You know what Facebook needs? More badly framed, out-of-focus iPhone photos of average looking babies.
– Said no one, ever.
So begins Petra Starke’s hilarious rant on News.com.au explaining why the Bonds Baby Search 2015 sucks. Tired of parents who’ve hijacked her Facebook feed with shots of “startled looking children doing exciting things like lying in their cot or standing in the kitchen,” Miss Starke breaks down her objections to the pageant in three key points:
- No one cares about your baby except for you
“And sometimes your family, if they’re being generous”
- You don’t know how to use a camera
“I had a quick look through the photos and spotted at least five that were upside-down.”
- You have to register on the Bonds Baby Search website to vote
Sure, the Bonds Baby Search and its ilk have been around forever and railing against the evils (let alone the dagginess!) of child beauty pageants is nothing new. But having children eerily preened and constantly pimped out on Instagram is a fairly new phenomenon. I’m not talking about parents sharing rare, spontaneous moments (ice cream at the park!), special occasions (family holiday!), or major milestones (first walk!) here. I’m talking stylists, props, photographers, photo shoots, and professionally retouched images. Every. Single. Day.
Yep, celebrating kids—lifting them up, making them feel special—is what we parents do. That’s our job. In fact, I think there’s probably only one job I have that’s more important, and that’s protecting my kids. But when I look through some parents’ feeds on social media, I worry that Most Important Job Number One is colliding headlong into Most Important Job Number Two – and it scares the hell outta me.
When did parents-as-protectors become parents-as-peddlers—spruiking kids’ cuteness and showing them with every double-tap their value doesn’t come from within, but instead it comes from how many likes, hearts and clicks they’ve generated today?
On Daily Life, writer Kasey Edwards ponders the same questions when she describes playing ‘hot or not’ with kids as “just creepy.”
“Valuing children for their beauty creates a damaging precedent for the rest of their lives,” she writes. “If you set up a precedent that you child’s beauty is important to his or her worth, how are they going to feel when they inevitably fall short?”
While Bonds Baby Search may not have quite reached the same level of vulgarity as children’s beauty pageants, the lesson to the children, and especially their older siblings, is still the same: they are objects to be scrutinised and judged for how they look — and that complete strangers get to decide their value.
Girls in particular spend their whole lives being judged and valued for their appearance. We should be doing what we can to fight this madness, not encouraging it.
As a social media junkie with a deluge of gorgeous, wonderful dear little ones drenching my feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every second, my heart is torn. Yes, I think the kids are adorable. Yes, I think the images are beautiful. But I can’t help but feel like I’m watching a train wreck unfolding, pic by double-tap-worthy pic.
Many children don’t like posing for photos. Lots of children I know wriggle and giggle and scream and run. And you’re lucky to get a decent snap of them once a month – let alone once a week. So how are these parents making it happen every day? More importantly, why?
While I’m not sure if there are benefits for kids that have their pictures taken and plastered across the internet, there’s no doubt that the long-term negative effects of exposing your small fry to the spotlight are well documented. If the name Lindsay Lohan doesn’t ring a bell, how about Amanda Bynes, Maculey Culkin or Edward Furlong?
Speaking to NPR, child actress Mara Wilson, who starred in Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Miracle on 34th Street, offered an insider’s take on what happens to kids thrust into the public space: “They’re cute and so they’re used.”
And when they grow up? Mara notes,
You lose that praise. You lose what you had. And you are so used to it; it’s almost like a drug. And all of a sudden it’s like withdrawal. You just go off of it, and you feel very rejected. I write in my piece that a lot of kids feel very rejected and very uncomfortable. They’re going through puberty, but imagine if the whole rest of the world was basically saying, ‘Yeah, you know what, you are pretty useless. You are pretty ugly.’ And there’s a lot of that out there.
Exposing kids to public scrutiny used to be limited to child stars, but through social media aren’t we doing exactly the same thing en masse?
As a mummy blogger myself, it’s something I’m grappling with right now. I loved it when Amy Webb declared she posts nothing of her daughter online, but I’ll admit to sharing photos of my little ones on Instagram. Am I doing them harm? Worse, am I not only a bad mum, but also a hypocrite to match? With my blog I share snippets of my life interspersed with snippets of other creative mums’ – to inspire in a completely relatable way. I try to balance my Most Important Job Number One while being completely conscious of my Most Important Job Number Two.
I don’t know if I’m getting it right, but it’s something I ask myself every day.
Where do you stand? What’s your boundary when it comes to sharing photos of your kids online?
lead image: Getty / Take A Pix Media