I'm an author, blogger, and mom of probably the most photogenic almost three year old to walk the planet. As a proud mama, I share pictures of him--a lot.
I cannot tell you how many snotty emails I have gotten from other authors or bloggers telling me that they refuse to collaborate with me because I share pictures of my kid online. They all unequivocally tell me that sharing my child's picture online is extremely unsafe and will result in imminent harm for my child.
Now I'm a paranoid mom. If my son is out of a direct line of eyesight, this is what our conversation looks like.
"Hey Joe-Joe are you still alive over there."
Twenty-five seconds later. "Still alive over there, Joe-Joe?"
"Yes, Mama." Repeat.
As a mental health counselor who counseled sex offenders, I'm paranoid about sexual molestation. From the age of 12 months up, I taught Joe-Joe the anatomically correct names for genitalia and to scream "No" if someone touched him there.
We also monthly role-play, "What to do if a kidnapper grabs you." By the way, Joe-Joe delivers a mean punch to the eye.
But despite all these precautions, I share Joe-Joe's pictures online freely. Why? I believe that sharing Joe-Joe's picture online makes him more safe and this is why.
1. Sharing pictures online means you have pictures
If a child is ever kidnapped, the first thing that goes out is an Amber Alert complete with a picture. All child safety protocols talk about the importance of having a current picture readily accessible. I have pictures.
2. Sharing pictures online means people see them
If Joe-Joe was ever kidnapped, I would have a leg up on other parents who are more private with their children's pictures. My thousands of followers already recognize Joe-Joe. So when the Amber Alert flashes across their TV screen, they won't have to struggle to remember the photo in the image. If they see Joe-Joe being dragged across the parking lot by a kidnapper, they will instantly recognize him and intervene.
3. Sharing pictures online increases Amber Alert reach
In the event that a child is kidnapped, an Amber Alert goes out across TV, phones, newspapers etc. If Joe-Joe was kidnapped, I would also send out an alert through my Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, blog, and website. That means more people would instantly be engaged in finding Joe-Joe.
4. Sharing pictures online invests good people in your child's future
I write blogposts and Facebook statuses about Joe-Joe's antics. People who have never met him, fall in love with him. We always talk about the pedophiles finding your child's picture online. But there are good people finding Joe-Joe's picture online. If he was ever kidnapped, these good people would instantly start sharing the Amber Alert with all their friends, greatly increasing the probability of Joe-Joe being found quickly.
5. Stealing your child's picture online, who cares
One thing that does happen when you share your child's picture online is other sites can steal your picture. Some moms get extremely upset when their baby's picture is stolen by say a Dawn soap commercial. This may happen. But honestly, I don't care. When a random cleaning product steals your picture, they won't release any details about where your child lives or their name or age. And my child is adorable. If Dawn thinks so too, whatever.
6. Sharing pictures online can scare predators
Last year, I read a testimony of several convicted child predators. They said that within minutes of watching a family, they could determine whether that child's parents were vigilant enough to detect child molestation. The sex offenders would then select the children who did not have vigilant parents.
When posting Joe-Joe's picture, I mention things like teaching him self-defense. Within five minutes of reading my page, a predator will decide that Joe-Joe would not be an easy target and move on.
7. Sharing pictures online is exactly what an Amber Alert does
If it's so unsafe to share your child's picture online, why does an Amber Alert do exactly that? An Amber Alert spreads a child's picture across cyberspace. If this is so unsafe, then we would expect multiple re-kidnappings in the wake of an Amber Alert.
Oh look, 4 year old Suzie was recovered within 12 hours thanks to an Amber Alert. But now pedophiles across the country have access to her photo so she is sure to be kidnapped again within the next month.
But that's not how the story goes. After a child is safely recovered, their internet fame makes them more difficult to kidnap because people already know their image.
All that to say, I'm going to keep sharing my kiddo's picture online. If that makes you no longer want to be my friend, ah well. I'll go look at online pictures of my adorable toddler and get over it. ;)
Share your thoughts. Do you think it's safe to share a child's picture online? Comment below.