***Please read this post regardless of whether you think it applies to you.***
Often I'm asked if I feel it is safe to post pictures of my child on the Internet. To be honest, it is something I did A LOT of thinking about before starting this blog. I even researched it a bit. It came down to two real concerns:
1. Contributing to increasingly horrific problem of Child Pornography. It is a certain fact that pedophiles cruise the Internet for photos of children that they can use for their purposes. They either link to the site itself, or right click and save the photo to their own computer. I firmly believe this is a REAL concern that parents should be cognizant of. While having your child's photo in the hands of a pedophile might not directly harm your child, you are contributing to that person's obsession, and possibly allowing them to further progress their behavior to the point of harming a child in their life. This very reason keeps me from posting photos of nude or partially clothed children. Last week's photos of Sugar in her swimming suit were about as far as I'll go, and I still worry about them a bit. You will never see a photo of her in a swimsuit that shows her from the waist down. It is really hard for me because I love photos of children from behind, and the swimsuits are so sweet, but I simply will not provide a pedophile with such a photograph. I urge you all to consider this as well. Save the photos that show so much skin, especially around the genital areas for your photo albums at home.
2. Risking the possibility of a stranger becoming obsessed with my child, tracking her down, and nabbing her. At the time I started my blog, two and a half years ago, there was no documented case of a toddler being stalked via the Internet, and then being tracked down and kidnapped. I was also unable to find a case of this occuring when searching today. While such a scenario is a very real possibility, the odds are not likely. There is a larger possibility that someone viewing our play at a public place would follow us home. There is nothing keeping that from happening regardless of the precautions I take.
After considering those two possibilities, I decided that I refuse to let the sickos of the world keep me from enjoying life, and sharing my photography online. Any weirdo can take photos of my child while we are at the park, and post them online, or use them for their own sick purposes. I can not control that. If I am careful about the photos I choose to post, the risks are minimal. Coupled with the fact that I try to keep Sugar's real name offline, and am relatively vague about our location, I feel that my child is not placed at any greater of a risk by having her photos online, than she is by taking her to the park. I also make my photos a bit less attractive to steal, by adding the watermark, and only posting low resolution photos on my blog. While nothing I do makes my photos completely safe from disturbed individuals, I feel that each one makes my photos a bit less appealing, since there are so many EASY photos out there for their use. I'd like to encourage my readers to do some thinking about their photos, and whether their photos are attractive to the wrong kind of attention.
Sadly, I think all the hype about the safety of posting photos of children online is misguided worry. While the issues are there, as I discussed above, there is a MUCH greater danger in your child's life that many of us either choose not to address or are completely unaware of. Incredibly horrible things are happening to children EVERYDAY, and the majority of the time the person doing it to them is someone they know, and YOU trust. It isn't until stories of such abuse make the news, that eyes open, but often for just a short time, and then we all go back to pretending it isn't happening. However, in doing so we are putting our children in real danger.
In the last several years, I have been educating myself on the subject of Sexual Abuse, and how to protect children from this abuse. Recently, I have begun the process of becoming a trainer in this arena. I will be part of a team that presents a parent and community workshop entitled, "A New Approach to Protecting Children: Advice From Child Molesters." I am so excited to be a part of this program. While it isn't an easy subject to speak about, I have hope that we can make a difference. There is certainly much needed progress in this area.
-At least 1 out of 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
-At least 1 out of 9 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
-Children ages 7-9 are the most commonly molested.
-Fewer than 5% of child victims tell ANYONE.
I don't know about you, but those statistics are just plain UNACCEPTABLE. In the United States, roughly 5000 children per State are abused, per year. That is 140 school bus loads of children for the State YOU live in alone.
So when people ask me, if I'm worried about posting photos of Sugar Bear online, I tend to think there are bigger fish to fry. She may have a better shot at getting struck by lightening than being stalked off my blog, but she has a 25% chance of being sexually abused by someone she knows, and I TRUST. Now THAT is something I need to be actively working on preventing. Don't you think?
Please be on the look out for several follow up posts on this subject. I plan on sharing as much of the valuable insight from my trainings as possible. I do know that this subject is a tough one. Odds are, MANY of my readers have been touched by this trauma in their lives. It is my hope that while it may be difficult to read, it will provide some consolation that I are trying to prevent these needless acts from harming the children in our lives.
Subjects to follow:
-What is child sex abuse?
-Basic background about Sex Offenders.
-Sexual behavior between children.
-Sex Offenders and their victims.
-Identifying Sex Offenders: Red Flags
-What to do if a child is abused.
-How to protect your child from Sex Abuse: What works and what doesn't.