Here’s looking at you, kid
As of today, Scarlet Snow Belo, child of Vicky Belo and Hayden Kho, has 937,000 followers online—several thousand more than I will have in this lifetime. Other celebrity children enjoy Instagram fame, too, with Baby Zia (daughter of Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera) at 18,300 followers, and Olivia Reyes (daughter of GP Reyes and Andi Manzano) at 284,000. I don’t “follow” any of the three, but I do occasionally spend some pleasurable minutes looking through photos of my friends’ children and a friend’s WordPress account dedicated to her newborn’s firsts. And why shouldn’t I? They’re adorable, and their picture-perfect exploits let their readers and viewers live vicariously for a little while.
It’s understandable that parents should want to share baby photos, which have a pure, unimpeachable appeal. From their pint-sized outfits and tiny shoes to their little escapades and mumbled words on Instagram videos, surely beautiful babies on our feeds provide a welcome break from self-absorbed selfies, #FOMO-inducing vacation photos, and political rants.
Some parents have even found, to their surprise, that the experience can be tremendously lucrative. Millie-Belle Diamond, the 2-year-old once hailed by the Telegraph as the world’s most famous Instagram baby, made her beginnings with a few endorsements in Instagram posts, eventually amounting to $250 per photo. Now she’s appeared on the red carpet for New York Fashion Week. Olivia Reyes is also featured in endorsements for Dunlopillo Philippines, while Scarlet Snow is the face of Belo Baby. And why shouldn’t she be? One imagines that their earnings will go some way to securing their future, which is a pleasant thought.
Still, one worries. I can think of a handful of reasons a parent wouldn’t want to post photos of their little kids online, not to mention make Facebook and Instagram accounts for them.
It’s easier than ever to capture firsts and sweet moments, and we have now the first generation of human beings to have their lives not only so closely documented but also freely accessible. It seems only prudent to exercise some caution when it comes to people who can access private details about children’s looks, whereabouts, and habits. The photos are fun to look at, but then even with app security settings in place, we don’t know who else is looking.
There’s also the concern, which is not unfounded, that from an early age we are already making our children hyperaware of the scrutiny of others. It’s a slippery slope toward the often-derided millennial dependence on “likes” and followers. Alarmingly, I recently saw my niece, who recently started kindergarten, posing against a wall and asking for her photo to be uploaded. She had already developed a signature pose, and she was well aware when she was “trending,” which isn’t a thing I really want her to be thinking about.
Still, social media was made to establish and maintain connections, and parents are just as free to share photos of their babies as they are to share photos of food and flatlays. The grandparents will even thank them for it. So where is the line between caution and connection, and who decides where to draw it?
It’s an unprecedented ethical dilemma, faced first by this generation of millennial parents who have social media at their disposal with all of its dangers and powers. It’s similar to a new phenomenon previously mentioned in this column, about social media photos with corpses during wakes being too new a thing to be judged for appropriateness. Speculation aside, the hard data simply aren’t there. It might take a while yet before we have any long-term, empirical evidence regarding the pros and cons of putting our babies on social media. But maybe when it comes to our children, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Maybe we should consider keeping our kids off social media until they’re old enough to sign up themselves.
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