STFU Parents: When It’s NOT Okay To Share Pictures Of Your Crying Kids

Today’s column is the 100th I’ve written for Mommyish, so it’s fitting that it be a response to something “viral” on the Internet. After all, the STFU, Parents blog, book, and this very column exist because of online parenting trends. And this week, if there was one parenting-related item that got everrrrybody talking, it was the Tumblr blog Reasons My Son Is Crying.

First, let me say that I advocate for parents to start personal blogs when they want to talk thematically about their kids, regardless of the subject. If you’re the type who wants to take a picture before preschool every single day, or you’re chronicling your pregnancy, or documenting your child’s daily artwork, start a blog! They’re a lot of fun and the space is all yours.

Second, I think the blog that got people buzzing so much this week that the family (and crying child in question) went on “Good Morning America” is very funny. It’s meant to be read lightheartedly, and it exploded in popularity because so many parents can relate to that one persisting question: “Why is my child crying again?!”

Kids cry for reasons as silly as putting on or taking off their coat, as humorously explained on the blog, and it can be tough to manage those tears without having a laugh or two at the kid’s expense. It’s not mean-spirited; it’s what parents do in order to enjoy the role of parenting. Sure, it may not be nice to laugh when your toddler walks into a wall and starts crying, but sometimes laughter is that thing a person needs to get through the day. And that includes reading blogs like Reasons My Son Is Crying.

That said, over the years I’ve received several submissions from people who don’t think it’s funny when their friends post pictures of their crying children on social media, and I see that perspective, too. Crying kids are sad enough without having cameras in their faces, and besides, why do all 500 “friends” need to see a child’s look of devastation, no matter the cause?

When I asked STFU, Parents readers on the Facebook page what they thought of the Tumblr blog, the response was overwhelming with a total of 450 comments. Most people loved the blog, but some said they’re not fans of mocking crying kids or seeing pictures of their friends’ upset children on Facebook. The distinction between that Tumblr blog’s purpose and the purpose of every other parent who posts pictures of his/her kid crying was clear, and I tend to agree that every case is different.

For instance, what if the reason your kid is crying isn’t frivolous? Does that change the “rules” of posting the picture and having a laugh? And even if the intention isn’t to laugh, but to express sympathy, does that make posting the picture okay? I’ve put together four examples (and will post a follow-up with four more on the blog) to get your opinions. In the world of “share versus overshare,” when is it NOT okay to post pictures of your children crying on social media?

1. Tantrums

STFU Parents

This is one of those times that I think a text message to a spouse or friend could do the trick. Erin seems to be saying, “This is my way of proving to the world that my kid’s not perfect,” but isn’t that just another way of saying, “My kid is a typical kid.”? I certainly don’t expect any child I meet to be smiling and “perfect.” Kids have tantrums; it’s what they do. I think I’ve probably had a few as an adult, too. Thankfully, my boyfriend didn’t think to post a picture of me crying on Facebook with the caption, “Oh, yeah. My girlfriend’s perfect…”

2. Shots 

STFU Parents

Okay, so I’m happy to report that I no longer cry when given a shot, but to a kid, shots are utterly, though momentarily, traumatic. I think most of us (hopefully all of us) can remember what it was like to go to the doctor for various shots and tests, and I for one am glad that no one snapped a picture of my crying mug to post for the world to see afterward. This is one of those things that I KNOW my mother wouldn’t have done even if Facebook had existed in the mid-’80s.

I can’t really see the value in spreading this child’s temporary “unhappiness” online rather than just taking him out for ice cream. What’s more important: showing off your crying child to your friends, or cheering him up and moving on with the rest of your day?

3. Potty Training

STFU Parents

We’ve already discussed some of the highs and lows of posting about potty training on Facebook, and this picture definitely falls into the “lows” category. Who knows how long Gabbie sat on the toilet before she finally did her business? With some kids, it could be minutes, hours, days, years. (Or so it seems.) After all that attention paid to one stupid exercise, many people would be on the verge of tears. But not everyone has a mother who splashes a picture of the potty fiasco on Facebook.

4. Pet Death 

STFU Parents

Really, Nicole? You were “excited” when you realized there were pictures that captured your son injured on the football field? I get the whole “take the good with the bad” thing, but can’t the bad also be remembered with memories (sometimes painful memories) and not with photographs? Or, if remembered with photos, can’t they be kept privately and not shared on the Internet?

This is the definition of a private moment, and Nicole has used it as an opportunity to get attention. “Reasons My Kid Is Crying” shouldn’t include “…because her pet fish died and I told her about it a month after it happened; look how sad she is!!”

It’s submissions like this that make me wonder what the future holds. Can’t we all just have a bad day without someone snapping a picture of it for us to “remember” for years to come? I think most adults would extend that courtesy to other adults. Perhaps we should extend the same courtesy — and privacy — to our kids, too.

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