It’s Christmas morning. The kids wake up early, squeal in delight at the presents and begin tearing off wrapping paper faster than you can say “Merry Christmas.”
If you’re a parent, you’re probably standing by with a camera. ’Tis the season for making memories, right? Maybe you’re tech-savvy enough to take the pictures and the video you shoot and create a musical montage with Bing Crosby’s “Happy Holidays” playing in the background. You’re so creative and your kids are just so adorable that you can’t resist uploading this little Christmas miracle to YouTube for the masses to see.
I’m asking you to not to. Stop uploading. Do not put that video on the Internet.
It’s not that I don’t like cute videos. If you’re ever having a bad day, go to YouTube and type in “baby giggles.” There are tons of videos, all featuring the same infectious laughter.
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Videos featuring kids saying and doing funny things tend to go viral. One of the latest viral videos circulating grew from a stunt organized by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. He encouraged parents to prank their kids by giving them terrible early Christmas presents and filming their reactions. The resulting compilation has everything you would expect to see in a funny, but slightly humiliating home movie: kids bouncing with excitement over Christmas, kids throwing tantrums, kids trying to be gracious when mom gives them a half-eaten sandwich as a joke. You laugh and feel a little embarrassed for the kids -- after all, they don’t know that it’s a joke.
There’s nothing wrong with embarrassing your kids. Every parent does it and sometimes these embarrassing moments end up on film. My parents have hundreds of cringe-worthy pictures of me as a kid. My dad even made me copies of the family home movies, so I could watch all of my embarrassing moments whenever I wanted. You laugh, you cringe and then you forget.
But the Internet never forgets. Anyone who has struggled with Facebook’s ever-changing privacy controls knows that.
Recently, Facebook introduced the Timeline feature, which lets you record all of your major and minor life moments on the social network.
What if your Timeline featured a YouTube video of you throwing a tantrum over Christmas presents when you were six? At first, you would probably think it was funny too, but soon, it would get annoying. You’re not the same person you were when you were six. You’ve grown up and done other things with your life besides star in a viral video.
Parents, your kids may be cute and funny enough to be Internet stars, but right now, they’re too young to have any control over their online identity and reputation -- in fact, they’re probably too young to have one. As much as I love videos of giggling babies, share them with your family, not the entire world.