I have a lot of friends who are photographers. I don’t mean the kind of people who take a bunch of pictures. I mean, honest to goodness, saved up bunches of money for the good equipment, spend lots of time on it, these are actually beautiful, photographers.
I also have a lot of friends who are parents. Some are both. Most parents end up dabbling in photography to one degree or another. It’s part of the territory.
You take pictures of your kids. You take them for you, and you take them in trust for your children when they are adults and want to see pictures of their childhood. You take them for family spread far and wide. You take them for friends. You take them because when you look at your kids, you overfill with pride, joy, and love. You want to give that to everyone. To share a bit of what you see when you look at your child. If you happen to fall into the first category also, your pictures also happen to generally be enjoyable for everyone.
Most people enjoy pictures of kids, though. There’s no real artistry needed. We were all kids once. If our childhoods weren’t ideal, then we generally are happy to see pictures of kids where that isn’t true. It’s a sort of reset on hope, you know? If our childhoods were good, then it’s a reminder of that.
Because we live in the FUTURE! we’re lucky enough that we can share the heck out of these pictures in a way that isn’t too onerous. There’s no more slideshows of the family vacation that you don’t care about. There’s an album online, and you can skip it or not. For the family and friends that are scattered far and wide, though, it means staying connected to each other and each other’s families in a way that only neighbors were able to do in the past.
Which is wonderful and awful all at once. I’ve already said some of the ways that it’s wonderful, and lots has been said about the different ways it’s awful, but one of the ways it’s awful really needs to be addressed.
See, I’ve had several friends now that have had their Facebook accounts flagged and their pictures flagged because somebody deemed that their pictures that they took of their lovely children were in some way inappropriate. By and large we are talking about pictures where you can’t see anything other than the fact that the child is probably naked. Maybe. Under the censored bits. Or the bits that aren’t actually in frame.
So the pictures and accounts are flagged, because hey, we don’t want pedophiles to see the pictures and target our children. Which, hey, is such a mixed bag of myth that I don’t even know where to start with it. But I’m going to.
Before I start though, I am going to say that yes. There are some very bad parents out there. Some parents who do, in actuality, want to pimp their children out. We’ve all read the news, and we know that it happens. It’s baffling, and horrific, and goes against every basic instinct of loving and protecting children, of basic human decency, that the vast majority of us operate with, but it does happen. I’m not talking about that today. I don’t know that I ever will. You go somewhere else for that, okay? That’s beyond the scope of my ability to talk about in a sane and rational way.
I’m going to give a list of reasons why you shouldn’t worry so hard about innocent pictures of innocent children.
1. This is not the child pornography that you’ve heard about online.
This makes me sad to say, but your innocent bath picture of your kid with a washcloth on, or blurred bits, or heck, even without it is not the child pornography that the pedophiles are looking for. This kind of wanders into the area of things I didn’t want to talk about because it makes my head break open and all the tears fall forever, but there are horrific photos of children online. Lots of them. Whole awful, pustulent corners of the internet dedicated to just that. The pedophiles want those pictures.
2. The vast majority of sexual molestation is done by people you know, who are actually in your everyday life.
It’s stepparents, and grandparents, and parents, and the parents’ boyfriends or girlfriends. It’s friends of the family that you have over for dinner regularly. It’s uncles and aunts and cousins. It’s your children’s friends’ parents. It’s counselors and priests and neighbors. It’s not strangers from the internet who happened upon your child’s pictures. That is so rare that it is beyond statistical ability to enumerate.
3. You can not make someone suddenly have a sexual interest in children.
This is something in them. This is not something you do. This is not something that your children do. This is a wrongness in that person. You can dress a child up in the sexiest of clothes, and give them the most dazzling make-up job, and there is not a single right-headed individual that is going to have a sexual thought about that child. Because it’s a child. Because you have to be wrong-headed to look at a child and find them sexual.
4. The people who look at children and find them sexually enticing do not need the children to be naked.
This is just another form of blaming the victim. It’s likely born of the same “I can keep me and mine safe” thoughts, too. People who abuse others sexually are not enticed into it. This is a wrongness in them. It’s not something that the victim can make happen. Pedophiles find children sexually arousing, clothed or not, because of the defilement. Because of the abuse of power. Because they can. Fully clothed, or genitals actually showing, it’s all the same because what the abuser is looking to do is hurt the child. Children could go through their entire childhoods fully clothed even for baths and there would still be sexual molestation, sad to say.
5. You keep your child as safe as you can from sexual molestation by teaching them that saying no and getting help is always okay. Always.
There’s been a lot of talk about this in the mommyblog world for a while. All the different ways that adults undermine children’s bodily integrity and right to say no. We tell them that they have to kiss grandma or give us a hug, or tickle them beyond when they say no. We tell them that they’re wrong when they say they feel a certain way about something or that their feelings do not matter (and yes, I know that their teeth need to be brushed even if they don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t mean their their feelings about it don’t matter). Whenever we tell them that they have to do what grown ups tell them to do, or that what they think is immaterial, we are undermining our children’s basic safety system.
6. The vast majority of sexual molestation is done by people you know, who are actually in your everyday life.
Can I just mention this again? Because yeah.
7. There used to be a lot of pictures of kids naked and we didn’t think anything of it.
A lot of us who are in our 30’s or older come from a time when just about everyone had pictures of themselves as children or babies naked in a bath, or on a rug, or any of a number of other regular everyday kid things that nobody thought was somehow enticing to pedophiles. Heck, in my day, it wasn’t all that unusual for a little kid to run around in the neighborhood naked. It was discouraged, sure, but nobody thought the pedophiles were waiting with baited breath on the doorstep for some naked kid to snatch up.
These weren’t the good old days. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody also thought the pedophiles were in their family. Or at their church. They thought it mostly didn’t happen, and if it did it was strangers snatching kids up. Which we mostly know better of nowadays. Right? Right.
Now, I can’t tell you if the incidence of childhood sexual abuse has truly gone up or down in the last 50 years. The facts are that it has historically been an under reported crime because it is a crime that is perpetrated on those who are the most voiceless in our communities.
I can tell you that the incidences of strangers kidnapping children to do harm to them has not gone up (and you’ll notice in there that the most statistically dangerous people in children’s lives are actually the parents, which is sad and horrible, but there it is). So there it is. Please stop worrying about pictures of kids online that are normal pictures.
Change your focus to teaching children that they have the right to say what happens to their bodies, and that if someone tries to do something to them sexually, they can safely get help. You can (and should) teach them that it isn’t their fault if something does happen, and that consent is always necessary. You can teach them to speak up if they see others being abused. You can get involved in helping to stop childhood sex trafficking. You can do any number of things that actually help reduce the problem. But you can stop worrying about pictures that you or your friends post of their kids that are perfectly innocent. If it really riles you up, teach them about privacy settings. Or talk to them directly about it (that’s part of that whole reducing the issue, right? Right). Hey, maybe they didn’t notice that a little bit more is showing in that picture than they thought.
And finally you can do what everybody else does with the thousand and one other pictures of pets, food, or kids that shows up in their feed.