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My sister and I are very close. We’re two years apart in age and live in the same city. Her son and daughter are around the same age of my son and spend hours with each other each week playing together. My sister also loves to take pictures. She always takes pictures of the kids when they are at her house and posts them to facebook. I am fine with most pictures she posts, but last weekend she posted a picture of all the kids together when they were nude in the bathtub. I feel very awkward saying anything to her since I know she didn’t mean anything by it, but I don’t necessarily want a nude picture of my son on facebook. I’m pretty certain that she has privacy filters on but I just don’t feel right about it. How can I ask her to take it down and to avoid this kind of thing in the future?
-Don’t Facebook My Baby
Dear Don’t Facebook My Baby,
You’re very comfortable with the role your sister fills in your son’s life and you love how she has provided a welcoming home for him. The only problem is that your sister has a penchant for posting photos to facebook. You’re fine with most of them but this recent photo made you uncomfortable.
Facebook and internet sharing in general has made privacy much more difficult to maintain. Whereas in the past the bathtub photo may make it around to 5,10, 25 people at most during a family gathering, one publish to facebook could result in 100s and even 1000s of people seeing that photo. Once published to facebook you lose control over what happens to that photo. It’s unlikely that someone would pass along in an inappropriate way, but you lose some aspects of control.
…but as his mom, you have every right to set boundaries about what you think is right.
I don’t believe that there is one answer to this issue as some parents are more comfortable sharing these photos to the internet, but as his mom, you have every right to set boundaries about what you think is right. Although your sister may have some initial confusion and surprise about this, my guess is that if you explain it well she will understand where you’re coming from.
In these tense situations, I often suggest relying on assertiveness in order to clearly communicate your thoughts and feelings. Assertiveness often includes an empathy statement, a description of the situation, your feelings, and a specific request. Definitely use the language that sounds best for you but it might sound something like this:
“I know that you didn’t mean anything by it and you thought those photos were harmless. But when you shared the bathtub photo of my son the other day, I feel a bit helpless and worried. I know that most people would harmlessly appreciate the photo, but I just don’t know where the photo could go from there. I’m just not comfortable with these kind of photos of him on facebook and while I know you didn’t mean anything by it, I would prefer that you don’t share those kind of photos.”
Dear Don’t Facebook My Baby,
How fun it is to have children so close in age? I too have wonderful memories of bath time with cousins. This was before social media. Your sister’s oversharing is out of love and excitement for the children. In speaking with her let her know that you cherish the time the children spend together.
Set boundaries and be clear. If the kids are getting bath time or running around bare bun in the sprinkler are pictures allowed to be shared with family? Are there to be no pictures of your son taken naked? By establishing these expectations now you avoid running into gray areas in the future. It may seem awkward, but you only have to have the conversation once. Let’s hope.
You are the only person who can decide what is right for your baby, and you have made your decision.
I have friends and family members that fall on both sides of the spectrum; some that share without filter and others that are very particular about what pictures of their children are shared. You are the only person who can decide what is right for your baby, and you have made your decision. If you still want to share photos with a more select group of people, one idea is to establish a private shared album on your smartphone to do so. Instead of blasting the internet with pictures of bath time you can choose to share with this select private group.