Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

'BatDad' and other parents: To post or not to post?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
October 7, 2013 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Parents face tough decision on whether to share about their kids online
  • "BatDad" never expected his videos would go viral and be seen by millions
  • Experts say parents should review privacy settings on any service they use
  • Social media training is now a part of parenting, some moms say

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She's a mom of two girls and lives in Manhattan. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- True confession. On the first day of school this year, I got swept up in all the back-to-school cuteness and violated my family's policy of not sharing pictures and videos of our girls online.

I couldn't resist. I had to post one picture on Facebook, but I figured a shot of my daughters from behind carrying backpacks nearly their size would be OK.

That decision -- to share or not to share -- is a bit of a conundrum for anyone with kids. On the one hand, many parents want their friends and family, and sometimes a larger audience, to see how fabulous their kids are. On the other hand, there are concerns about a child's privacy and safety online.

There is always that chance, as remote as it might seem, that what you post will be seen by millions.

That's what happened to Blake Wilson, a father of four in Roswell, Georgia, who, on a whim, bought a "Batman" mask, and started creating hilarious Vine videos, where he appears as "BatDad," stepping in to solve modern parenting woes.

"It was a total fluke," said Wilson from his home, where he has been fielding interview requests from outlets around the world. "I wasn't thinking about going viral."

Now that he has -- with millions of hits on YouTube and national exposure including on the "TODAY" show -- I wondered if Wilson had any second thoughts about sharing videos of his children that have now been seen worldwide.

California school to monitor kids online
School hires firm to monitor kids online
Mom: Vine can expose kids to bad content
Mom punishes daughter with Facebook pic

How to cut your kids' cell phone addiction

"Not yet because I don't think any of it's inappropriate," said Wilson, who added that he and his wife scrutinize every Vine video they make before posting. "If I were doing something that was embarrassing (the kids) and making them feel bad and I put it on the Internet, then yeah, I would feel pretty bad about myself and regret doing that. But I really don't think that I've done anything to put them in any kind of future harm or jeopardy at this point and I don't plan on it, either."

David DeVore posted a video in 2009 of his son, also named David, who was still woozy after dental surgery. The video has now been seen more than 121 million times.

"That first week, it was kind of shocking and we were trying to navigate, 'Well, what is going on here? Are they criticizing David, or are they making fun of him?' " DeVore said, recalling the moment the video became a sensation. "That was really the only time we thought 'Well, maybe we should take it down' ... not realizing like we do now that once it's out, it's kind of out."

In conversations with parents across the country, it's clear how seriously families like Wilson's and DeVore's take the issue of what they share about their children, and how every household has its own set of rules about what's acceptable and what's not.

A fine line not to cross

Sharon Rowley, founder of the blog Mom of 6, said her children may appear in some pictures and videos on her blog, but she said she'll never share anything about their personal lives.

"I don't feel that their personal life is really my story to tell," said Rowley, who said she would never post anything controversial about her kids. "Nothing ever that I think they would cringe and say, 'Why would you tell people that?' You are not talking to your neighbor across the fence. You are talking to strangers when you write about it like that."

Emily, a blogger in coastal North Carolina who only wanted to use her first name, said she tries to paint a really "abstract" picture of her 18-month-old online, which means putting up pictures on her blog that obscure her daughter's face a bit and being cautious about the stories she tells.

"When I write about her, I like to make sure that I don't share any details that she'll later on take offense at because she's a person and I think that that's something I have to remember a lot," she said with a laugh. "I don't want her to feel hindered by the way I portrayed her on the Internet when she was a child."

Opinion: 'Facebook parenting' is destroying our children's privacy

No longer sharing

Jennifer Bosse, who blogs about motherhood and marriage, shares pictures and videos of her two boys mostly on Facebook because her family lives far away. "I really try to make sure that the security on ... my Facebook is down (pat). I know it's not going to be foolproof but I do take certain precautions to protect their privacy as well as my own," she added. "I try to keep the number of friends that I have to a minimum."

Bosse said she has always been choosy about what photos of her children she shares on her blog, but said she became even more selective after reading a story on BlogHer about a blogger who shared photos of her children during potty training. She later found out the photos were used on a child pornography site.

"It just got me really, really nervous because I had already posted all these pictures and granted they're just regular pictures that you would see around my house, kids smiling, kids playing on bikes," Bosse said. "I really do try to watch everything that I put out there for the fear that it might end up in the wrong hands."

Parents should definitely consider the "icky factor," according to Larry Magid, co-director of ConnectSafely.org and founder of SafeKids.com, both nonprofit Internet safety organizations. He spoke of a friend who posts pictures of her 3-year-old running around in her underwear.

"We have pictures like that of our own children but we don't post them on the Internet for the public to look at because even though they are taken with the best intentions and shared with the best intentions, there are creeps out there who are going to get the wrong idea," he said.

Never too early to teach the kids

Nicole Feliciano, founder and editor of the style blog Mom Trends, said she sticks out from a lot of her fellow bloggers because she never shares photos and videos of her girls, ages 5 and 8. As her older daughter starts to do more things online, Feliciano has been using social media to help explain why she and her husband are so adamant that the children not be showcased on her site.

The secret life of my sixth grader

"I show her how a screenshot works," Feliciano said. "I said, 'Let's show this picture up on Mom Trends and then I'm going to take the screenshot. If I take this post down, this screenshot still exists and I can send it to all of my friends, and I can put it up on Twitter. I can put it on Facebook and even though you've deleted it, it still exists.' "

"We're trying to use social media education for them as well ... so they know about permanence and about being very responsible with every image that you put up."

Online 'eraser' button

The lives of modern parents are more complicated by having to add social media training to the list of things we need to do to keep our children safe, Feliciano said.

So what's a parent to do?

Magid, the Internet safety expert, said parents should check their privacy settings for any online service they use to make sure something they only want to share with friends is not being seen by the general public. He also said parents need to keep reiterating one message to their kids: "Not to put anything online that you wouldn't want your grandmother or future love interest or future employer (or a future college administrator) to know."

But beyond that, he said parents can't really rely on themselves, software companies or even the government to keep children safe online.

Opinion: Oops! Button lets kids erase posts they regret

For instance, a new California law went into effect last week, the first law of its kind in the nation, that will allow kids under 18 to have the power to delete something they posted.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

The problem, said Magid and other parents, is that if someone shares something your child posted that your child now wants to delete, your kid is out of luck. Also, the new law doesn't protect childlren from any photos or posts that their friends or enemies post about them.

"The danger is not even so much what you've taken and shown the world, but it's what other people have tagged you in or stupid things you did (and) you didn't even know anyone had a camera," Rowley said. "So it really comes down to parents. We really have to teach morals, ethics, how to live your life with integrity."

Emily, the mom and blogger from North Carolina, put it another way.

"You have to parent online," she said. "You have to sit down with your kids and explain what they're getting into."

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Not knowing exactly where her ancestors come from has always bothered Kelly Wallace, but she's heartened to learn about some of the famous cousins she never knew she had.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Many superstar athletes from Michael Vick to Tiger Woods were ultimately forgiven by fans and the public. Could Ray Rice also get a second chance?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
The indictment of NFL star Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has revealed sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes toward using physical force to discipline kids.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
cara reedy
The world often treats little people like Cara Reedy as less than human. She's learned to stand up for herself and shout back.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
The unheard voices of domestic abuse spoke up on CNN iReport when Rihanna's story of abuse came to light. In light of the Ray Rice controversy, we decided to bring back these stories that are still just as powerful as the day they were told.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the damage can last a lifetime.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
As media outlets Monday circulated video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, many wondered why the woman -- now his wife -- could remain with him.
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
The ways mother-daughter book clubs can help empower girls are the focus of a new book, "Her Next Chapter."
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Colleges are working to prevent sexual assault by educating students on affirmative consent, or only "yes means yes."
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT)
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT