Courtney Stewart of Scotland made a lot of enemies recently when she posted a photo on Facebook of the 2-1/2-year-old she was babysitting inside the washing machine. The child has Down syndrome, making those familiar with the disorder even more irate, as some individuals with Down syndrome become uncomfortable in enclosed spaces. The photo was reported to the police, and although no charges were filed, Stewart was questioned for over an hour. One vigilante even came to Stewart's home and assaulted her because of the picture, calling her a "nutter' who shouldn't be allowed around any children.
Stewart defends the photo, saying the boy loves the washing machine, climbed in on his own accord and was smiling when the picture was taken. She also claims the washer wasn't plugged in and points out that it's clear in the photo there's an adult hand preventing the door from closing completely. She thought the quick pic was harmless good fun.
There's no question that letting a child play in a washing machine is never, ever a good idea. It's estimated that more than 2,000 kids each year are hurt either falling off of or climbing into a washing machine. So it's easy to understand why someone who didn't know the entire backstory about the photo could think this was a serious safety issue. Even taking into account Stewart's claim that the child was happy and never unattended, that the door was never closed and the washer was unplugged, it's still not the smartest parenting move — what if the adult had let go of the door and it fell closed and got stuck? Or even having a toddler in the washing drum where there could be choking hazards like spare pennies or even chemical residue from detergent — funny or not, it's a bad idea.
That said, we all have parenting moments when your child does something you find funny and you just have to preserve the image with a photo. Taking care of a child is hard work, and sometimes a good laugh can go a long way in boosting your spirits. But it's important to take the time to stop and think before you decide to send that image off into the wonderful but wild internet and to consider if it's something better shared with just a select few.
That picture of your tot on his new scooting toy may look sweet to you, but your sister-in-law may lament her lack of helmet. The video of your son taking a sip out of an empty beer bottle might give your brother a chuckle, but without an assurance that the bottle is empty, it may make your girlfriends concerned. And if you're thinking about posting a photo of your kids anywhere near a boat, make sure you have life jackets on them or Photoshop some on; otherwise the parental judgment squad will be on you faster than you can say, "But we were docked!"
The internet allows us to share our lives in amazing ways, but just because you can post something doesn't mean you should. A bit of self-reflection before hitting that "post" button can go a long way in preventing misunderstandings and protecting your family's privacy.
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