Social media is a minefield when it comes to kids and pictures. Don’t get caught out, says Sam Leith.
In the United States, according to a survey, 90 per cent of two-year-olds have a presence on social media (which, among other things, explains why there seem to be so many alt-right Trump supporters on Twitter). The UK is going the same way. There is a commensurate rise in concern that “sharenting” — obsessive peacocking about your offspring’s looks, sporting achievements and toilet-training schedule — could be damaging. A public health campaign is even taking shape in America, with leading paediatricians encouraging parents to think harder about what they post on social media.
Children have overtaken cats that look like Hitler as the No 1 most shared category of images on social media. This has its advantages and its perils. The advantage is that children who look like Hitler now enjoy a social cachet previously denied to them. The perils are that these photographs will wash around the internet for ever, you’ll violate their privacy, identity thieves will harvest their names and dates of birth, kidnappers and burglars will get compromising information about your whereabouts and movements and your friends will think you’re a dick.
Mostly that your friends will think you are a dick. They will look at your Instagram photo of fat little Horatio investigating the cat’s bum, at its 14 hashtags (#socute #nowords #burstingwithlove #grabbingpussy) and they will point their forefingers into their mouths and make the Happy Eater sign.
May I suggest some ground rules?
■ Ultrasound if you must; nobody gives a toss. It’s like one of those Magic Eye posters that students had in the 1990s only less interesting because it’s black and white and it’s a foetus.
■ Birth. Clean the blood off first, obviously. Apply the hilarious “I’m With Stupid” babygrow. And present to camera. Your friends will want to welcome Angry McSquashyface to the world and with a bit of luck they’ll send a basket of those amazing mini-muffins.
■ First day of school. Everyone likes to see apple-cheeked children in starched collars, tailcoats and gowns. Adorable!
Anything involving fancy dress (except Mini-Me; see below). Nothing says Hallowe’en good times like a toddler drenched in pigs’ blood and carrying a Black & Decker.
■ Graduation day. Here is a proud moment and a legitimately public one. See if you can catch all the mortar boards hanging in the air. And make sure the boyfriend who’s going to dump her two weeks later is in every shot, just so she always has a handy reminder that men are pigs.
■ You know not to post pictures of your kids in the bath, right? Nobody wants to see your bathroom.
■ Mini-Me pictures. Please don’t take a picture of your five-year-old dressed up in exactly the same outfit as her 40-year-old mum. Dignity, people! It’s a child, not an accessory. Get one of those stupid little dogs and dress that in Louis Vuitton if you must.
■ Anything hashtagged #theygrowupsofast or #mummyslittlesoldier. Likewise, anything using the phrases “future heartbreaker”, “looking older than her 13 years” or “flaunts her curves”.
■ No barf-making declarations of love. Make those to your children in person, not online for an audience. Acceptable only if your child has just left hospital after surviving a brush with death. Pan stuck on head doesn’t count.
■ Don’t be making your child into a brand. He’s not “the Davester”. You’re not posting Davester Updates. He’s shy and he’s called David and when his first girlfriend finds all this stuff on Facebook seven years from now she’s going to dump his ass and tell all her friends.
■ Remember that the phrase “all the feels” is banned by the Geneva convention.
Think carefully before . .
■ Posting adorable things they say. Was that really funny or was it simply an indication that your child has a speech impediment?
■ Remarking on how cool the child looks. If the child hasn’t chosen its own clothes, you’re basically paying yourself a compliment. And if you think your child looks cool it’s highly unlikely that their friends will.
■ Using your Facebook page as a resource to trawl for parenting advice. Social media is an excellent place to canvass opinion on the virtues of Nuk versus Tommee Tippee bottles. Save the identification of pinworms for your direct messages.