I’ve had a thought brewing for a few days now, and it’s a rather heavy thought. I’ll try to phrase this so as not to sound like a total jerk and incite the hatred of all of Internet Land, but if I do, so be it & here goes.
WARNING: possible trigger reading!
The other day I gave my kid a bath (Boy /boi/ noun. noise with dirt on it) and rather than scramble to get out as fast as his flailing arms could manage, he sat in the tub & splashed like a curious little mad scientist. YAY!!! Total parenting win! Of course he also tried to drink it & I was like ‘no way Dude, you’ve totally peed in that.’
Anyway, like any proud mama, I took a picture & some video of this mad splashing.
“OMG some perv might exploit/abuse pics of your son!”
“Someone might THINK bad thoughts about your kid!”
“AACK baby naughty-bits are naughty!”
“It’s illegal to take pics of your kid in a tub!”
“Haven’t you seen that news story about that girl who’s photos went viral?”
Whoa there! Hang on a minute Internet Land! Can we please inject some sanity into this situation? Perhaps a garnish of reality on our paranoia platter?
– First, it is NOT illegal to take a picture of your baby in the bath. Google it if you don’t believe me.
Yes, some people have been tossed in jail overnight or arrested and even went to trial for bath pictures, but the vast majority of those cases got thrown out, and the ones that didn’t had a lot more to them than splash time. CPS is not going to steal your kids over a snapshot. Truly.
(BTW, the thing that made me decide not to post the video is the auto-play feature on FB’s news feed. To be honest I just think it’s obnoxious and it’s a long video, 20 seconds, which will take 2 flippin’ days to load. And I get that not everyone is going to want to see my Mad Natural Scientist discovering the liquid properties of bathwater).
– Any picture you put on the internet – anything in fact – has the potential to go viral, get stolen, shared, used as an advertisement without permission, etc. Once it’s there, it’s there forever and that’s all there is to it. It’s the internet. Just so we all understand that.
– “Someone” might THINK bad stuff about your kid.
Can we take a moment to analyze that?
“Someone” meaning my friends and family and their friends. Holy Poop that’s a lot of people. As it happens, the same number and the same people who see every other photo that I post of my kid.
might meaning they may or may not. The possibility exists, yes; but realistically speaking it’s not much greater than if I never put myself or my child online at all. My kid might die of cancer too, but there’s not a darn thing I can do about that, so I’m not going to stay up at night worrying about it. I might regret posting photos of my kid or talking to other humans, but then I might not. Life doesn’t run on might.
THINK I am not responsible for the thoughts or feelings of other people. Nor am I responsible for their actions. I am responsible for my own actions. I am sensitive to other people’s feelings and try to avoid hurting them, but an unfortunate side effect of life is occasional pain. Other people’s thoughts are not my problem, nor are my thoughts their problem.
bad things. Yup, bad things happen. Statistically speaking the majority of abuse happens with your nearest and dearest: parents, siblings, neighbors, family, classmates & other direct associates. These are the people who have opportunity. Realistically speaking my kid is in more danger from his cousins than from Random Internet Guy. Please note I’m not downplaying cyber bullying or online abuse, I’m just taking a real-world view of the facts. 1:4 girls, that’s 25%, and 1:5 boys, that’s 20% will be sexually abused before they hit 18, and the vast majority of that abuse is perpetrated by people they know well. That is a staggering number. When you consider the corresponding number of abusers out there it’s enough to make you paranoid – because there is no real ratio, let’s call it 1:10 or 10% of people are or have been sexual predators. But from a survivor’s perspective, worrying about it is worse. Realistically 75% of girls and 80% of boys will never be sexually abused and that IS a comforting thought.
Someone somewhere will have a fetish about almost everything, and that may possibly intersect with your kid’s lives at some point. The good thing is that most fetishes are between consenting adults, and while my son will always be my baby, by that time I soooo don’t want to know about that.
Lastly, you are familiar with the thing called The Internet, right? There are entire sites dedicated to saying & thinking bad stuff about other people.
-Baby bits are NOT naughty. At all. To make one part of a person’s body “bad” is pure stupidity. It also plays into Rape Culture. Saying “your penis/vagina is BAD” invites shame regarding that body part and shuts conversation down. It is more likely to make your kid a willing victim, meaning they will keep secrets out of shame rather than coming home & telling you straight out that “Kenny Touched My Penis/Vagina On The Bus,” at which point you can either kick Kenny’s ass, or go through the proper channels & get that kid some psychological help before he abuses someone else. That may seem a long time off, but it starts right now.
Now, my 7 month old does not know what his penis is. To him, it’s far less interesting than his toes, which are AWESOME. Occasionally he grabs it, but that’s his deal not mine; my job is to make sure he doesn’t have poop on it. I just wait for him to let go & finish changing his diaper. When we get to potty training it’ll be all about the penis (Lord, please let’s keep the pissing up the walls to a minimum – or at least confined to the bathroom… Pretty Please?). Do you have any idea how many diapers the average parent changes in a day? 10. Ten times you wipe your kid’s butt & corresponding sprinkler system. If I had to worry about my baby’s bits being “bad” I’d go insane. So stop it.
Realistically speaking, what can we as parents do to keep our children safe(r) from sexual predators?
1: Don’t abuse children.
2: Teach them what NO means.
3: Respect their NO.
That needs a bit of expansion. That means if you are tickling them and they say “Mommy Stop!” you stop. If you are playing Sack of Potatoes and they say “Daddy I’m going to throw up (if you don’t stop)!” you stop. You do not make them kiss or hug Aunt Sally & Uncle Frank if they don’t want to. Does that risk hurting Sally or Frank’s feelings? Possibly. But children do know who they want touching them and who they don’t, and IF you are paranoid about the possibility of sexual abuse, respecting your child’s mind & body as their own is the best thing you can do for them.
ex: My nephew does not want me to kiss him. I blow him kisses across the room. If he still says NO (or ducks the kiss) I’ll “catch” it before it gets to him & give it to someone else. If he’s really in a “don’t touch me” mood I’ll just wave goodbye & say “have a nice day!” not even “I love you” because that’s too mushy. I’m totally cool with that.
4: Listen to them when/if they try to tell you that something is wrong.
DO NOT dismiss what they are saying as lies just because you have a hard time believing it. You may love your brother, but he could very well be abusing your child/ren while you go out on Friday nights ~ 1:10. I’m not going to offer suggestions, but I will tell you as a child who was abused over a long period of time, I did try to tell multiple times. I was ignored, brushed off, called a liar & felt abandoned. Not having adults listen made it that much worse. When the adults finally did listen and then didn’t do anything it was terrible. When the kid who abused me abused three other girls it was infuriating.
If this happens, and it might (20-25%), you as the parent need to get your child some help. I won’t tell you what kind, but therapy did help me. It took some doing to find a good therapist, but it really did help. I lived with a seething pit of black rage for more years than I care to think about, but little by little I was able to let that go.
5: Tell your kids not to sexually abuse other kids.
While it’s kinda horrible to contemplate, your kid may be that 1 out of 10 who ends up being the abuser, and they could be 10 or 25 or 50 when/if they do. We tell our kids not to steal, lie, cheat, bully, etc. but we also need to tell our kids not to be rapists. Trust me when I say I’m not looking forward to that talk but we will have that talk.
Now a bit of a tangent:
Our society spends so much time trying to protect our kids from life it’s become a sort of pathology.
– Since China imported lead-heavy toys (2009) all toy manufacturers have to send samples to be tested for lead to the tune of $3000 a pop. This has put many small & micro-businesses out of work or driven up the costs so much that normal people can’t afford unique toys without making them themselves.
– Many people consider breastfeeding a type of sexual abuse or incest, (no, really, they do). So much so that many states have put laws on the books saying that it IS LEGAL to breastfeed your child. However, you may still be charged with trespassing in some states if you don’t go somewhere else to feed your baby. This is all presumably because some older kid might see some younger kid trying to eat their lunch (which happens to be a boob – eew, boobs) and get traumatized by boobs or lunch, I’m not sure which here. O-M-G it’s a nipple! Someone kill it with fire before it leaks milk all over!
– A boy has been arrested & is facing jail time for his father’s fishing knife under the seat of his father’s car, which he drove to school, without knowing the knife was there.
– A kindergartner was suspended/expelled for talking about a Hello Kitty bubble gun.
There are reasonable safety precautions & unreasonable safety precautions. Putting your kid in a rear-facing carseat? Totally reasonable. Snapping your toddler into a harness on a leash at Disney World – I’m all for that. Bike helmets? Awesome.No running on a playground? Totally not cool. Being afraid to take/talk about a picture you took of your kid because someone/somewhere/might/think/bad things about him/her? Please. Check your paranoia at the door & step on in to reality. You can’t stop your kid from getting hurt, that’s life. But you can take joy in their childhood & show them that there is beauty and wonder in the world; even if it’s just a splash in a tub that they no doubt peed in.