Leona O'Neill: Parents should be wary of exposing their children to online scrutiny
Sharing intimate details about our children online has reached new levels with the trend for mommy and daddy blogging but parents should think carefully before exposing young people to the scrutiny and judgment of the big bad world, writes Leona O'Neill
THE world is a funny old place, a sad fact that one American mommy blogger found out to her cost last week. Atlanta-based mum-of-five Katie Bower – who has her own website and blog called Bower Power – came under fire during the week for telling her 53,000 online followers that her six-year-old son was the least popular of her kids online.
In a post to mark the child’s birthday, Mrs Bower said that her son, Weston – whose nickname is Munchkin, or Munch – got fewer likes on Instagram that her four other children. She posted a very cute picture of Weston and told her followers he loved art and sport and was always quick with a joke.
She should really have stopped the post there, because thereafter she explained that Weston didn’t gets as many likes and comments as her other kids and it broke her heart.
"Guys I am gonna be perfectly honest,” she wrote. “Instagram never liked my Munchkin and it killed me inside. His photos never got as many likes. Never got comments. From a statistical point of view, he wasn't as popular with everyone out there.
"Maybe part of that was the pictures just never hit the algorithm right. Part might be because he was 'the baby' for a very short amount of time before LJ came along... and then Mac and then Ella.”
She concluded the post by asking that people like her picture celebrating his birthday because he “deserves all the likes”.
Her post was soon shared by thousands of people, many of whom could not believe she was monitoring the social media popularity of her children. One social media commentator wrote furiously that Mrs Bower’s son was "not a product".
In the days that followed, Mrs Bower removed the post and put up a tearful Instagram story responding to the haters. She said she had to "learn that the likes do not reflect much to me", despite the brands she works with telling her the opposite and she disabled all comments to her Instagram page.
Mommy and daddy blogging has exploded in recent years, particularly in America. There are parents with YouTube channels showcasing every single aspect of their child’s lives from potty training to teenage tantrums and everything in between. Mommy bloggers make their kids their brand online and many make quite a good living from it.
One YouTuber I watched this week filmed the gross aftermath of her son taking his dirty nappy off in his bed and throwing it around. She made a hilarious four-minute clip for comedic value, shares and likes. This is probably a sight many parents have faced. But I doubt any of us have filmed it and stuck it online for laughs.
The problem with mommy blogging is that kids grow up and find that their entire life – even their most embarrassing toilet business – has been public knowledge for years. It’s there for all to see, forever and ever. A quick Google search by prospective employers or indeed partners will throw up a whole host of hilarious videos that Mum blogged about, detailing every gruesome detail that shouldn’t really leave the confines of the home.
I’ve written about my kids for nearly 14 years on these pages. There are some things I share, and others I keep to myself. From time to time I’ve written about my sons and daughter, as babies, as toddlers, tweens and now teenagers, but I was always conscious that they, as they matured, probably would not like their private information in the public domain. So, much of the more intimate details of our lives was always kept away from the public eye.
You’ll find no pictures of my children on Twitter, and my Facebook page is set to friends only. I find it very difficult to open my kids up to the scrutiny of the big bad world, never mind plaster videos or pictures of them all over social media to strangers. I don’t think that’s the place for them.
And I don’t think branding your child unpopular on Instagram before they are seven is the smartest move for any mum. Your kid won’t thank you for that when he’s a teenager, no matter what way you try to explain it away.