The MomBlogosphere Wants its Photos

I’m a mom blogger. I’m a mom, and I’m a blogger and I talk about motherhood. I talk about Jane, I talk about Alexander, I talk about Mr. G., and our pets.

However, I’ve not shared pictures of my kids with you, nor have I shared stories of my children that their classmates wouldn’t already know. The way I blog might be different than the way you blog. I blog from my lens. I tell my stories, from my point of view, and I try to leave space for other people to tell their own tales.

I do this for a number of reasons:

  • My children will need jobs one day. Stories about G-Spots on the soccer field will not help them
  • My children are entitled to make their own first impression. Being their friend on facebook takes this opportunity away
  • My blog will not help my husband’s career
  • I am the only person in my home who decided to become a blogger, therefore I am the only person who should be public
  • Mom Blogs are Disneyland for pedophiles

Here’s where it gets sticky. Every so often I’ll publish some of the keyword searches that bring people to this site. Here’s an image I recently published.

Keyword Searches

All I’m asking is that parents are mindful when they post pictures of their children. I’m asking that we think about WHY we are sharing images and details of other people’s lives. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer to the issue of sharing, but it’s essential to think these things through. I know the answer for my family. It’s all evolving, as is every other part of my parenting.

After having posted the above image a few folks on twitter got upset. Not a little bit upset, but defensive, angry, and namecalling upset. One of the more mild posts was this

This is a prime example of why we all need to continue learning about the web that we use. I have a search for “photo pretty girls v***ina” there is no place in this blog where I’ve ever written those words, but there are hundreds of posts in my archives and each of those words does exist somewhere on this site. Thinking that you have to bait people with exact phrases is quite simply wrong.

What I’m finding is that when I say that I’m cognizant of my children’s right to privacy, what other Mom Bloggers are hearing is You are a bad mother.

Not. True.

I’m saying plainly and simply: this is what I do, and this is why I do it.

Facebook Comments

  • This is such an important topic that every mom and dad blogger needs to seriously evaluate before they even start blogging. Jill at Scary Mommy just discussed this issue on her blog last week and it was interesting to see how many comments mentioned scary stories regarding their pictures.

    I consider myself to be a “mommy blogger” but I have strong personal boundaries when it comes to talking about my kid or sharing pics. I really don’t do much of either and, if I do share a pic, it’s not face-forward. As much as I enjoy the connections I’ve made with other parent bloggers, I want to keep my family private as much as possible. The bottom line is, I need that privacy because I don’t want my blog to signal an invitation to all the creeps out there. It’s simply not worth the risk.

    That all said, I agree that there is no wrong or right way. We all need to do what’s best for ourselves and our family. However, it’s important that we all understand the risks involved before we hit “publish.”

    -Aimee

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  • This is an important issue. I am a “mom blogger” that freely posts photos of my children. I do not often post long detailed stories with them.. mostly just photos for friends and family members who live out-of-town to enjoy.

    I don’t think that sharing photos is such a big deal. I am aware of the risks involved.. its the internet. It’s relatively new.. exciting.. and millions of people are still discovering what can be done online. But just like anything else in life.. there are risks. You risk your child everyday… every time you take them out in public. The unknown is just a fact of life. Yes, it may not be exactly the same… but do you really know who snapped a camera phone pick of you at Wal Mart last week… or who may have followed you home just to check your address? No?!

    I think it is important to be informed of the risks but not allow them to overtake your life. To each his own with their blog and every aspect of their life…. but at the same time.. I doubt a photo of your 6 year old in a Halloween costume or opening holiday gifts is going to hinder their ability to get a job in 15 years.

  • I am so conflicted on the whole clarity of personal aspects via the internet. The name topic, the picture thing, the too personal information…..but there is one thing I know, if you have an online presence your information doesn’t have to be shared by you, it can be shared by all. Me being a bitch in town doesn’t mean that someone won’t blog about it, naming specific names. Facebook I feel good about because my friends are limited to those I actually know. And pictures are limited view to those that I also have a relationship with. Even alumni don’t have access to pictures of my kids.

  • I agree with Kati. Yes, it is important to be smart about what you do online– don’t post your home address or phone number, for example. But I think sometimes the “online danger” aspect can get a bit blown out of proportion, just as the whole “stranger danger” thing (seeing as the vast majority of child kidnappings and abuse happen by people the child already knows, often family members, as opposed to strangers who jump out of the bushes). I’m not really concerned about what someone may choose to do with a photo– it’s just a photo. Again as Kati mentioned, if you’re out in public anyone is free to take a picture of you or your kids with their own camera. They can fantasize about you while in the grocery store. They can follow you home after running errands. Etc, etc etc. These things don’t keep me from going out the door every day, just as the possible risks of posting pictures of my kid online don’t keep me from sharing photos.

    • Here’s what’s interesting.

      I completely agree with you.

      I don’t post my kid’s pictures because it’s not fair to them. That’s really and truly the reason why. They’re entitled to privacy.

      BUT (and this is a big but)

      The whole point of mom blogging is to build community. I’m identify quite a few mom bloggers as my friends. Keeping that in mind, does that change how much information you’re willing to share?

    • Also Marcy, I just emailed you a screen shot of your home address.

      Here’s a presentation that you might need: http://www.jessicagottlieb.com/2010/10/blogging-and-privacy-bloggy-boot-camp-austin-texas/

  • It is not a mom blogger issue- it is a parent blogger issue. You won’t find pix of my kids or their names anywhere on my blog. There are stories about them, but as they have gotten older I have become more circumspect with what I share.

    I don’t live my life in fear but I don’t court danger either.

  • It’s a tight rope walk, we bloggers do when we share pictures and anecdotes of our lives with virtual strangers on the Internet. My kids were 10 and 9 when I started blogging, old enough that I’ve always had to keep their privacy in mind when I press publish. But even though I’ve been doing this for almost five years, it’s still good to hear a reminder.

    I’ll share pics of my kids, if my kids allow it. I’ll write anecdotes about my children if I think it won’t bite them on the arse on the playground or later in life. But I always ask permission. Because my stories aren’t always mine to share.

    I also won’t live in fear. So I walk the tight rope and hope I don’t fall off. Somedays it’s easier said than done.

  • I’ve struggled with this a lot. Currently I have a header on my blog that includes pictures of my kids. I don’t post pictures in my posts and I don’t use my kids names to protect their privacy, but the header is something I wanted to share with the few loyal readers I have. I think, though, I would take it down if I suddenly started getting lots of anonymous comments or trolls or whatever. But that doesn’t mean I think that bloggers who do post pictures are bad – in fact, I love seeing their kids’ pictures! I just have to do what feels right for my family.

  • TG

    I’m not a “mommy blogger”, per se, but I use Twitter prolifically and talk about my kiddos there. I can see a lot of good points for and against sharing photos. Myself, I choose not to do that – and it’s not so much the “Boogeyman” factor, but because I know I’ve got a worldwide audience and I’d never expose my children that way in real life.

    I do think that many people are blissfully ignorant about the implications of their actions online. When I was a kid, the only people who may have seen pictures or videos of us were our family members, maybe neighbours or a few friends of my parents’, and that’s it. But when you put something up on a public website, it’s out there for everyone to see. And the Internet is FOREVER. I’ve been online since the early 1990s (thanks to a dad who was a total computer geek), and I’ve found stuff out there written by my impressionable 15-yr-old self that I’d thought was lost. Good thing Facebook wasn’t around when I was in high school!

  • I think people are defensive for three reasons:

    1.) They already have pictures of their kids on their blogs and they feel like they’re being told they are wrong for doing so.

    2.) Your post tends to make it sound like you made the wise decision while many of the rest of us are making poor decisions.

    3.) People don’t want to live in fear of the “what ifs”.

    I am all about safety on the internet, but I think there’s a difference between being educated and cautious vs. just plain paranoid. I have honestly never had any search results like the ones you have found in your keyword search.

    And I’m curious Jessica, not attacking your opinion or even totally disagreeing with you…but if privacy is such a huge factor for you on your blog, why do you use your first/last name and openly disclose the whereabouts of your location?

    • Great question.

      I’m not overly concerned with my privacy as I won’t be looking for a corporate gig any time soon, and I don’t have a particularly uncommon name. Like I said, I decided to have a blog, my family did not.

      Location? Well, I do use Location Based Services. I use them as I’m leaving a location. I’m okay with that.

      How much clearer can I be? “What I’m finding is that when I say that I’m cognizant of my children’s right to privacy, what other Mom Bloggers are hearing is You are a bad mother.

      Not. True.

      I’m saying plainly and simply: this is what I do, and this is why I do it. ”

      And I hate quoting myself. But this is a post without judgment, and if you find judgment in there it’s from within.

      • I think it’s important to protect yourself even if you’re not “looking for a corporate gig”. I’m sure your home address is as easily accessible as Marcy’s and like her, you have precious children living with you. By making yourself so accessible online, isn’t that indirectly putting your kids at risk?

        I wonder if we can ever truly be safe online.

    • BINGO!

  • When I started blogging years ago (2004) I used to write about my children and posted their photos all over my blog. Then one day I noticed tons of traffic flooding in from Europe looking at my oldest daughter’s picture. She was five. Since then I rarely post photos of my kids. I barely talk about them. It was horrifying!

  • I felt a little sensitive about this too at first, but realized it was coming from within. I have posted pics of my kids and referred to them by name. I have consciously made a choice to do less and less of this as my blog is morphing. I guess I am a mommy blogger, but really I’m a mom who blogs. My blog is not about my kids…but there are creeps out there and I hate that.

    Wonderful post, Jessica. Thanks!
    Erin @ The Mother Load
    @erinlynn76

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  • I think the most important thing is that we are cognizant when we make decisions.

    Personally, I went to a whole seminar as a soon-to-be teacher on how to spot pedophiles in our midst. I think we should be much more wary of interactions our children have face to face then the creeps on the Internet. Not that they aren’t there! They are. That’s why there are no naked pictures of my child online. That’s also why I shy away from many of the typical mommy-blogger topics that other people seem comfortable with. I also don’t use words like vagina on my blog. Not that I think you shouldn’t, but because I don’t want anyone coming to my space on that search term. Like you said, that’s how I do it and this is why.

    Like you, I am very respectful of the idea that my husband did not sign up to be a blogger and while he is fine with it, I keep his name out of my blog. My son got thrust into the limelight when he was born very ill and I wanted people to pray for a very specific name. If I’d been in a different place, I’m not sure I would have used his real name. I try not talk about things that might embarrass him later–I don’t do a lot of the “cute little anecdote” kinds of posts. I try to respect my son although like others have mentioned, it’s sometimes hard to know the best way to do it.

    Pictures are a very important part of my blog. My son has cerebral palsy and when I first googled the term, the images I found scared me to death. I want to provide people with a real-life view of what it looks like. I want to erase some of the myths that surround the disorder. When Charlie is older, he may decide that’s not a soap box he wants to be on, and then I will blog/talk about something else.

  • I’m not a regular reader here, I surfed in through Twitter, so while I hate to make a generalization based on the few posts I’ve read, I think maybe it comes down to what different people consider over-sharing.

    I am a photographer, and I probably post more photos of my kid than most. Sadly, I’m sure that the photos of my son that I share have been seen by some internet sickos, however, I’m sure there are some sickos who see him at the park and the mall, too.

    You say, “I’ve not shared pictures of my kids with you, nor have I shared stories of my children that their classmates wouldn’t already know.” Are you implying that sharing stories about your kids might embarrass them, or haunt them later?

    I guess we really have the same concerns, but we just view different things as problematic. For instance, I can’t fathom cursing on my blog, because it’s not something I want my kid to see or be embarrassed by later.

    Also, you ARE going to show a lot of hits to your site for strange variations on “boobs” and “vagina” when you have more than 3 posts with the words boobs and vagina in the title.

  • I wish I could let myself post pictures of my child with abandonment on my blog because, as a mom blogger, I truly do love seeing other people’s families and hearing their stories. However, there’s just this nagging little voice in my head telling me not to do it. I’ve had online friends to have their child’s picture show up on a diaper fetish site. These were innocent cloth-diapering pictures of their children used for other purposes by strangers. It left a big impression on me. I won’t even use my child’s real name on my blog. You may see pictures of him on my blog, but his face is turned away from the camera. (I know some would probably argue why I even bother doing that much.)

    I can see both sides of this issue, but like you, this is the choice I feel comfortable with. I know someone could probably very easily dig this information up somewhere online, but I’m choosing not to offer it willingly on my blog.

  • This is a very informative post and I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few weeks. Like you said we all have different views and how we blog but I just don’t understand what all the name calling is about. It doesn’t benefit anyone and just is pointless.

  • Oh, Jess, that screen shot made me sick to my stomach. But I know it’s true. I follow rather similar guidelines to yours- I use my children’s initials, not names, I try to only tell the parts of their story that I feel I own as they affect me, not for the sake of displaying their personalities.

    I’ve put 1 pic of the back of my kid’s head up one time, and got an overseas phone call from hubs reminding me we agreed no kid photos when I began blogging. I was like “Dayyyummm, you’re fast…and you’re right.” I just never want then to feel I treated them as subjects and stories instead of my most precious charge, not to be shared lightly with those who are outside of their immediate circle. I feel like, ideally, children are protected by this innate insularity of their immediate family, their extended family, and their network of friends. Of course, as we well know, sometimes that chain is disrupted and a child becomes prey for those within that circle of trust. That’s a tragedy. But I worry that widening their circles beyond their knowledge or comprehension may increase their risk of becoming a victim of some sort, even if they never know of it and it’s “merely” their images photoshopped and twisted in ways I refuse to think about right now. That, among others, are just not odds I care to play. But, like yourself, I think we’re all just finding the boundaries.

  • When Jenni Brennan posted photos of her cute seven month old son on her personal blog, I bet she never dreamed that someone would use them in an online scam.

    Jenni found her son’s picture on Craigslist as part of what appears to be an adoption scam.

    Password protected galleries is an alternative to placing pictures on your blog.

    I think the decision for parents to post their children’s photos on their blog is a very personal one and I don’t judge those parents who do decide to post their children’s pictures. I have just decided not to.

  • I post pictures of my daughter on my site, although I have made the conscious decision to keep the stories I’m sharing about me and not her. I’ve also been careful never to use my daughter’s full name (or even our last name in text at all) on our site so that a search for her does not bring to you me. That’s how I’m careful to protect her privacy in the future. As for today, I agree with a lot of the PP’s, I can’t control what someone does with a picture be it a physical or mental one, so I don’t worry myself too much about what happens to the images…I just focus on staying vigilant about what happens to the precious baby who is in them. Great post. I get some effed up searches coming in too…I think it’s the price of blogging about your bikini waxes.

  • Thank you! Thank you! I have struggled with my decision to not post my boys’ names or any photos on my blog since I began writing it three years ago. People (mostly family and friends) have asked me to post photos that entire time, but it’s a request that I’ve never felt comfortable granting. Who knows who would find them and what they would do? I’m sure my blog has suffered in terms of readership — because, let’s be honest, most people just love cute baby pictures — but I’m OK with that.

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