When I was young, I was a pretty sick kid. I had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Kawasaki’s disease, and chronic strep throat that led to a tonsillectomy. I remember the sick days well: my mom would let me lie on the couch and sip Sprite, and then she’d pull out her phone and snap my picture to send to all her friends, colleagues, and distant relatives.
It’s hard for me to even imagine that scenario being true, yet more and more on Facebook I’m seeing pictures of sick kids. With captions like “poor baby has [insert illness here],” parents post pictures of their babies looking feverish, covered in rashes, or lying on the couch. In fact, back in the early ’80s, my mom accidentally took a picture of me mid-sneeze, and even as a kid I hated to look at it. I remember asking her why she would have even taken it. Sick kids on Facebook are getting more prevalent by the day. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen pictures of kids clutching trash bags in front of their faces (caption: “poor baby has the stomach bug!”) and kids’ eyes crusted over (caption: “ugh, kids have pink eye!”). On behalf of your kids, I’m asking you to stop.
Before you protest, I get that being home alone with sick kids all day is isolating and sometimes scary. My husband travels a lot for business, and I manage most illnesses on my own. I understand that posting pictures on Facebook allows for interactions that you wouldn’t get otherwise because you’re stuck at home all day with a sick kid. But I feel there’s a way to discuss your kids’ illnesses without the pictures. It’s OK to just write “yuck, Suzy has a stomach bug again!” without a picture to illustrate your point. We know what a stomach bug looks like without an attached picture. I know that pictures generally encourage more interactions, but I’m simply asking that you put your kids’ right to privacy above your desire to garner more Facebook likes.
“But I put the pictures up to ask for prayers/advice!” you say. Again, I’d suggest that there’s a way to do that without a picture of your child. I think it’s more appropriate to say, “Suzy has a 102°F fever and a sore throat…any advice?” instead of “here’s a picture of Suzy looking sick and sad…any advice?” I’ve texted pictures of my kids’ weird rashes to my mom or my friends who are nurses before, and I feel that this can still provide me with advice without violating my child’s privacy.
I do post pictures of my kids on the regular, as do most parents I know. Of those pictures, some have had a toddler throwing a tantrum in the background or a baby screaming in protest. I’m not saying that we should post only happy pictures of our kids; that contributes to feeling like we must put up a fake facade of joy all the time, which is unrealistic. But sick kids cross a line for me from entertaining into exploitative: the kids just want comfort, and Mom’s taking their picture just so other adults can “like” them.
I’m not the world’s best parent or the world’s best social media user. I’m sure I’ve done things on Facebook that have caused others to raise their eyebrows. I’m simply voicing my concerns on behalf of your kids: it’s a bit exploitative to post pictures of your kids looking ill online just for likes or comments. The next time you’re sick, look at yourself in the mirror and decide if you’d want your picture out online for all the world to see—swollen glands, feverish eyes and all.
But toddlers throwing tantrums? Keep those coming.