Dear Carolyn: Is it unreasonable for my expecting wife and me to ask her family not to post pictures of our baby on Facebook once he’s here? Among various reasons, as we are learning more and more every day, nothing is truly private, and in 20 years, our son may not want his baby pictures plastered all over the Internet; we want him to make the choice himself when he’s old enough. In addition, we don’t want some corporation to be able to use his image without asking, and especially in the case of my much younger sister-in-law, who friends people she doesn’t know in person, we don’t want potential predators to have access to our baby’s face and information. Are we crazy for even wanting to ask this of my in-laws?
A: Crazy, no. Unrealistic? Getting warmer.
When you raise a child, there are battles waiting for you to choose them – or walk by – like bags of chips in the snack aisle. The best advice I have for anyone in this aisle is to choose the battles that withstand an effort-benefit analysis.
Responding warmly to your baby even when you’re exhausted and emotionally spent, for example, provides benefits far in excess of the effort it takes to smile. Providing the best education your money can buy, too – hard to go wrong there. Also at the top of my list are being diligent in screening caregivers; reading nutritional labels; standing up for your spouse, child or self against unhealthy pressure from others; and being patient about letting your child learn instead of cushioning every fall. Oh, and being consistent in your discipline.
But a crusade against unauthorized use of photos sounds doomed in the very language of your question: “We are learning more and more every day, nothing is truly private.”
You can master privacy settings; you can respectfully ask people not to post photos of your child; you can express your reservations to your sister-in-law and invite her cooperation.
But project into the future a bit to the time she posts one anyway, or someone else does who innocently doesn’t know your wish. What will you say or do then? How likely is it that someone bad will zero in on your child’s image from among the random millions of images on Facebook alone, fix upon it, and do harm? And, by comparison, how likely is it that you’ll harm your family relationships by trying to assert so much control over relatives – specifically over their relationship with your child? You’re looking at very scary but minuscule chance of happening, versus not scary but very likely to happen.
Last question: Aren’t strong family bonds ultimately more protective than an information embargo that’s bound to fail? Your priorities are yours to establish, of course, and I’m not suggesting you rule anything out just because the road will be hard. Always be as sure as you can that they won’t cost you more than you stand to gain.