Get your kids off Snapchat, please – for their sakes (and mine)


Ah, kids and Snapchat – or, really, any form of social media. When we talk about social media in terms of our young 'uns, it feels a little like that age-old cliché: won't someone please think of the children?! And think of the children, we do; there have been plenty of think pieces penned about kids and social media, and whether exposing them online is doing them more harm than good. I touched on this a little yesterday morning on Snapchat and Instagram Stories (yes, I've succumbed; right now, I'm doing both, and trying to provide different content on each platform – but it's tough, and soon enough one will go...) and, judging by the reaction, it struck a chord with a lot of people. I was referring to snaps I've seen from a host of different bloggers, vloggers, influencers and stay at home mums, who have appealed to their audience not to screenshot their kids, whose faces you can frequently see on their various channels.

The great picture paradox

Eh, what? I can only presume that these individuals are asking for people to refrain from screenshotting because they're concerned for the safety of their children, and sure you'd never know where those pictures will end up. But if you're all that worried about your kids, why are you putting endless photographs and videos of them online, anyway?

The thing is, I'm not. Worried about the kids, that is. Though there is a school of thought that suggests that allowing photographs of your children to circulate online is not wise, it is very unlikely to do harm to your children themselves. They are no more likely to be abducted, say, because their mam loves videoing them in the playground; paedophile rings aren't (to our knowledge, anyway) trawling through snaps picking out the most photogenic toddler.

The kids are(n't) all right

What does worry me is the issue of consent: your children can not, by virtue of them being children, consent to your publication of photographs and videos of them. You are taking away their right to anonymity.

This came up, I think, when the Saccone-Jolys were on The Late Late a couple of years ago. They pointed out that their vlogging has enabled them to give their children a standard of living they otherwise wouldn't have; it's opened the door to a whole host of opportunities, and they're pretty much assuming that, by the time their kids are teenagers, they won't really mind. (Sure, it'll be too late then anyway!)

But what if your child grows up and wants to become a politician? What if he or she wants to go into the Secret Service, or work in cyber intelligence? Your child – with neither her knowledge or consent – has got a massive digital footprint that you can never erase.

The platform doesn't matter – it's the product

And let's make something clear: it doesn't matter if you've got your privacy levels up to max and no one can possibly see your photographs bar your closest 300 friends (scoff!). Once you've published a photograph online, it exists online forever. You can delete it, but it's still there, somewhere, floating around in cyberspace.

The moment you publish imagery of your child online you have effectively denied them the right to anonymity, to privacy, and I just don't think it's defensible.

Sure, you can say that, as parents, people make decisions on their children's behalf – without their consent – every day. But, as a rule, these decisions are made because it's in the child's best interest. Can you honestly say that making an Instagram account for your child, or focusing 30% of your daily Snapchat story on them, is in his or her interest?

One last thing...

Before you write me off as a child-hating crank, let's get one thing clear: I like (some) children. I love (most of) the children who are related to me. There are some children I have never met, about whom I feel... well, weirdly affectionate feelings. I follow people on Snapchat with babies who make me smile, or toddlers I think are "only gorgeous". And that feels so odd to me – why do I think (at all) about children I don't know?

What's weirder is: if I saw these children out and about, even without their mothers (whose Snapchats they feature so heavily on), I'd recognise them. I'd be able to look at these babies, toddlers, small children, and say their names. I'd be able to call them. I'd be able to tell them things about their mammies and daddies. I'd be able to lie to them, and say I was friends with their mammy – I could call her by name, and their daddy too, and probably their grannies. I could tell them where they live and I know what their favourite toys are. If there was such thing as a Snapchat-focused paedophile ring, it'd be a seriously easy job.

Let's hope there isn't – for all of our sakes – and get back to my curmudgeonly view that, firstly, your children have a right to privacy. And, secondly, by and large, nobody cares about them anyway. Take some videos to send to granny via Whatsapp and leave the rest out. For all of our sakes.