FISHERS, Ind. — There is a growing movement among parents who say they are no longer posting photos of their children online.
Kelsey Talbott is one of the thousands who has decided she does not want to show her daughter on social media.
“We had talked about this long before kids,” Talbott told CBS4. “We totally understand the inclination, we love to see our friends’ kids, but it wasn’t something we wanted for us.”
Talbott said she and her husband agreed with the decision from the beginning. They were concerned, mostly, about safety.
“We don’t know the intentions of people when they’re looking at our kids,” she said. “We can’t assume it’s always for the best.”
Talbott’s concern is valid. The FBI admits there are people out there searching for what parents would probably consider to be innocent photos.
“I don’t think it should be causing you great distress, but there are people out there who would go and take what most parents would consider an innocent picture of a child and use it for some other nefarious purpose whether that be editing the photo to make it something it’s not or taking an innocent photo – like you take your kids to the beach one day – and that’s just what that particular offender has an interest in,” Special Agent Andrew Willmann said.
Willmann has worked several big child pornography and child trafficking cases in Indianapolis. He is also a father of three. He and his wife have strict rules when it comes to posting photos of their children online.
“We will only post certain things of our kids – very limited things – that way our family and friends can see we have kids and that we love them dearly,” he said.
Willmann said some parents have opted to post photos of their kids but cover their face or make sure their backs are turned. Most of all, he said, parents need to limit the information that shows up in the photo.
“If you’d like, cover the face up, that’s a technique. Make sure your child Is fully clothed. I know a lot of parents think bathtub photos or beach photos – while they are adorable – they’re probably not appropriate for being online or accessible to other people,” he explained.
The FBI also advised Hoosier families not post pictures with too much detail about their lives. For example, parents shouldn’t post a picture showing where their kid goes to school.
Jessica Vanderweir is a registered psychotherapist and a mother herself. She, too, has stopped posting photos of her children. Online, she is encouraging others to follow suit.
“I have always posted my children, so this is actually a switch for me in the last six months or so,” she told CBS4.
Vanderweir runs “Our Mama Village” online. She has about 473,000 followers on Instagram.
“I have really been doing my own deep personal dive, especially as a public figure, and I can see the same for yourself…thinking about how I want to protect my kids. A few things I have been thinking about is my kids safety, first of all,” she said.
“When I am posting, let’s say, about a birthday party or something like that. Could a stranger at the park who potentially came across my page or my personal stuff come up to my child and know a whole bunch of random facts about them? What kind of position does that put my children In when we’re trying to teach them strangers versus people they actually know and trust?”
Vanderweir pointed out, as well, that she doesn’t want to be the person who starts her children’s digital footprint.
“What am I sharing about her that one day, when she is 15, 16 or an adult, will she always be this child that is still on the internet and what kind of pictures am I posting? What kind of legacy does that leave for her?” she asked. “If we see our child as a whole person, it’s a whole unique person, their own individual then we have to respect that. These are their photos. It’s not necessarily up to us how we share their photos and how we use them and the stories that we tell about them.”
Talbott said the same thing.
“Being aware of like you said, the bathing suit shots and showing too much of your kids, showing them in vulnerable moments, when they’re having a tantrum…when they look back at it, are they going to be upset that it was shared?” she pointed out. “Because they don’t have the choice right now.”
Both mothers and Special Agent Willmann agreed, parents need to give themselves some grace if they start to regret what they have already posted online.
“I would say probably in the past ten to fifteen years, parents in that generation or that time period are the first to have full access to social media 100 percent of the time their child has been alive, and it’s something we have to deal with because like I said before, now we’re kind of in control of their online profile, their online presence up until their adults and they can take control of that for themselves,” Willmann explained.
“We want to make sure we aren’t putting them behind because of something we thought was good at the time.”