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Pictures of Children on the Internet

by mamamonster — last modified Feb 04, 2008 10:00 PM

I recently made a disturbing discovery about some of my Flickr photos that I thought were private.

I made a disturbing discovery the other day almost by accident.

When I first put some family pictures up on Flickr, I thought it would be a good way to share pictures with family and friends especially since some of the grandparents are always on me to "send pictures!" My parents thought it was a little weird to post pictures in a public forum, in particular the 3 shots of the kids swimming naked in the mountains.

Hey, dude, I'm a hippy. We swim naked. Big deal.

To appease them, I made the 3 nudie pics "private" for family only and didn't think any more of it.

I happened to be clicking through my flickr album noticing for the first time that flickr records the number of "views" per picture when, like a cold bucket of water on my head, I noticed that the three private, naked, family-only pictures had over a thousand views each.

My immediate reaction was shock and disgust. I immediately deleted the pictures. Then I had some questions. Who viewed my kids 1000 times? How did they gain access to my private account? How did they even find these three pics among more than 100 non-nudie pics? I had not named them in any obvious way- I think they were called something like "img 0048". Who? What? How? My mind did not want to go to WHY.

I have asked these questions to Flickr via their online support (they do not offer phone support) and they have offered no satisfactory answers. Their reply was that maybe I needed to check my privacy settings. I wrote back, insisting on a more substantive answer. I have not heard back.

Kids are meant to be naked. Their bodies are beautiful and I mourn their growing body-shame. I went to art school where we deconstructed essays decrying Sally Mann and her supposed exploitation of her children and their beauty, their nakedness. We debated what should and shouldn't be sacrificed for the sake of "art". We agonized over the tension between the artists "intention" and the viewer's "perception".

And now I am agonizing over my own intention to take beautiful photos of my beautiful children so that when they're regular buttoned-up adults they can catch a glimmer of a memory of what it was like to splash and play in a mountain stream, to feel the chill water on their skin, to warm their whole bodies in the sun without a single notion of embarrassment or fear or shame. It's clear to me that perception, in this case, trumps intention.

The whole notion of public and private is shifting in the age of the internet. I understand why my parents (and many others, to be fair) have concerns about privacy and safety, and I too will now be more cautious. But I can't say that this will drive me to join the ranks of the deadbolting, paper shredding, alarm-setting, password touting fear-mongers who try to sell us on the illusion of security. That's just not who I am.

The pictures are down, the children are snug in their beds. I'm doing my job as best I can.

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