STFU Parents: In Which I Ponder If Privacy On Facebook Even Exists

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about children and nudity on social media, and I think most of the people who read it agreed with it. After all, it’d be dumb to say, “What’s the problem with posting a picture of my toddler’s genitals on the internet? My son’s penis is no more crude than a picture of a woman in a low-cut shirt!” No, if you’re a parent and you say that, you qualify as needing a few lessons in the importance of privacy.

As several people rightly pointed out, responsible adults teach children that certain things (like parts of their bodies) are private, so what kind of message are we sending if we then post pictures of their naked asses on the internet?

For some, this is Parenting 101. But for others, the lines get blurred once you scrap the nudity and move into other areas of privacy. One such debate happening over on the STFUP Facebook page surrounds the story of the teacher who posted a picture of her students with duct tape over their mouths on Facebook. First, there’s a question about whether the duct tape is even relevant to the discussion. Certainly it’s what prompted the concern from parents and members of the school board, but would it be different, one reader asked, if she’d posted a picture of her students innocently eating cake? I think that it would, because it was the perception of the photograph that raised her bosses’ eyebrows (and the eyebrows of parents whose children attend the school).

That said, ultimately it doesn’t really matter what the kids were doing, because the main issue that’s being debated pertains to privacy. If a school board doesn’t have a strict policy regarding teachers posting images of their students on Facebook, does that make it okay for the teacher to do so? I happen to think it’s common sense not to post pictures of one’s students online without getting parental consent first, but some of the people participating in the debate disagreed with me. Even more interesting, some people mocked the idea that the teacher was at fault at all. “Who cares?!” they said. “It’s just a picture!”

That got me thinking: Does privacy exist on Facebook anymore? Are parents telling their kids to be conscientious and protective over their bodies, cell phones, Facebook pages, and, of course, when talking to strangers (both on and offline), but then flagrantly rejecting those rules themselves? And does age range matter?

For instance, I’m guessing there are some parents who feel fine about posting a nude picture of their baby online, but maybe not their toddler, and definitely not their pre-teen. There are “scales” of acceptability, and everyone makes up the rules as they go along. But what happens when someone calls out another parent who doesn’t abide by the same code of conduct? Check out the following exchange regarding a birthday party invitation that was posted on Facebook:

 STFU Parents

Yikes. My takeaway is this: Maria butted into a conversation that she was not a part of, which is automatically going to make a person defensive. Even more damning, she criticized Crystal’s parenting, which is the kiss of death whether you’re at a Gymboree class or on Facebook. However, she butted in after weighing her options and determining that a child’s hypothetical safety was more important than being liked by strangers. So, I can respect that.

She went out on a limb and tried to help out a fellow mother, coming purely from a place of concern. I can understand why Crystal was mildly (and then not-so-mildly) offended, but what I can’t understand is Crystal’s flippant attitude. She basically mocks Maria not for butting in, but for having the concerns that she has. There is no question in my mind that I’m on Maria’s side here, and I think Crystal is being reckless by inviting the whole world (so to speak) to her daughter’s birthday party, which is taking place at her home along with other children.

And yet despite this, I’m guessing there are more people out there who are on Crystal’s side than on Maria’s. Many people think that being rude is “worse” than being cautious, and besides, who’s cautious? Lame people, that’s who!

People who are – as Crystal says – paranoid and afraid. But on the flip side, I receive submissions like this a lot, too, that exhibit extreme fear and paranoia on the part of parents in real life settings as opposed to online settings. Have some parents simply resigned themselves to thinking that privacy concerns are “uptight” if those concerns are inconvenient to them?

Crystal didn’t want to have to locate everyone’s email address or phone number. She didn’t want to send a group text or mail out more physical invitations. She took the laziest path available to her to invite her friends to the party, and that is why she thinks her actions are acceptable. It has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with convenience. At least, that’s my opinion.

But like I said, maybe privacy doesn’t exist on Facebook anymore, and I’m the one who needs to get with the times. Maybe we live our lives online, in public, and that’s just the way it is. Maybe Maria should’ve kept her comments to herself and gone about her day.

What do you guys think?

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