01 Sep Social media: sharing kids photos and the Wren Eleanor effect
Most people who use social media have different levels of comfort about sharing photos of their kids.
However, in the past few months this has blown up again when parents started commenting on an American toddler and her Wren Eleanor TikTok account.
Her mother set up her daughter’s account to record her daily life which has now built into influencer status with over 17 million followers. Other parents then sounded the alarm when they noticed that videos of the toddler had been saved tens of thousands of times by complete strangers.
With many of the comments sexual and predatory in nature, the #SaveWren movement then sparked a larger conversation about the ways parents use social media.
Wren’s mum called the concerns “false rumors,” and assured the public that her daughter is safe and expressed plans to continue posting videos and photos of her daughter.
Brooke Tasovac writes about her usage of children’s photos on social media
As a photography enthusiast and very, very proud mum, I post quite a lot of photos of Ella on my social-media accounts. I still have a few rules though – I don’t post naked photos (even if it’s only just a little bit of bum cheek) and I don’t agree with posting birth or pregnancy-announcement photos before the parents-to-be.
You can’t control what happens
A friend recently posted a photo of her son on his first day of Preschool with the school logo on his hat blurred out. I can understand why she did this, and I’ll probably do the same with Ella. Another friend just had her first baby and didn’t post a photo of him, even though everyone was asking her to.
More and more people are realising that posting a photo of their child has implications beyond people just liking and commenting on it.
The waters get even murkier once someone else has photos of your child – you can’t control what happens once photos are uploaded by other people. I often take photos of Ella with her little playmates – at day care, with my friends’ children or at her ballet classes, and I’ve started to consider the etiquette of sharing photos that include children whose parents might object to me doing so.
I try to respect privacy whenever I post photos of Ella with someone else’s little one. I have a public photography business page on Facebook and a public blog, and I will never share photos of other people’s children on these unless I have asked permission. I will however share them on my private Facebook or Instagram accounts, and usually tag my friends so they can see the photos of their kids, which they sometimes like to save and keep for themselves.
What I’ve realised is that the ability to copy, save and tag people in photos is actually where the problem lies with social media.
I have heard of friendships being affected
For example, I have a close friend who adores Ella and takes lots of photos when she sees her. She then posts them on her Facebook page and tags me, making them visible to not only my friends, but her friends too. She has more than 500 Facebook friends, many of whom I don’t know. My sister also takes and posts lots of sweet photos of her and Ella on her Instagram account, which is public – meaning anyone can access her photos. I know my friend and my sister would remove the images in a second if I asked them to, which makes me comfortable, however now that Facebook allows varying degrees of privacy on individual photos and posts, people can still upload or share photos you’ve asked them not to without you knowing. I have heard of friendships being affected by people posting photos of other people’s children without checking with their parents first, a strange consequence of the overwhelmingly digital world we live in now.
I think it’s inevitable that photos of your children are going to end up in someone’s else photo album, whether it’s a group shot of all the babies at mothers’ group, all the kids standing around a cake at a birthday party or a row of kids singing at their school Christmas concert, because parents are always going to want to capture those moments. Most parents are responsible about what they share online, however given the recent stories about teenagers stealing baby photos to play online role-playing games, it seems many people’s photos are less private than they realise.
It’s all about thinking carefully and checking privacy before uploading.
No matter how lovely a photo is, I don’t ever want photos I upload of anyone’s child – mine or someone else’s – to put them in danger or potentially embarrass them when they are older. I want my friends to feel that when I’m recording our children’s early years, they don’t have to worry that the photos will negatively impact on their futures, and by continually being respectful, I know they do trust me.
The Wren Eleanor TikTok account controversy has highlighted the difficult issues parents face with respect to social media. Issues of consent, boundaries and exploitation go beyond potential predatory behaviour and impact basic issues of respecting our kids’ privacy.