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Why Do I Put Photos of My Innocent Children On Social Media? (And Should I?)

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I’ve avoided finishing or publishing this post since Charlie was 8 months old, almost five years. Probably because it’s both relevant and yet redundant, and while typically I like to have a thesis with these kinds of posts, I don’t today. Like digital media itself, my stance and mindset shift almost daily and knowing what is the “right” thing to do is most often an in-the-moment gut decision. I like to think that I’m principled, as if I have these morals that are unwavering and these limits that are inflexible. But absoluteness, or a “never will I” attitude, is the vernacular of youth. And being unwavering in your principles is certainly easier said than done.

Needless to say, I have very complicated feelings about my kids and social media (both their involvement and presence in my social media and, looking down the line, Charlie and Elliot on social media themselves). But like any intelligent, progressive, responsible (and terrified) mom, I mostly just want them to be as far away as possible from social media. Hilarious, I know but there is a plot twist at the end.

The irony of me being who I am and what I do for work is not lost on me; in fact, I’m more sensitive to it because of what I do. You have no idea. I know what it does to my fully grown adult brain and I didn’t have the Internet until I was 18 and social media until I was 30. My brain was FORMED.

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Most of parenting is modeling good behavior. Showing not telling. We are VERY good at adhering to a no phones at the breakfast and dinner tables policy and for the last six months have gotten The New York Times daily – the actual paper –  so we can catch up on the news while the kids play, but without having to be on our phones. We are trying to take the power of the phone away and show our kids that these things are tools we use for work and for information, but not something we need. So if that’s the case then why can’t I just teach them how we are being and how they can be responsible with social media?

There is a lot of research that says that my generation (xennial) and above are far worse at the daily mindless scroll than a typical 23 year old. I’ve read that the younger generation has learned to use it moderately whereas even our parents’ generation is addicted to scrolling and updating the daily feed, although in my experience, I’ve seen a lot of 16 years old locked to their phone.

While I could honestly talk about this at length (and regularly do with other parents to hear their points of views), my kids are still young, so this isn’t really about them actually using social media. I’m several years (hopefully a decade or more) away from actively having to have this conversation. They hopefully won’t have a cell phone until 8th grade, and, if I can convince all of our friends to make the same promise, not be on any social media until they are 18. Please join the #waituntil8th movement. PLEASE.

No, this post is more about how much our kids are involved in MY social media. Just writing that makes me feel gross.

“NOT AT ALL,” should be the obvious answer.  Our kids deserve their privacy and should be able to dictate where and when they are shown publicly. They are their own people.

And that was the firm answer a couple of years ago. No more kids on the blog and social media.

As Charlie started getting older, we decided that I would show less of his face in photos (like seen here – lots of back-of-heads). I would be more sensitive to the person that he was going to be once he was past baby age. Brian and I had a lot of heated conversations about it, even though we were on the same side. Neither of us wanted our kids to be in the public eye or to have a presence on social media. We want to respect their privacy. We don’t want them recognized in public. We don’t want this blog or my success to affect their futures because living in Hollywood is already hard. The obsession with fame here is potent and we want our kids as far away from it as possible. We joke all the time that while most parents “strive towards excellence” we hendersons “Strive Towards Normalcy”. We just want our kids to have the normal, safe, upbringings that we had.

So why did I move away from that staunch “our kids won’t be involved” decision? Or did I? Why do I still put photos of my two innocent children on social media even if its mostly the back of their heads? After much reflection, I think these are the answers:

1. I can’t blog without thinking about my kids. Those two are the biggest, most important part of my life. They are my only real priority. And while this blog is predominantly about design, the large following and engagement I have are likely because I’m also a human being with human reactions and honest responses. I’m not the best designer in the world, so why are all of you here? You’ve followed along for 10 years because I use this blog as a journal, documenting my self-expression and reflection, both stylistically and personally. I have the same struggles, challenges, concerns, joys, tears, tantrums and overwhelmingly happy moments as you. Therefore completely deleting that portion of my life feels like almost negating the most important part of myself. I know this sounds insane, but for the few months (a few years ago) that I didn’t talk about my kids or show them on social media, I actually think I wasn’t able to be authentic because I was shutting down the most volcanic section of my emotions and life. Brian agreed. He saw it in my mental state and in my writing. He could tell that I needed to express myself as a mom, as a professional mom, as a crying, emotional, highly joyful and sad mom. And maybe a photo of Charlie hugging me would help close some sort of door that not showing/talking about my kids left open.

2. Just like all of you, I have compulsions to photograph my kids when they are doing something really special. Taking home photos and videos of your kid is a good thing, it helps you all remember moments you will surely otherwise forget. And then at night, when they are asleep and I’m scrolling through photos, it’s like I can’t NOT put their adorableness out there. Believe me, I only put out about 1/1,000th of the photos that I want to. But I know that it’s not just a compulsion, there is obviously some sort of pride and well, EGO involved. In a day and age where people feel like they know you, you want to share and show them all aspects of your life. Like a house you worked on years to design, you want to put it on display for the world to see. You are so proud of it! You love it so much that you want other people to either recognize your work or love it as much as you, although they never will. It’s not just “being relatable,” it’s a serotonin and dopamine burst when you see a cute photo of your child doing something adorable earlier in the day, and you just want, well…I guess everyone to ooh and ahh with you. This is not a reason TO do it, but I suppose it’s been one of the reasons I have kept sneaking them onto social media—because it’s also fun FOR ME.

3. Alright, so here’s where it gets tricky. We have turned down jobs that have required my kids to be involved, so far. Sure, at times they have been in sponsored posts but I’ve never told a partner that their presence is guaranteed (well, maybe when they were infants, to me that’s different because they are just laying there, but I don’t remember). Honestly, most companies don’t even ask. Since my brand isn’t a mommy blog, they usually ask nicely if it’s a possibility but understand when I say it’s not guaranteed. But being an “influencer” is absolutely weird, you guys and life is full of slippery slopes. I realize even writing about this will take me out of jobs. Or maybe not. WHO THE HECK KNOWS (OR CARES) IN DIGITAL MEDIA.

I involve my kids when I know it’s important for our lives, like a magazine feature about our family or a post about their rooms in which they are super excited to play. That sounds like we are open to pimping out our kids for money. But we aren’t. Those don’t pay and it’s more about telling our story to a larger audience that is important to us. And we have learned how to make it really fun for the kids and we are very selective and how we do it (limit who is on set, get to the know the photographer first, have kittens, milkshakes, etc. at our disposal).

Does that mean that I’ll always say no to work that requires my kids on camera? Not necessarily. If it’s a good project, with a good message and something that we as parents feel will be a positive experience, we MAY consider it. But no, we are fiercely protective of their youth and privacy. At the same time, I can never say never. What if in five years Birdie, has some insane performance ability and BEGS to upload a video to YouTube? I shudder to think, but it’s also not that much different than taking your kid to a national talent show. My level of fear about this kind of stuff is so high that I don’t want it to cloud my ability to support my child, although I do think I can find creative ways to do this that doesn’t involve the dark web and the aftermath of comments/trolls and anxiety that will likely ensue. This is all a hypothetical and one that I hope never plays out.

So for now, it seems like I should just stick to my general parenting ideals and processes when it comes to challenging situations, the negative stuff in life. Maybe they are universal. Maybe not. Here ya go: (P.S. It’s been very good for us to really write down how we want to handle things in general.)

  1. Protect. Full Stop. This involves physical, mental and emotional safety.
  2. Model good behavior. We try to show them how to be good people. A good rule of thumb I remind myself all the time is ‘show, don’t tell. It’s an ‘all day every day’ situation. No pressure. 🙂
  3. Listen. Just listen. All the time.
  4. Suggest good behavior. if they aren’t doing it. Nudge them towards it in hopes they catch on.
  5. Watch. Observe. Then ….
  6. Intervene when it could get out of hand.

I suppose I left out all the positive affirmation, the daily “you got this.” But, hell, it’s not like I know what I’m doing, I just love a parenting book (and am happy to recommend my favorites) so regurgitating clichés is not hard. Not like this subject. This is hard. The easy answer of “don’t involve your kids” becomes so much more complicated when you/I think about how the reason I’m here is because I’ve been an open book since day 1, about all aspects of my life.

But as a mom I also really want to respect their privacy, respect them as individuals, honor what they want and not put anything out there that they might some day be embarrassed by. (P.S. Brian wanted me to add that if you see them in public without me, with just him, they don’t need to know that you recognize them. It’s only happened a couple of times but it makes everyone kinda uncomfortable and the kids are confused why a stranger knows them. If I’m with them, please feel free to say something to me about the blog if you want, not them).

Normally, I can see a few sides to how someone can parent and can get behind why you would let your kids participate in something. Brian and I are super conservative and protective as parents, FAR more than I thought we would be. I had no idea how little I would care about being “cool” as a parent.

So yeah. That’s the non-conclusion for you.

I’m going to try to be purposeful. Think of them and their future as much as possible. And generally put myself in their shoes.

My current strategy is this: Post my feelings with photos of the back of their heads (as much as possible) which I realize sounds creepy but all the photos in this post have been like this. That’s been my strategy if you haven’t noticed (not always the case) and I think it actually works…I share with you how I’m feeling which is what I need to survive, but my kids faces aren’t necessarily plastered on the internet. Meanwhile yes, there will be times when I break this rule, I’m sure.

I know as a parent I would react pretty heavily and instinctually to this post. I might scream “keep your kids out of social media” at the computer, but there are times when I think maybe we (Brian and a I) are more sensitive than most.

I’m nervous about reading the comments, I am. I’m worried that if Brian reads them he will ban our kids forever from the internet, and well, he’s their dad with incredibly good instincts. So I implore you to really think about every side of this before you just throw out simple solutions. At the same time, well, I’m listening …

Pretend you are me. What would you do??

Fin Mark
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Terri

You are such a great mom Emily! Your family is lucky.

Kp

I love reading about your thought process on this. Thanks for sharing. As a reader, I have to say that I would never mind if you didn’t include pictures of your children. I don’t think you would sacrifice anything in terms of the relatability or quality of the blog.

Heidi

Very wise. While I always enjoy seeing what your little ones are enjoying I completely agree with you. I often wonder why some bloggers share so much of their children’s identity on social media.

Lashley

“Pretend you are me” is a tall order, but I think your boundaries are great. I also respect bloggers like Rebecca Woolf who doesn’t restrict photos of her kids (She asks them first, I think, but has always shown their faces) and like Erin Loechner who shows even less of her kids. It’s a personal decision and you’re making the best call you can within the parameters of your family values and the info available. xx

aliyah sadaf

hi! I have no idea if my computer is broke or if there really are no comments on this post?! anyway, thank you for bringing up and sharing your thoughts on this difficult and controversial topic. I personally choose not to have my kids’ pics on social media but *I don’t do what you do for a living*. The fact that you think about this as much as you do says a lot itself. It is so very clear that you aren’t ‘using’ your kids. In fact, the opposite. Ultimately, they are *your* children and no one will know them and protect them the way you and Brian have and will. So, while I have gone back and forth about whether to include my kids (I am an emerging artist who is trying to get my presence felt on instagram and every podcast tells you to make it ‘personal’ GAH!) I don’t feel we can judge what you do. I think on some level shielding them from ‘your world’ excessively may take away the opportunity for you to ‘teach’ them about it. So you go mama! (and dad). You got this. We are all seriously winging it as parents and… Read more »

Kim

This is a great comment- way to sum it up!

Sam

If I was a public figure as you have become, I would do what you are doing. I don’t see anything “creepy” about photos of the back of your children’s heads. Children are a key part of your life. You’re not hiding them, but you’re not putting their faces out there, either. I think that’s smart. I’ve seen other public figures do the same thing. For example the fashion designer Stella McCartney. The faces of her 4 kids are NEVER pictured on her Instagram yet she, on occasion, will post a photo of them from the back or in some other way obscuring their faces: They’re obviously a part of her life as a designer and a mother but protecting them from HER fame is her priority. Contrast that with Victoria and David Beckham where I feel like they have spent years using their kids for marketing purposes, which just seems gross (not to mention terrible parenting). FYI, about the #waituntil8th movement: My kids both got a cell phone when they started middle school (mostly because they were walking to and from school alone and it made ME feel better to know they had a phone). We allowed them to… Read more »

Samantha

Ahh, good point. I’ve wondered about this. Do you monitor his account, or limit his activity in any way? (Not to imply that you should, if you aren’t – just curious.)

Sam

Both my kids are over 18 now so we don’t monitor any of their social media anymore — other than seeing what they publicly post. But TBH, we never did monitor much when they were in high school. We tried to respect their privacy. Instead our approach was to have plenty of conversations at the dinner table or wherever about what was appropriate and inappropriate in our digital era. Banning kids from doing anything never works. In fact, in my experience, it’s the super-rigid parents whose children end up pushing the envelope on everything the most! Our rules: Rule No. 1: Keep the teens VERY busy with extracurriculars. That not only keeps them out of trouble but forces them to manage their homework in the time remaining … because … Rule No. 2 : Keep up your grades. We expected As and Bs from our kids because that is what they were capable of. Any signs of grades dropping and they lost videogame/phone/Facebook privileges. That was actually quite a motivational tool for both of them. They wanted their digital time and we wanted good grades. Fair bargain. I wasn’t ranting about how much time they spent on their phones or… Read more »

Karin

Sam – We raised our children pretty much the same. School was considered their “job”. As long as they did well at their job they were allowed the privilege of having a cell phone. As long as the phone didn’t become a distraction in their “job” they were okay. My kids are in their early 30’s now so we didn’t have to worry too much about social media then. I did my best to teach my girls what I expected from them (BE A GOOD HUMAN) and for the most part they didn’t let me down. They still make me proud every day and are shining examples are what good humans are.

Susie

Agree that banning kids from something generally results in them figuring out a way to do it secretly. I saw a lot of that with my daughter’s friends whose parents banned them from Facebook, but they just created secret accounts. My almost 18-yr old is not on Facebook or instagram, etc. I have a small sewing blog, and for years used my daughter as the model. I a m seeing a downside to that now as she is teaching high school in a foreign country and many of the teenaged boys have started following my blog. I guess they’re into stalking their teacher in the past (I haven’t posted photos of her in years). Something I didn’t think about 10 years ago…

Rashmi

Hi! I have a high schooler and she isn’t on social and the school (public) doesn’t use social media for announcing things. The coach for her team was sending group chat updates. I don’t allow group chats so the coach was kind enough to just text her separately. I think you can ask the school and they will understand.

Ros

I think the balance you’ve achieved is really sensible. I hope my balance (if I were you) was as sensible. 🙂

Personally: I don’t have a lifestyle blog (so different context!), but I do have a lot of friends/family who live far away and who stay in contact primarily through social media and skype calls, so ‘no kids on social media’ isn’t an option for maintaining relationships. So… balance. I have a mostly-locked-down FB and Instagram where I will post the occasional picture of my kids (my oldest is 4; she gets consulted as to whether she’s ok with it first, and occasionally she’s not and the pics don’t go up). And I generally try to keep in mind that what I’m posting needs to be non-embarassing, as much as possible (adorable child playing with a toy tractor: sure. Adorable child with panties on head: no.)

Beyond that… I think we’re all doing the best we can with the tools available, and that modeling sensible approches to considering what we’re putting online goes a long way.

Rachel

So much respect for you and Brian on this. My platform is much, much smaller and I really struggle with the desire to be open and share what’s important to me with the desire to fiercely protect my children and their privacy. The in-between space is an uncomfortable one to be in (because it requires constant judgment calls), but it can also be the most authentic way of balancing two opposing values that are both important. For me, that means sharing stories about my children without sharing their names and minimizing their appearance on social media (no video and only family photos, not individual kid ones).

Your point of view has also helped us re-think our re-posting strategy as a brand at Thimble. Your team very kindly and appropriately asked us not to re-post images of your kids in our clothing and it was a much needed aha moment for us. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and openness!

Laura Turner

You are obviously both very thoughtful parents who care about their children now and for the future. I think it’s admirable that you have taken the time to consider your fame’s place in their lives and set out a plan. People can agree, disagree, etc, but ultimately it’s your decision. I’ve read your blog for so long, and I definitely have never had the feeling that you’re exploitative of your children!

Also, I’m full on with you on holding off on cell phones and social media as long as absolutely possible! 18 sounds like a good age to me!

Marcy

You and Brian are good parents with good instincts. Your thoughts on social media and your kids are terrific. Keep on doing what you’re doing 😃👍

ellen

I think you’re doing really great! I agree with everything you write and totally understand the struggles with social media. Social media is a beast (and mostly not in a good way). I love to see your house, designs, family and work family and everything what is going on in your life and I think the balance you have now is great.

Melissa

I completely agree with you. I work in social marketing so it’s a hard balance for me too. I made the decision after Christmas last year to only post about my kids on momentous occasions. (Birthdays, family photo at Christmas, etc. to serve as a small digital photo album for family/friends.) When the whole reason I was taking photos I took of my children became – wow, this would be a great picture for instagram – that’s when I knew it was too much. I looked at friends and other accounts I follow and realized that it’s just turned into too much. (I also feel like “stories” has exasperated it as well. The ability – and encouragement – to post multiple photos/videos a day.) I feel like it’s a competition among some parents and wonder if it’ll be detrimental to those kids in the future. Sometimes (a lot of times) my kids don’t even want me to take a picture of them — what would they think if they knew (and understood) that I was sharing that photo with hundreds of other people?? I decided to stop feel like it’s been a really good decision.

Mary

I think your approach is thoughtful and sensible and reflects that you are making the best choices you can for your family. You’re doing great! And personally my favorite part is that you recognize that this is situation where revisiting and revising makes a ton of sense and absolutes don’t.

Lynne

I think that your future teenagers will most likely resent the pictures of their childhood being so public. Any stories about their sleeping arrangements and such will still be out their when they are teenagers and they might be angry that people no so much about their childhood stories. I would suggest thinking about every share in that light, what would my future teenager think about this being public info.

Hallie

This is an interesting point, Lynne. I think I agree with you that I would be less concerned about whether to share photos and pay more focus to what type of potentially embarrassing personal information I share.

JenMS

I heartily agree with this one. I think it’s great that you’re so open about your family, and share as much as you do, but definitely will future Charlie & Birdie appreciate it? They might be super resentful as teenagers if you share too much (then again, teenagers seem to be resentful no matter what you do.) One other scenario: if they were trans, later in life after transitioning to a different gender, they would most likely VERY MUCH NOT WANT any photos of themselves as children to be on the internet.

Sally

Reading this, I feel so fortunate to have the teenagers I have…they realize they were once small and acted like it! No angst about being captured in photos that way. I guess if I had a large following, it might be different– but I don’t think so. They just aren’t geared towards angry, it is just not their default setting.

Cado

I agree. I have felt quite uncomfortable with the blow by blow descriptions of tantrums etc. I also by the by have very little interest in other people’s kids, only my own 🙂 Although of course I can see why you think they’re amazing, I’d be totally fine with far less information about them.
By the way while we’re talking about privacy (and delete this comment if you don’t want others to go looking) it’s very easy to find your address. A lot of the tags that pop up on your photos when you hover over them are labelled with your street name.

Rusty

When I read this comment it hit me. Good point!
I felt a little uncomfortable with the sharing about their sleeping arrangements, including Charlie’s insistence on sleeping on a sofa cushion. All kids do weird things from time to time, but not all kids have it recorded in writing for all time.
My view? They are sooo cute and adorable (for real, not just because they’re on a blod, etc.)and the photos of them, with faces, are less “future-shaming”, than some of the personal stories shared about them. These stories may have “cute” appeal for you or even readers, but, guaranteed… no teenager is going to love some of those stories having been shared.
Cudos to you both for communicating with each other about the ever-changing landscape of social media. Please, just vdxaware that what is written may be more cause for future heartache, than cute photos of faces. x

Molly

I can’t even begin to pretend I’m you – I have no idea what it’s like for my livelihood to depend on social media. I don’t even do FB or Instagram. Just blog reading for fun. What I can say is I sort of shuddered to imagine the scene where a stranger knows your kids and tries to engage. As your readers, we feel like we know your family and would probably find it so fun to run into Brian and your kids. It would be hard not to enthusiastically say hello. But how hard and weird and unnerving for them that would be. So in light of that, I think you are making the right choice to just do back of heads. If they were with your or Brian, obviously I would recognize them. But it’s nice to think that if they were with a family friend or grandparent or babysitter, none of your followers would know who they are. It seems like the best blend of you being able to share yourself without exposing them. I wish there was a way for you to remain authentic without having to show them at all, though, because there are creepy… Read more »

Ivy

I think you are handling it perfectly! I am not famous and I am still nervous about sharing my kids on social media for a variety of reasons. I certainly do it for basically the same reasons you said (and we are talking about my personal following of 450- followers, not millions haha). I signed up for wait until 8th and I hope my kids friends parents do as well. That being said, my oldest is seven now so she knows about Instagram and we have a firm rule that she gets to review any picture and language I want to share- nothing about her is posted without her consent. And I 100% keep in mind that she is a child who may not realize the ramifications of what is being posted, so I am cognizant to never post something that may be embarrassing to her in the future (except the punky brewster-esque outfit she selected for school picture day, that was hilarious and she can laugh about it in the future) but realizing that certain jokes she might find funny and approve now (think: fart jokes) she will not want on there in the future, so I feel like… Read more »

Lucy

My job is a Learning Technology Integrator for our public school. I work with teachers and students regularly in using technology in the classroom and also spend quite a bit of my time sharing with teachers and students and families how to be a “good digital citizen”. I have found that Common Sense Media has great resources for parents that are navigating a world we never knew was even coming! It’s challenging and important. I also believe in core beliefs as humans. Having these guiding principles of integrity and virtue and kindness and understanding who you are is the best gift you can give your children. When you understand who you are and your purpose, it becomes, I believe, easier to navigate the other things. The fact that you’re being thoughtful about it – is really the most important thing. Will you make mistakes along the way? Of course! But always trying and reflecting and remembering the end from the beginning will keep you grounded in what is most important.

johanna_brln

I love this and agree! Great post!

Another Liz

I am incredibly impressed how conservative and thoughtful you are being. Even as someone with kids on an insta account open to 30 people who know and like my kids i have zero judgement of people sharing their kids images (as long as they aren’t terribly embarrassing and approved by the kids once they are at an age to do so). A couple of unconnected thoughts – As a refugee I come from a mental place where financial stability and survival are not the baseline. If it would have helped pay the bills (and existed when I was a kid) my parents would have said “this is our business, and it puts food on our table.” Yes you are privileged and hard working enough that this is not your reality – but really there are much harder things in the world than people seeing one’s photo. Hopefully this doesn’t worry Brian more but I think about it a lot and anonymity does not equate safety. Generally good people and a ton of luck seem to be the only things that do these days. You are not putting your kids in any more danger that some people on the internet see… Read more »

Samantha

Such a great perspective, thank you.

And YouTube…… UGH.

Danielle

I think your plan is a good one. You’re right that people enjoy your openness and come here not just for design content but for lifestyle content, and how can you provide that and not involve your family sometimes? I think not showing their full on faces so much is a good thing, and something Young House Love also has done is not using their names in posts (just saying things like our daughter, my daughter, our son, my son).

That would be my main concern as a public person is having strangers coming up to them and recognizing them and all the ways that could go wrong, so not showing their faces so much and not using their names so much goes a long way for that. You’re a good and thoughtful Mom (and Dad). Many social media users and other bloggers don’t even consider this stuff or the concerns it brings up, so I think you’re ahead of the game here.

Christa

I think you have done a great job so far in sharing your parenting and family without overdoing it.

Social media is designed to be addictive. Games are truly designed to be addictive. So many families don’t seem to understand this, and just accept the presence of digital devices everywhere. I appreciate that you set boundaries and share your decisions. I hope it makes more parents think about the choices they make.

Here is what I wish I could say to parents sometimes: Kids don’t have money! They can’t buy phones, TVs, game consoles, soda or junk food. Please set limits!

Teresa

Ah, the questions of modern parenting. We are past this, since our girls are 20 and 22. I no longer have a say in their social media presence. The oldest is super private, the youngest… I still shake my head at her periodic need for public affirmation, not of her work, but her self. It’s disconcerting at times. My attitude is similar to yours. I didn’t have a cell phone myself until my mid twenties, and social media (remember MySpace?! 🤣) until much later, so it wasn’t an issue when they were little. I can only speak to your future choices. The girls both got simple cell phones, no internet, in middle school mostly for my sanity. Late choir and musical theater rehearsals were the bane of my existence even through high school, and my slightly illogical fear of a school shooting, meant I wanted them to have the ability to communicate with me or the authorities on a moments’ notice. iPhones in high school opened the social media Pandora’s box. Sigh. It came with positives and negatives. Our rules were this- we share the girls on our platforms with their permission (this was mostly bragging moments for performances or… Read more »

Hannah

Wow that I you for this post! I’m a new mom and have been really struggling to figure this out, and your reasoning here makes a lot of sense to me! It seems good that you don’t have an “all or nothing” approach to this but are trying to be reasonable and responsible parents. This is really tough stuff – and talking about why you choose what you do is incredibly hard AND inspiring, so thank you!!

Patricia

I am very happy you have made the decision of sharing less of your kids’ faces. Even if they are still very young, we don’t know how they will react when they find out their photos have been published for years (probably it won’t be a problem, but I think about this a lot whenever I post a photo of friends or family). That being said, I know it must be difficult, specially in these confusing times when everyone is just trying to figure out how to deal with social media. Thank you for your honesty.

PS: I really like the way you write about yourself, your family and your feelings, but you are a good writer and I think we (your readers) don’t need a photo to relate.

PSS: Sorry for my English, I am writing from abroad.

Michelle

I think it’s impossible for virtually any of us to give advice on this! For you it ties into your livelihood and therefore the well-being of your family, whereas for 99.9% of us it’s purely a privacy issue.

I have a public instagram account that is based on a hobby, with 1,100 followers I don’t know in real life. I really don’t think these people care about my kids, but I have never shown their faces on this account. I have a private account for friends and family for this.

That works for me and my family, but doesn’t mean it will work for you and your family.

My one comment has to do with people recognizing your kids and that is that I don’t think showing the back of their heads only will prevent them from being recognized in public because they look just like you and Brian!

Brandy

I’m currently pregnant with my first, I’m not an “influencer” and I still think about this ALL. THE. TIME. I’m doing the single mom by choice thing so all decision are just mine which in some ways is awesome, but in others it’s really scary. I’m definitely on board for #waituntil8th…for now. That’s 13-14 years away for me so who knows what things will look like by then.

I’m with you on avoiding ‘never’ and I’ll add that I’m avoiding ‘always’. Both of those words when applied to parenting seem like a recipe for feeling like a failure. I think trying to keep the pictures of the kids to shots that avoid their faces is a good one, even if I’ve loved seeing them (Charlie is the same age as my cousin Henry and they look very similar). I can see it being very disconcerting to be recognized by a stranger.

Mandy

Thank you for sharing. Parenting is so difficult and different for each of us. My husband and I do new construction and I made it about a week on Instagram before it just didn’t feel right. I was completely leaving out the mom side of my life and it just made me unhappy. I hate fake social media personas and without including all of me, that’s how I felt. Fake. But I am very into not sharing my kids, who are teens, on social media without thier permission. It seems like a teach by example situation and I don’t want them ever posting other kids without consent. It’s a daily discussion/struggle and all we can do is keep moving forward. Thanks again for sharing!

Ashley

Do it while you can. My husband and I are both professional photographers, so as you can imagine we have one million photos of our kids growing up. Their entire childhood is somewhere on Flickr (years ago) or Instagram… and now they are 12 and 14 and the opportunities for them to be in photos doing something cute is limited to sports games and performances. They are not running around all cute eating popsicles in the backyard anymore. Around 10 for both of them the photos just sort of dropped off. It will naturally work itself out. I promise They are not gonna want to be 13 years old have their photo taken going Easter egg hunting or tickling each other in their new bedroom.

Kara

It’s a tough topic, but kudos to you for thinking through the angles and posting your stance. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you have a public social media presence (not something you’re just posting for family and friends), I’m a big fan of the “no faces” solution for pictures with your kids. John and Sherry from Young House Love do the same, and that’s the first place I remember really noticing and liking that as an option.

Good luck dealing with all the future conundrums they throw at you on this topic! My six year old daughter regularly practices YouTube video like speeches in the mirror about what she’s playing with, how to brush your teeth, and whatever else, and I’m a little terrified of the day that she realizes that technically anyone can post videos on YouTube, including her. Here’s hoping we’re all able to handle those tough decisions with as much wisdom as possible and give grace to other parents that they’re doing the same for their family!

Annie K

You have what appears to be a beautiful and happy life with your kids. I am not envious of this added layer of complication you’ve got going on but I manage to find plenty of other daily concerns of my own around how I’m “parenting”. When I remember to, I try to default to the old saying “proof is in the pudding.” Is my kid safe and happy? Learning, growing, and playing like she should? Then we’re good. If at some point we’re not hitting those things, we’ll change and adapt.

Thank you for your openness!

Katherine

My issue is not necessarily kids having a social media presence, but kids having a social media presence that they would potentially object to. The goal should be to not violate our children’s privacy. Before we announce to the world that our kid suffers from anxiety, or poops four times a day, or still wets his bed at 6 years old, let’s stop to think about if the kid would want this announced. Chances are that if you as an adult wouldn’t like these things shared about yourself or if you think your child’s future employer shouldn’t know about it, then it should not be shared publicly. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that children should NEVER end up naked on a social media feed. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a naked toddler butt, kids bathing in a tub, or even a full frontal with nothing but a skinny sensor bar over a girl’s sensitive areas. THIS IS NOT OKAY! Yet the comments are always along the lines of “OMG how adorable!” instead of “”OMG there could be a pedophile looking at your naked child!”. Toddlers are not immune to sexual predation… Read more »

Stephanie

Emily I love your thoughts and think life is all about balance. Not posting about them at all, as you suggest, is hard because they are a BIG part of your life. You want to be authentic. But you want to protect them. I think your current strategy is great.

Julia

It’s so tricky. I love seeing other people’s children on social media and blogs but I won’t put my own child online, so clearly I have strong feelings about it. I have loved watching your kids grow, as Charlie was born when I was pregnant with my first son. (Now pregnant with my little girl, who will also not be on social media at all.) That said, our jobs and lives are completely different, and I respect the way you put your kids out there. I know younghouselove used to post regularly about their children on their family blog which was completely dissolved and now you only ever see a far away back of the head shot of either one. I think people get that too. I think you have to do what makes you comfortable as parents. For me, it’s no posting of my kids. My sister posts almost only about her kids. I don’t judge her for it, and I love seeing my niece and nephew on my feed. I think it’s totally personal and you have to do what makes you comfortable. No judgement.

Lacey

I think this is a great social media philosophy to follow. Granted, not everyone feels the same way, but as a parent who does not use social media and rarely allows photos of my 4 year old daughter to be posted (my husband posts one on rare occasions), this resonates with me. It’s your blog and your family, so a non-issue in my mind, really. Now, if you could post more ideas on curbing the mindless phone scrolling… 🙂 It is such a struggle for me- sometimes I think I should just go back to a flip phone.

Abby

This must be so tough and a hard decision! Not sure what I’d do in your position. However, you do have to sleep in the bed you make…getting upset that people come up to your children doesn’t seem fair. If you put them on a blog with a million followers you have to know that people will recognise them and will say something. There are pros (you probably do make money, get sponsors etc) and cons (exposure, recognition) for this choice. Unfortunately, You can’t have one without the other. Good luck !

Wuselbibi

I think you’re doing it right considering it’s your job being present as much as possible. Showing back heads but no faces sounds just right.
Have a great weekend!

Hilary

First, I’m so sorry you have to explain yourself so much and that you are afraid of the impending comments. Second, I think you are doing the right thing, because you’ve put thought into and have had lots of conversations about what works for your family. The right thing will be different for all of us. I support your choice to stop featuring their faces so much, especially from a safety standpoint. The idea of “privacy” is laughable to me any more in the age of internet permanence. I have considered my social media engagement as my son has grown, since I know he will some day be able to google his name or image. The fact that my son’s images are on social media is less of a concern to me than “embarrassing” information about him being shared in public forums. That is where I have chosen to draw the line as a parent: images are okay, embarrassing or silly stories and problems/struggles, etc are not shared on the internet. Though, I’m not in the “influencer” world like you, so my decisions have a much smaller, less public impact. What I really wish is that the keyboard warriors would… Read more »

Kelly O'Neil-Brown

I am a computer teacher and I hate to burst some of the commenter’s bubbles here. The kids will and do sign up for social media accounts by middle school. And….many don’t tell their parents or wait for permission. And….later they will likely maintain two sets of social media: one for the parents and old people and a secret/separate one for their friends.

I believe open communication about netiquette and safety is the way to go.

Amy

As a middle school teacher and parent of 2 teenagers, this is exactly true. So many separate accounts.

sarah

I have a middle schooler and high schooler but between the restrictions setting on iPhone and paid AT&T service we have been able to keep them from downloading any apps that we don’t approve. It’s not perfect and it’s a pain but every time something pops up at school — bullying on one of the apps etc — thankful we are not giving them unlimited access.

Melissa

Ok, but you can sign up for Instagram and twitter without downloading an app. Because they have access to computers at school, they’ll just use the sites there and/or use the internet on their phone to see what everyone is up to.

Samantha

Wow, Emily!! I don’t have any great answers (my kids are younger than yours and and my livelihood doesn’t depend on social media) but I’m so happy you’re writing about this. As the generation who bridged the gap before and after the internet, it seems like it’s our responsibility to pass this crazy tool onto our children very very carefully. It’s so encouraging to me to hear another mom suggest we #waituntil8th and withold social media until 18 years old. I’m really interested to hear other people’s comments. Thank you!

Summer

It’s so beautiful to hear how much you & Brian care about getting this right! — especially that you get that modelling is going to matter more in all of this than any kind of theory. Too many people feel proud that they *know* that this weird world is hard on us and especially on kids, but don’t actually take appropriate action based on what they know. Kids growing up with social media is an experiment that’s never been done, and it absolutely makes sense to proceed with caution. I think backs of heads works really well. As a reader, I’m not the least bit put off by that. I remember seeing Birdie’s face a while ago and realizing I hadn’t known what she looked like now that she’s more grown up… On the other hand, I hadn’t distinctly registered “oh, Emily hasn’t been showing her face for a while” before that. Point being: backs of heads does still give us a sense of you as a mother with two beautiful children, but also does effectively keep us from *actually* seeing them. That said, I’d be absolutely supportive if you didn’t show them at all too. Just saying that, I… Read more »

Emilie

You’re doing great. Really really great. Don’t worry so much! The most important thing is to teach them to be kind!! Kindness will always be there to humble the ego, and protect them from the Hollywood hype. It’s definitely important to limit their “screen time” for brain development, and not commodotize them through Instagram deals, but it sounds like you’re already doing that. Bravo! My parents had me model once for a toy catalogue as a kid (I was so excited!) and they only ended up printing the back of my head…. (was majorly bummed about that…😂)but nonetheless I asked my mom to frame the catalogue clipping for me and oh how I loved that picture growing up. I was proud of it- and maybe in a weird way it gave me a sliver of confidence. That’s not a bad thing to have through all those tough early school years! Everything in small doses is A Ok – and including them in the fun shoots will be something I’m sure they’ll look back on fondly. They can be exciting & memorable, & it’s more time they get to spend with you, after all! Trust your gut!

Jenny

If I had kids and was famous (I’m 25 year-old married women trying to start a family, and a software developer so 0% famous), I wouldn’t worry about their presence on my social media unless it was a nuisance to my family (like in the case of people approaching Brian and the kids in public – that would make me consider reducing their exposure on my channels). In terms of my kids wanting their own social accounts, I would let them as soon as they’re interested or their friends are on, with appropriate supervision for their age. I believe trying to prevent kids from using social media until they’re 18 or some other arbitrary age is this generations equivalent of not giving your kids “the talk” – it’s not going to stop them, it’ll just make them unsafe when they do use it and less likely to be open about their use or any problems because “my parents hate that I’m on here anyways, so if I tell them someone is harassing me/saying mean things about me/etc. they’ll make me delete my accounts”. All that said… I’m not a mom and this is still all hypothetical to me so maybe… Read more »

Kia

If your goal is to influence people for good and support your family, both of those are very worthy pursuits that your children could be involved in. You have kept it classy all of this time and you’ll continue to do that with your kids in your life. Your readers trust you to recommend good life design and how you involve your children is part of it. You may not be an expert in general, but you are an expert of how you want your life to be. You’re doing a great job and we all have confidence in you!

Amy E Jones

I think you have struck the right balance. And I have enjoyed seeing those adorable kids growing up (That recent photo of Charlie in his mountain house bedroom! He’s so big!). I feel the same pride about my kids and do post photos of them on my social media. They are my world and I like to share.

You are doing a great job. Keep up the good work!

Alice

A positif comment, but not an answer 🙂
That red blouse suits you perfectly and you look great 🙂

Sarah M

I think sharing kid photos that are special to you or ones that you are proud about is lovely from time to time. I don’t come to the blog for kid content, but if I were putting myself in your shoes, that would be my mantra. Yes, everything on the internet can live in perpetuity, but links get broken, sites disappear and go the way of Myspace. Lots of the posts involving your kids will get lost in the digital future, probably for the best, by the time they are teens.

Putting myself in your kids shoes for just a minute… remember that your kids will grow up and likely become completely different from their kid-selves (from the way they dress, to how they want to be associated, to who they feel they are inside) and that they may not appreciate the cutesy (but innocently) way they are displayed. But at the end of the day, what’s important is them knowing that you love them and I’m sure you’re doing a great job of that!

Kristin

It’s so tough to know what to do about these issues. I have 3 kids, ages 12, 9 and 6. I can tell you that you will naturally stop posting as many pictures of your kids on social media as they get older. I think it starts around 9 or 10. Nobody is out there regularly posting pics of their teens on FB…the kids would never allow it and opportunities to capture those moments are fewer. Regarding kids having their own phones and social media accounts—I am right in the thick of this with a 12 year old and it is crazy. I was very into the wait until 8th grade rule, but my 6th grader is now the LAST kid in his grade of 120 students to get a phone. The last. And we live in a small town in the Midwest—very average, middle class families. I finally broke down and we’re getting him one next weekend. He bikes all over town with his buddies on the weekends and I’m tired of texting his friends to tell him to come home for dinner. 🙂 Many kids in my daughter’s 4th grade class have phones. It’s just ridiculous. Anyway…I know… Read more »

Penny G

Personally, I think it’s a really bad idea for anybody to put their kids on social media, period. I have many friends who do and I shake my head. There are numerous reasons why it’s a bad idea, and people can look those reasons up for themselves, or talk to their local law enforcement. And to be 100% honest, I think it’s worse for someone whose social media exists as part of a commercial enterprise to involve their kids. Sorry, that sounds harsh, but I’m afraid there are going to be NUMEROUS regrets and resentments from people down the road who had no say in how public their lives were. And honestly, if you look at most major celebrities, like say Robert Downey Jr., they don’t put their kids on their social media ever, except some, perhaps, on the rarest of occasions. Too much risk vs what reward exactly?

Penny G

PS. I should add that I think showing their backs is a reasonable compromise.

clare

No judgement from me. Your instincts seem spot-on. Thanks for presenting a well-considered perspective that reflects all the nuance of this situation.
Also, like cup of jo always reminds us to tell each other:
Congrats, mama. You’re doing a great job.

Mary

I think your thought process on this entire post is reasonable. The one thing that threw me off is Brian’s comment about only being able to say Hi when you’re there. I think it’s just a matter fact of the type of job you have that you’re relatively “famous”. People love you & your family and it’s hard to remember sometimes that we don’t actually know you 🙂 Given that, I think just a little bit of grace from Brian would be warranted. People generally have good intentions & if he feels that strongly then maybe he should consider not being on the blog either. Because at the end of the day, we hear about him, his personality, and recognize his face too!

Jane

You should ban issuing them completely. 1,000,000 strangers do not need to know what your kids look like! Even the back of their head! If you have to write this “Brian wanted me to add that if you see them in public without me, with just him, they don’t need to know that you recognize them. It’s only happened a couple of times but it makes everyone kinda uncomfortable and the kids are confused why a stranger knows them. If I’m with them, please feel free to say something to me about the blog if you want, not them” you know what your are doing is not right. It’s okay to choose your kids over your business sometimes, these are tough choices and I get it, but some things are just way more important than a bottom line. You are already raising them in the most image driven city in the US, don’t do this to them! Just an example, the kids in my sons middle school class googles everyone’s parents to see what pictures would pop up, and I can’t even imagine what it would have felt like if my son had the same imagery out there that Charlie… Read more »

Sally

Jane, please remember that we are all doing the best we can. I am pretty certain Emily is not telling you how to run your life, so maybe give her the same consideration.

Karen

I think transitioning to back of head or otherwise obscured photos is a good idea. I have a son, and I don’t post any public pictures of him because I’ve decided that I’d like him to be able to decide in the future how much or how little of his own life he would like to be public. It’s his life, not mine. For me, this decision is another facet of bodily autonomy. I want him to have the benefit of blank slate, of writing his own narrative, when he’s 18 and is better able to make informed decisions around privacy. Asking kids if it’s ok or not ok to post their picture is one way that people handle this, but I would gently ask people to consider that doing so can be a way of absolving oneself of the parent’s responsibility to act in their best interest. “She said I can post it” doesn’t mean that it’s the right decision in the long term. And kids don’t yet have the knowledge, wisdom, and foresight to know what they will and won’t be ok with in later years – what they say “yes” to you posting at 10 years old,… Read more »

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