Are Innocent Naked Pictures of Children Online Okay?

Photos that have been removed from social media sites as being inappropriate–image source


Last month, I saw a piece on the Today show talking about #stopcensoringmotherhood. You can watch it or read about it here from the Today Show or read about it here from the Huffington Post. In short, Photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson started the 4th Trimester Bodies Project where she was trying to celebrate women’s bodies in the “4th Trimester.” As she was posting pictures on social media, they would often be taken down and her accounts would be frozen or even removed. And so she launched #stopcensoringmotherhood. She points out that pictures of normal women get flagged as inappropriate while racy or even pornographic photos of models get left up (see the Huffington Post link for examples). Double standard going on.


Jackon said:

I see beautiful, inspiring, real women on a daily basis who struggle with their body image because they don’t feel they measure up with who the media tells them to be. I feel like this is even more poignant in mothers who often feel like their bodies have been ruined when they should instead be respected for creating, sustaining and nourishing life. So much more needs to be done in our society to embrace body positivity and normalize breastfeeding. … So, I started with my story and it has exploded into a beautiful thing from there.


I love this statement. I love what she is trying to do here. I know that I frequently think about the body I gave up to have Brinley. I hope some day to get back to that, and I work every day at it, but I love the idea of respecting our bodies for what they have done rather than feeling ashamed of them.


On these points, I am all the way with Jackson. I think if a picture of a postpartum woman in a non-provocative bra and panties picture is not okay, then neither is a woman of model or perfectly fit woman in her string bikini. Double standard all the way.


But here is where I differ. Jackson and other people have had pictures of naked children removed, which they find upsetting:


“I think that saying all child nudity is not allowed because it’s pornography is ridiculous, because it’s not. I think that sexualizes things that don’t need to be,” Jackson said. She cites a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case in which justices ruled a photo of a naked child isn’t automatically pornography.


Now, I acknowledge fully that when it comes to modesty, I could pretty easily be described as a prude. I can take that label and agree with it. I don’t even let my girls where tank tops. Maybe I am wrong–perhaps there can be a line drawn in the sand when it comes to showing child nudity online. Maybe a naked newborn bum should be okay…and the line is drawn…where? At what age is it not okay? Two? Four? Ten? And why? Is a four year old so much less innocent than a new baby that it makes it less okay? 


This is where I think it gets sticky. I agree with Jackson that a young child’s naked picture isn’t sexual. I definitely don’t think of it that way! But some people do. I certainly wouldn’t want my child’s picture taken from social media and used in child pornography. No way. But even beyond that, I have always been hesitant about what pictures I post on social media of my children because these things last forever. Without my child’s knowledge nor consent, I don’t want to be posting pictures of my child’s bare body for the world to see. Even though I am the parent, I don’t think I have that right. It isn’t my body. It will never be my body. It is my responsibility to care for it and protect it, but not my body.


I don’t think parents who show these things do it with any intention other than saying, “Look how adorable my child is!” It often is adorable and sweet and innocent. But those photos will remain out there forever and you have no control over how other people will use those pictures in the future. How adorable would your child feel about some jerk in high school finding that picture and posting it around the school or mass-texting it to the school (or whatever the technology will be by then)? How cute will that be?


I hope most of us haven’t or won’t be around jerk people like that. The problem is you never know what is in the future. I also hope that most of us have a good enough sense of humor that we wouldn’t get all uptight, mad, and scarred for life because our parent posted a picture of us online that they thought was adorable. I would hope we can roll with the punches. We could see that picture as adults, shake our heads and laugh along with the those around us laughing. But again, you don’t know what the future holds. 


And so I say, I support any policy Instagram or Facebook has to pull pictures that show the nudity of a child. Go ahead and take those pictures, but don’t share them with the world. If you want to share a cute naked bum online, fish out your pictures of your naked little behind and post that instead. 


But if it is the policy to not allow certain pictures, it needs to be the policy across the board. It either is or isn’t okay. We can’t have the double standard going on. And maybe you can say, “Children 1 year and older cannot be shown…” I don’t know. 


What do you think about the #stopcensoringmotherhood AND pictures of naked children online?

4 thoughts on “Are Innocent Naked Pictures of Children Online Okay?”

  1. Such a double standard. Sometimes I can't believe the images that are put up on sites such as FB that are "acceptable" (bikini pictures being an example) and they want to take down pictures of mothers breast feeding (even with the "intimate" parts being covered) or "normal" women? I think that pictures of naked baby bums are super cute, but I make sure that if I do post a picture like that their faces aren't showing. I'm even mindful of taking pictures in the bathtub that certain parts are covered even though I don't "share" those. It's sad that you can't trust what will happen if such pictures fall into the wrong hands.

  2. Maybe the line is the butt crack! What you said about not posting because it's your body is what I feel is the important part. I post photos of my daughter, but NEVER any nude or butt shots. The world doesn't need to see it and I don't want those photos to be used in a sexual manor. So I agree, take them down. On another note, I was reading something about Facebook Messenger app terms of agreement and how they can use data on your phone for their use. So perhaps there should be some sort of law across the board.


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