer, in any country (western, at least) to take a picture of anyone on the street. Anyone may see your child, or take their picture at any time.
    And follow you home, should they wish.
    Should we be paranoid about every trip to the mall, or to Wal-Mart? I’m much more worried about going to Wal-Mart with my kids than about an online predator photoshopping pictures of kids climbing trees or playing outside.
    Every time your child goes outside in Los Angeles, you are potentially exposing them to millions of eyes. Should that sort of “risky” behavior stop too?
    I still say it’s overkill.
    What *danger* is there of an online predator to a parent who gives little personal information, and keeps naked pictures off the site?
    You say a lot about “what they could do, if they photoshop pictures” – who cares? If they have to photoshop a picture of your child, it’s no longer a picture of your child. No more than a photoshopped picture of Tom Cruise with an alien head on National Enquirer is a picture of Tom Cruise – or an alien.
    You aren’t “protecting your kids” by keeping ALL pictures of them offline. You protect your kids by maintaining an eye on them. An image is an image – a child is a child – the two are different, and one is vastly more important than the other.
    I worked with Cyberangels for two years. I know about online predators. Images of kids playing were never their target. Kids who can be separated from their parents are their target.

  29. RazorsKiss —
    I don’t know if you are replying to me specifically or others in this thread but I never said anything about Photoshopping pictures and as far as I can tell you are the only one in this thread to mention “Photoshop.”
    As for the rest of your argument, I find it unconvincing and not logical, but I’m sure you may have influenced others and I am happy to post your point-of-view.
    I also find it interesting that those who disagree with my article here are all male.
    I’m sure I’ll now see a spike in female commentary supporting the male views expressed here but, be forewarned, those comments won’t make it out of moderation. 🙂
    We’re also starting to re-hash old ground so from now on only new comments that inspire fresh thought and unexamined interest will be posted here.

  30. Children Online

    I don’t show photos of my family online – or even use their real names. From the start I have done this to protect my family. I didn’t want them to suffer something unjust because of my desire to generate…

  31. RazorsKiss —
    I’m happy to post interesting messages that till new ground on this topic but I don’t want to keep seeing the same point made here over and over because it gets tedious to read. Views from all sides are important and I believe the commentary in this thread provides appropriate coverage from different angles.
    I moderate comments here because, as you obviously know, some people like to grind their axes on your stone. 🙂 I’m not interested in that kind of comment.
    I don’t have a written “comments policy” because you set one and some people love to try to find a way around it.
    Most people who read this blog and its comments know what we’re doing here and for those few “commenters” a day who have no clue have no real interest in having a meaningful conversation anyway.

  32. Advice, please?

    Okay, so I just figured out how to post pictures of my beautiful children – and I was pretty darn proud of myself, too! I even had to re-size them first and managed to do it without asking any questions of my …

  33. Millennium Hippies —
    Hey, that’s pretty neat information you posted way back on May 5, 2005! It is right on point!
    I love your reasoning in that post and I am so glad you took a moment to pop in here and share your life and your link! 🙂

  34. Just checking back in… Just an FYI, RazorsKiss was referring to the article you linked to when he mentioned Photoshop altered pics. I mentioned it in my post…
    To answer a question which was not asked of me – that of “Why do I feel the need to share pics of my kids with the world” Well cause they are, like, the cutest kids on the planet, of course! 🙂 But seriously, I liked to put up the occasional photo to illustrate a post or make people chuckle. I don’t put up photos just cause they’re cute. And now I will rarely be putting up a photo, and when I do I will probably alter it in the aforementioned photoshop so that it will look more like a sketch. I really liked RazorsKiss post on this topic, on his blog, it did tone down some of my panic. Plus I appreciated his perspective as someone who has worked in cybersecurity. But I still feel like it’s better to be extra safe and keep the pics to a minimum. If nothing else, it will increase my peace of mind… I always did feel a little uneasy about the pics. Especially since I did have ones of them in swimsuits and/or diapers, and also since my husband is deployed at the moment.

  35. Hi Blest!
    It’s nice to hear from you to help round out this thread.
    I am glad you trusted your gut and made an informed decision that works for you.

  36. I am closing this thread to new comments because I think we’ve done a fine job of covering many angles and viewpoints and if this thread stretches any longer my concern is no one will have patience enough to read through it all.
    I also like to respond to everyone who takes the time to post a comment on my blog instead of just having a free-for-all comments area but that means I double the length of the comments count so there comes a time when it becomes more prudent to close comments than to just keep a thread alive for the sake of seeing it live. (I will, however, continue to allow interesting and appropriate Trackbacks to be posted here.)
    I believe any reasonable person can read the comments here and come to a thoughtful conclusion about this issue and that is a fine and rare thing in a blog and I thank you for being a part of it even if you’re just breezing by on wave surfing through.
    I also like closing the comments circle where it began: With BlestWithSons and if you know me you know I’m big on circles and unity and bridging gaps whenever possible. 🙂

  37. Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies

    We don’t know how it will all turn out for these kids publishing their most secret, private, and all too common to the human race growing pains on the internet, because the Truman Generation hasn’t grown up yet.

  38. Too Much Information

    This so needed to be said. There was some valid dissent but I would rather err on the side of safety. And just in case you don’t click on either of those and haven’t read the many posts they’ve generated,

  39. Untitled

    I decided to take the pectures of my children off this site after reading this.  I would suggest giving it a look….

  40. I can be very brief on this subject!
    No kids pageants in America. Not on your own site, not on anyone’s!
    Consider this: What is worse: The kid’s frustration in case she’s not allowed to compete anymore, or the parents’ frustrations in case a pedophile gets his hands on their daughter/boy!? I mean, get real!!! Parents have to protect their kids right? No matter how!
    Good luck in your effort.

  41. What about private blogs, where you have to be emailed an invitation to view the blog and log in with a name & password? Do you feel those are at the same risk?

  42. Protecting Children and Fighting Evil

    In a recent article — Rise of Radical Religiosity in Representative Democracies — I argued that the purpose of the religious right and conservative politicians is to punish the humble majority by provocatively creating false fears: Protecting Childre…

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