By Keitu Reid
Often I have been thought of as a prude when I didn’t post pictures of my son online. For me, the reason is basic… if the internet is accessible to everyone, anywhere – how can I post a picture of my son not knowing who will access his images. Suffering from both skepticism and paranoia – I opted to keep family pictures, my hang-outs and holiday destinations offline. I agree that you can have closed groups – except when someone shares your image – it is not so closed anymore. Privacy settings are great – but I am guessing if hackers can get into NASA – they can bypass a privacy setting or two?
The decision not to post any of my son’s pictures on social media – or to comment about his latest award, medal, first kiss and the like was about showing him my respect and recognising that he is his own person. It’s about allowing him to grow up without having a thousand of my Facebook friends ‘knowing’ him – while he knows nothing about them.
It’s about guiding and guarding his life for as long as possible until he learns from me what responsible social networking is – both on and offline.
I do not post pictures of my son online because I appreciate and understand that being his mother doesn’t give me the right to take away his basic and critical human right… the right to privacy.
And so when the French announced that parents could be jailed for posting their children’s images online – I thought ‘Good!’ It is sad that we have to police what we share with friends and family – but the internet is not like going through a photo album in the privacy of your lounge over tea and scones. The internet has identity thieves, pornographers, child molesters, bullies, and many other sorts lurking. This goes beyond privacy and straight into safety. We are women raising children where technological savvy is expected. We have to protect them.
Protecting our children is not limited to what we post about them – but also what we post about ourselves. Allow me to illustrate….a minister in South Africa recently had a picture of his penis doing the rounds on twitter. The minister said it was not his penis but some sort of smear campaign. He threatened to sue. I do not know if he did or not, nor do I care too much. Personally, I believe him. I do not think that it was his penis exposed on that photo.
However, I do think that his online demeanor, engagements and comments are sometimes questionable and will therefore invite such problems. I recall this very minister sharing a picture of his daughter on social media some time back. So, that day, when this particular penis was doing the twitter rounds …. What resurfaced in my mind was that photo of that little girl – only this time she wasn’t smiling – this time I imagined a sobbing, shattered, embarrassed little girl humiliated that her father’s ‘thing’ is the talk of Sunday Twitter. That is not cool.
We often forget that our children have access to these social media platforms and from time to time may peak into our networks. Yes, they are just as curious about what we do online, as we are curious about their online activities. The internet has created a bizarre situation where your 13-year-old consumes the same content you do – very simply and easily – and often uncensored.
I am a realist and I realise there is little I can do about that. What I can do is manage my online reputation – in this way perhaps I can prevent my son from wanting to disinherit his family name… and disown his mother.
Teen years are tough remember. Kids are moody, volatile and super-sensitive as they navigate the world and come to grips with tricky bodily changes. As a parent – it is unfair to have to expect your child to do this – and protect your honor in the online ‘playground’. Again…. Not cool.