Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Attention Mommy Bloggers!

We've all been in that situation where you're with a group of people and some unfortunate soul has something icky in their teeth or in their nose...or maybe their zipper is down.  I can't lie to you, friends.  In that situation, I'd either be the winner with spinach in her teeth or the girl who just smiles and pretends like she doesn't see it.  However, there is something I have seen a lot of in the blogging community and it is infinitely more harmful than spinach teeth.  In all seriousness, I'd like to address this issue with you because it involves many of the things that matter most to me, personally.

Regardless of where I am online, most of my time is spent in the company of moms.  There is something within this circle that comes up on a regular basis, but is almost never addressed.  That something is the issue of safety.  I truly don't mean to offend or alarm anyone, but I have been shocked by some of the photos and information I have seen shared online by women (and men) who most likely just never stopped to think about the risks of such.  I've seen home addresses posted for all to see, detailed family whereabouts shared, and naked child after naked child after naked child.  I just don't understand this.  I've thought a lot about it and as someone who believes that people are basically good, I can only assume these lapses of judgement are based on a simple lack of awareness.

According to the Internet Safety Project, more than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted every day.  Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children.  While I sincerely doubt anyone reading this article would EVER knowingly contribute to these statistics, my fear is that we may be inadvertently placing our children in danger just because we don't want to think about an issue as horrific as this one...certainly not in relation to us or our own sweet children.  To be completely honest with you, I would quite literally rather think about pretty much anything else on the planet as opposed to things like identity theft, cyber stalking, child abduction, and pedophiles.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  Please believe me that I would never be writing this if I didn't feel there was a strong need for it.  While I am not claiming to be an expert on this subject, I have done a bit of homework...and we all know that there aren't many forces in this world greater than a mom who has done her homework.  So, without further ado:

DON'T post suggestive/provocative pictures of yourself or anyone else- especially children, online.  In my own mind, I imagine that each picture I share online is a poster in a crowded subway station.  Would I still post it?

DO keep in mind that the way you see your photos and the way others see your photos may not be the same.  That photo you have of your little one in the bathtub or on the beach may be the most adorable thing you or I have ever seen, but to the wrong person it could be pornography.  Be discerning and use caution.

DON'T forget that what you share is most likely permanent.  If you do choose to post that picture of your little one's tushy, just remember that the same little tushy will be a big tushy one day.  We want that tushy to be able to run for congress...or at least go to high school without getting stuffed in a locker.

DO take a closer look at your photos before sharing them.  Is your house number on the mailbox behind your little sweetie as he or she is getting on the bus in that first day of school photo?  Is your address on the envelope next to the bouquet of flowers you photographed?  I know that sounds a little James Bond, but just be aware and be careful.

DON'T share personal information.  That sounds strange because we often share personal things on our blogs, but I mean things like your address, what school your children attend, where you will be (and won't be) at certain times, ages, birth dates, last names...things like that.

DO be aware of what photo editing software can do.  If you have posted pictures of your children online, it is possible that those images have been taken and photoshopped in a manner that makes them child pornography.  In other words, cyber predators can take that sweet photo of your little one in the bathtub and Photoshop themselves right on in there with them.  One of my best friends is a social worker and opened my eyes to this practice.  I seriously felt sick to my stomach and lost a lot of sleep after that conversation.  Don't freak out like I did.  Just be aware.

DON'T be afraid to speak up if someone is posting something you think could be dangerous to themselves or their children.  Just keep in mind that this is a very sensitive subject and should be handled carefully and tactfully.  Don't go overboard, but do be a responsible advocate for the safety of children and others.

DO err on the side of caution when it comes to deciding what to share online.  I'm not saying you should parade your children around with blankets over their heads a' la the late Michael Jackson.  I'm just saying we should all exercise common sense and be protective of our own children and children in general.  I don't want to start any wars in Blog Land, but I say, when it comes to something this important, sometimes you've got to be the girl who cried spinach in your teeth.