For as long as I can remember, I was that person who loathed children. I cringed anytime I was presented with a baby and wished for death whenever I had to suffer through a conversation with child. Therefore, you could imagine my surprise when the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program decided I would be the perfect English teacher for three elementary schools in Japan. However, once there, it did not take long for those kids to tear down the walls of my hardened heart.
I would often take photos and videos of my students and upload them to Facebook and Instagram. More than once, I received messages from peers in my program demanding that I remove photos due to an unofficial Japanese privacy law. Their audacity pissed me off. Unbeknownst to them, I always asked for permission from my students as well as parents and co-teachers because I knew that despite the enhanced settings on social media, nothing is private.
In recent years, my Facebook and Instagram have been bombarded with photos of children I’ve never met and, while I’ve enjoyed the newborn photoshoots, the monthly updates, the videos of their first steps, and the close-up shots of their emerging baby teeth, I began to notice cases of “sharenting” or “the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children.” For example, while mindlessly scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, I stumbled upon intimate photos of a mother breastfeeding her child. I hadn’t seen this person in years but I was now intruding on a touching moment, a moment that was shared with hundreds of others. I understand that new parents feel compelled to upload and hashtag every waking moment of their child’s existence, but I often wonder about the implications of developing a child’s digital footprint at infancy. However, instead of complaining, pretending to wonder what I can do about it or demanding someone take down their photos, I simply unfollow the person. I value a person’s, whether an adult or child’s, right to autonomy and privacy, but I also respect their right to share content.
The moral of the story: If you don’t like what a person is sharing, uploading, or posting, you have the choice to unfriend or unfollow them. Simple.