Feb 252011
 February 25, 2011  Posted by  Tagged with: , ,

How many of you are embarrassed by your baby pictures?  (Yes, I mean the one where you are picking your nose).  How many of you would be upset if your parents showed them random strangers?  How about the World Wide Web?

While our generation can still reclaim some dignity by stowing embarrassing childhood photographs and home videos in cardboard boxes buried deep in the basement, babies today are not afforded this luxury.  According to a February 18th New York Times article, 92% of children have “online presence” by the time they are two!

With the advent of Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and ShutterFly, zealous parents and grandparents load anything and everything onto the internet.

Check out some of my personal favorites:

Baby Corey: Dancer Extraordinaire


Kittens Girl: Shrieking Storyteller Savant


David: Future Dentist?


We think that these kids are hysterical, but what will they think of themselves ten years from now?  The problem with posting something on the internet is that it leaves a permanent trace.  Baby Corey may not be so happy to find when he is no longer a baby that his dancing, diapered jig will follow him for the rest of his life.

The broader issue here is not the permanence of these images and videos, but the intentions behind them.  Back in the old-school days of the non-digital camera, my parents took pictures of me to preserve the memories of my childhood.  Back before YouTube, my parents video-taped my first steps, my birthday parties, my every inane move for personal record-keeping.  But now, everything has changed.

We have to ask ourselves, why did these parents make these home videos?  Was it to preserve memories?  What kind of parent brings a camera to the dentist? Was it to entertain others, to seek fame?  Perhaps. (See article on the “Balloon Boy” incident for parental fame-seeking to the extreme).

Technology has permanently altered our use of photographs and videos.  We used to take pictures and videos for ourselves.  They were intimate, they were for us.  Now, we do it for others.  To show how much fun we are having.  To get a laugh.  To go viral on YouTube.

Although not every parent is fame-seeking, the digital age has certainly brought about a conundrum.  Why are we hesitant to show baby pictures to strangers in person but eager to share them with millions of virtual ones online?

  2 Responses to “Baby, Baby, Baby…Whoa?!”

  1. I love this post! I can’t tell you how many times I have watched YouTube videos with babies or kids and wondered what the parents were thinking…if my parents had posted a video of me doing something silly as a child and it had MILLIONS of views I would be pretty embarrassed. Exploitation seems far too harsh of a word, but I think parents should exercise a little more caution in what they do or don’t post for the entire world to see.

  2. Hmm… Does it matter how identifiable the child is? Of the videos above, I have to say I find two of three adorably hilarious. Recording Beyonce’s new backup dancer seems the most defensible to me, since you can’t see the baby’s face. (And not that babies’ faces are super-reliable indicators of what people will look like when they’re old enough to be embarrassed by their parents). So it’s essentially anonymous and seems unlikely to become an issue later in life–unless the child in question makes a point to draw attention to the video.

    Poor anesthetic-addled David and the Kittens Girl, on the other hand, are more clearly identifiable. And yet, David bothers me much more than Kittens. This could be because my sense of humor is more in tune with Kittens Girl (“I want pie. I want beef jerky”… cracks me up every time.) But I think the bigger issue is that David seems more vulnerable. It’s one thing to edit together a video of non-sequiturs coming from a creative wee lass; David is clearly doesn’t have his A-game with him, and that’s why it’s “funny.”

    Either way, my son can rest easy that he won’t be the next youtube sensation on my account.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>