pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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7 Things About Pictures of Kids Online

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.

Skip it.

 


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You Aren’t Doing It Wrong

I’m tired of all of these mommy blogger posts about how I’m doing it wrong. Or how you’re doing it wrong. Or, really, when it comes down to it, how the blogger seems smugly sure they are doing it right.

It’s all pretty ridiculous. You’re just not. I’m not. Hell, they aren’t either, likely.

Here’s a pretty horrible idea, if you have enough time and energy to fight online about the best ways to raise kids, it’s likely your kids are going to do just fine. There’s a lot of privilege that comes along with that kind of time, and the statistics show that it’s privilege that makes “the difference” as far as a child’s future financial success.

There’s no one-size-fits-all that works. No two families that are the same. No two moms. No two dads. No two kids. No two job situations. No two financial situations. When you add up the strange arithmetic that is the equation of your parenting situation, it’s likely going to come up with a unique answer that works for you.
If you try to apply that answer to another parenting situation, it’s going to be a false sum. The numbers are different. The children are different. The parents are different. The needs are different. The cultures are different.

These things really do matter.

People get heated about their answers, though. People like Stephanie Metz over at The Metz Family seems to get heated about her answers.  She wrote a blog post that’s getting some attention about… well really about a whole lot of different stuff. She started with the statement that her children are not the center of her world.

Tell that to the mother of newborn twins when she is clusterfeeding around the clock, as has happened to many other twin moms I know. Tell that to the mother of a child with profound special needs who has to set her schedule by her child’s medical needs. Tell that to the parent of an Olympic athlete who works hard to get her child to practice meets and competitions, sacrificing much of their own for their child’s extraordinary talents. Tell that to the parent who doesn’t have enough money or assistance to feed the whole family enough that sacrifices their own meals to make sure their children somehow aren’t left crying twenty minutes after every meal because it was so meager. Or how about the abusive parent that decides to seek help before hitting their child? Should that parent not have their child be the “center of their world?”
Tell that to somehow who lives a different life than you.
I’m sure that’s not what Ms. Metz meant. I’m sure she was talking to the “general” parent, but there are times in every parent’s life when their child is the center of their world, generally speaking, and that’s okay.

One of the horrible problems with blogging with such an authoritative voice is that the blanket statements end up covering far more than you ever intended to cover. So I’ll give Ms. Metz the benefit of the doubt, just like I give the benefit of the doubt to all the other parents out there just doing the best they know how.

Speaking of the benefit of the doubt, I doubt Ms. Metz knew how horrific bullying has truly become when she seemed to state that the only real bullying was physical assault in her screed.

30 years ago I was horrifically bullied in school. So much bullying I can’t even begin to stomach recounting it all. Only the smallest portion of it was physical. Maybe one or two physical assaults a year at most. The rest was whispered (or shouted) horrors. It was all so much that one day one of my bullies sat next to me and tried to talk to me as the person he had never treated me like. He asked me how I could handle all of the constant verbal abuse. He asked me, sincerely, why I didn’t kill myself, as he could see no other option if he were me. He was not being a bully at that moment, I can assure you. It was a strangely human moment wherein we were separated from our normal school environment and peers. We were forced to relate as peers in this environment and the situation forced him to assess his behavior and my own perseverance. He wasn’t telling me to kill myself, he was asking how I managed to not.
It was a fairly valid question.

That was 30 years ago. Before social media made it possible for the bullies to always follow you. Even if you switch schools. To make fresh starts impossible. To make escape impossible.

I doubt Ms. Metz truly understands that it’s not just Facebook, it’s also Instagram, and Twitter, and Snapchat, and a thousand other avenues into a child’s head, where hours and hours every day can be spent telling a girl she is ugly. She is a bitch. She is a whore. She is stupid. She is, in short, unacceptable, and always will be. I doubt Ms. Metz knows that the global village that children are a part of now means that all the people those bullies know, all the virtual friends, have also been told that the bullies’ targets are unacceptable. They have laughed and escalated it to a culture that is so lockstep that Anorexia is hitting as young as 6 now, with girls (and boys) dying to somehow achieve acceptable to their peers. To achieve acceptable to the face they see in the mirror.

Should that child not be the center of their parents’ world? That child who peers into a mirror and sees unacceptable because that is what is pinged at them from when they wake up to when they go to bed, should they too not be the center of their parents’ world because that will somehow ruin them for future success?

That’s not the end of Ms. Metz screed about how everyone else is doing it wrong, either. She talks about guns for a while, and about how her boys like to play good guy vs. bad guy. Okay? Does she want there to be more gun acceptance at schools? Is she living in the same country as me? As the Pozner’s?

The Pozner’s aren’t really into there being more gun acceptance at school. Despite the NRA making a concerted effort to get the parents of the Sandy Hook children to speak up about wanting more armed guards or armed teachers or armed anybody, they pretty much all stood up and spoke for less arms all in all.

I’m sorry if that makes your children pause before choosing a toy to bring to show and tell. I really am. I wish things like that had never happened. I wish we didn’t live in a place where we would have to worry about guns – toy guns or real guns – in schools, but we do. Perhaps your own wish to shelter your child from a world where he has to choose a less loved toy is really more at issue for you than the collective pain of people hoping to shelter their own children from a world where guns on a school’s campus may very well mean dead children.  I assure you, for the rest of us, it’s that these calamities happened.

She then goes on to randomly rail against proposed grown-ups who have been so horribly raised by their parents that they are now gibbering in hallways after every random proposed encounter. As the internet likes to say, cool story, bro. It’s an interesting take on the psychological affects of attached parenting that is grounded on… not a whole lot other than smugness from what I can tell. I say smugness because she then goes on to tell the proposed story of her own two children and their proposed encounters in the world. She peers into her crystal ball and sees true, y’all. You can tell, because, hell, she speaks with authority. She said it! It must be true!

And hell, it probably is. Her sons will likely grow just fine. They’ll suffer the slings and arrows that people have been suffering for aeons, with new twists provided by new technology. They’ll have success and they’ll have failure. Maybe not in equal measure, because that’s just the way the old ball turns.

They’re likely to mostly be successful, though, by whatever terms she deems acceptable. She has the privilege to think hard about her parenting choices, and that means she’s getting to actually make parenting choices when a lot of people simply have their back to the wall as far as choices.

That’s really what I take exception to in her screed against other parents Doing It Wrong. The smugness she inadvertently comes across with (hey, benefit of the doubt, again) in her summation of all the ways she’s Doing It Right rubs me wrong. I’m sure that’s not how she meant it. She was just writing some thoughts out. I’m sure she has a lovely family, and beautiful boys who are a delight to be around. I’m sure she is a wonderful person with a lot of compassion.
I know I screw this blogging thing up all the time, too. I don’t always speak with the most compassion, or insight, or all the facts in place. Much as I try, I fail. I’d want someone to speak up when I fail. So, hey, I’m speaking up.