Devorah Heitner on coming of age and preserving kids' body autonomy in a digital world.
Really interesting and important. I think it’s important to reflect about how anti-fat bias can be injected into these actions (or assumed even if it doesn’t exist). So if you do take fewer full body photos and you have a fat kid, think about whether that’s because you want them to have less to obsess over or because you are embarrassed or if that’s the idea they will get and what you’ll do about that. And definitely be consistent with number of those kinds of photos if you have both fat and thin kids.
I am not comfortable with posting pics of kids online until they can do it themselves but I know other families operate in other ways. If you have photo-averse kids, I think it’s important to understand the difference between just not wanting a photo and body shame from things like weight stigma. It can be important to kids that they don’t have photos from their youth later on, so regardless of their reasons make sure they know the consequences and that they can take their own photos that aren’t to share even with parents necessarily. For example, historically a lot of parents didn’t take many photos of the 3rd+ kid because they’d been through all those milestones before and some kids have only a handful of photos for 18 years of early life. That can hurt.
Finally, while images are apparently the go-to association with sexting now, it used to just mean spicy text messages. So make sure kids understand that screenshots are easy too as are conversations about a conversation. This isn’t to be discouraging or seem punitive but to help them understand that they might want to pull some punches so to speak if it’s a more casual flirtation etc. And it’s helpful to also talk about cybersecurity in these contexts like using a phone number or secure apps like Signal and Telegram vs other messenger apps like Snapchat.
I've never put much thought into sexting, especially given that my daughter is only 11 months old, but this all makes so much sense! Thank you.
We've taken a hard stance on no photos of her online, apart from on a private, family-specific app (TinyBeans). Once she can consent we'll maybe adjust! We've learned so much about social media in the last decade or so that there's no way I'd share of her like I do myself — and it makes me feel for anyone dealing with regret of ways they've shared, now knowing what we know.
Right now my daughter loves the camera (we don't let her see the photo, so it's probably because we put on a huge smile when taking photos), but I *really* appreciate your conversation around consent with that. I hadn't thought about it before. I've been someone who aggressively documents life through photos since I got my first digital camera at 12, so the thought of having a year of next-to-no photos of my daughter is...a lot. But also, not giving mixed messages about consent there is essential. So thank you!
For me, a lot of parenting has been realizing that strict rules and oversight is not helpful and learning to collaborate and support my kids to meet their specific needs is so much more important, so I loved hearing the perspectives in this interview. It also makes me think about how a lot of mainstream parenting is diet culture when we are told that good parents have kids who are well behaved, follow the rules, do what they are supposed to, look and act a certain way even if that is harmful to a lot of parents and kids.
On another note, I love so many pictures of my kids and us as a family that I have started a wall of printed photos and I also print photo albums. For me it is a joyful thing, but now I am wondering if I need to worry about them comparing themselves to past photos. Looking forward to reading the book and learning more.
My mom documented my childhood in homemade scrapbooks which are a treasured possession of mine. It was actually really special to bring my now husband home to meet my family and go through scrapbooks with him and share my childhood. But I do think part of what makes them special is 1) the vast amount of effort my mother put into them and 2) the fact that they’re mine to share with people as I wish.
Sexting is interesting to me—it’s not something I did as a teenager even though I had a phone. In fact, I remember texting a boy once and he asked “what color are your nipples?” And I immediately was like “ew, gross, why would you ask that.” As an adult, I do enjoy spicy texting with my husband but I’m very camera shy. I worry about where he might happen to be when he opened a picture and who might see (if he’s running errands, for example). And I actually don’t enjoy receiving photos! So I found that part of the podcast to be quite thought-provoking.
I have an almost 8 year old and 5 year old girls. The older one is nearing puberty from what I can tell (so not prepared for this stage yet!) and I’ve been surprised to hear her be more vocal about asking me not to take pictures. Sometimes she wants me to but this gave me a lot of great information to continue our conversation. I hadn’t thought enough about the consent conversation opportunity right in front of me. We talk about consent in a lot of other ways but I’m going to add this to my repertoire.
Such a great episode!
Devorah's phrase (and I might not have this exactly right) about adolescents being especially "tuned into the exclusion channel in the brain" is so powerful. (And of course it's not just adolescents who can feel that twinge upon seeing a photo of friends gathering when you weren't invited! But of course young people can feel this even more keenly.)
I can't wait to read the book—in my TBR stack!
I'm so curious to hear how the Skylight device works out, Virginia. Maybe an update on it in a few months? I keep getting ads for it, and it did make me think about how it might help with sharing—or at least making more visible—the mental load with a partner ? (or not, if the same person is the one still managing all the calendar items, etc.!). The chore list feature seemed quite intriguing in terms of reducing nagging and giving kids more autonomy (but again, who is inputting and monitoring all of that?).
I wish I'd listened to this earlier, because I don't know if Dr. Heitner will still be checking in for questions/comments. I really enjoyed the interview, and I'm adding the book to my tbr. I don't have kids, but I do teach digital history at the college level and we spend a lot of time on social media, creating professional websites, etc. (and other things, but these are the ones relevant to this convo).
anyway, I am totally here for asking about taking and posting photos, and remembering that those actions are also about bodily autonomy and consent. at the same time, I worry that allowing too much opt out (particularly when we are talking about not posting, family use, "memories" only) can end up being such a symptom of diet culture and anti-fat bias--we've talked here before about how many of us as grown women--who did not grow up with social media!--have had to relearn letting our photo be taken, being in the memory and not always behind the camera, appreciating the joy and memory of the moment we are capturing regardless of our fears around our bodies; we've talked about realizing how some of us just don't have that many photos of our own moms (or sometimes dads, but it is mostly moms).
so the question really is: how do we model and honor consent while not also teaching that bodies need to be hidden unless they are perfect? I know there isn't an easy answer here--and Amy H gets at this in her comments too--but I am curious if others have thoughts on this. as an auntie and honorary auntie to young folks around me, I want to do this as well as I can, and I also want to be able to have helpful conversations with my undergrad and graduate students around these things