Should Parents Post Pictures of Their Sick Child on Social Media?
It’s that season again – more stuffy and runny noses than usual, and the threat of influenza, RSV, flu, stomach bugs and an array of other illnesses. But, if our little ones unfortunately catch one of these contagious bugs, just to name a few, should we be compelled to share their suffering on social media? To hundreds of our “closest” friends via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the array of other social media outlets available? What are we achieving sharing our children’s physical pain and aches? Are we seeking compassion or comparing who has had it worse? Shouldn’t that moment be spent caring for him/her in lieu of snapping photos and adding detailed captions? And, if the tables were turned, would we, as adults, feel comfortable with a photograph of ourselves in the midst of a stomach bug or with circles under our eyes and lets face it, without makeup, be spread throughout our networks?
I venture to guess, for most, the answer is: NO! So, why is it acceptable to share these personal and often unflattering photographs of our little ones? To share a photo of a sick child in a hospital is a sure way to cause mothers, and fathers, throughout our social media networks an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and even shed a few tears, because quite honestly, there is nothing worse than seeing an ill child not acting and being themselves or enjoying being among family, friends and their favorite things.
Are we putting our kids at risk over-sharing, specifically at these moments?
I recall a mother posting images of her child surrounded by insulin, a needle and a few other medical items. The look of fear was overwhelming for me as a mother and as someone unable to help within reach. I think in these moments, there is an impulse to share a moment of vulnerability, especially when seeking advice, answers or emotional or physical support when experiencing unknown territory. But there is a difference choosing to share it within a personal message or a closed group you know well versus hundreds of your “closest” friends. And, depending on the context, it could most often be viewed for attention or pity towards the caregiver because it does tug at your heartstrings. Also, how does sharing such sensitive and personal medical history with public profiles affect the child in the future? Will he/she be discriminated from entering a school, athletic program, scholarships, etc.
How do these types of photos affect our relationships and communication?
I have come across posts and pictures of little ones ill to the surprise of close relatives and friends, based on their comments. Are the easy access and tools we have available causing strains in our relationship as we share personal events and situations at the same time to friends and acquaintances we haven’t seen or talked to in years and encouraging an array of unhealthy emotions? Are we already losing our children’s trust by sharing, without their consent, moments in their young lives that perhaps as adolescents and adults they would have preferred to have stayed private? Pictures posted of our children in the bath tub, potty training, when they are being reprehended, or of vivid and uncensored birth photos could also fall within this category. I believe that all parents want to protect their children, and that in that moment, we are not thinking of how the picture is being perceived, much less if it will be held against us or if it will embarrass our children then or years later.
I am learning daily that the internet has become a universe I have absolutely no control over and essentially a scary place where an innocent photograph, in a less than glamorous situation, whether it be our children recovering from an illness to playing innocently in the bath tub, may be taken out of context, reproduced, scorn our reputation, create judgment, and be misused for our demise. I am skeptical of the safety features advertised much less the protection they provide. And, even if we delete an image or words, is it really gone or will it resurface?