• Kay Reeve

Children's photos for laughs - When is it taken too far for comfort?

Sparked by a conversation in a parenting group this week, a photo of a toy vape being held by a baby was put up for discussion. Although I'm talking about photo's here, this applies to videos too.

A few people put laughing faces at the vape toy but most agreed that this was not ok. That toys should not include anything smoking related.

My comment was that sadly, some parents would be likely to buy the toy, just so they could photograph their baby vaping and put it on social media for likes and popularity. This also got me thinking...

I get that it's cute and funny to dress up children in adult form. They all love being little superheroes and favourite animals, and it is funny to see a baby dressed up like their great grandfather with bushy eyebrows then photography them together, but where do you draw the line on what is healthy humour involving children?

There are some pretty awesome photographs and MEME's going around, but there are also some very disturbing ones too. Especially when it starts involving for example, a baby in a Rasta hat, with a stogy, looking completely stoned, or a baby with a finger up and a crude caption.

If you're thinking 'So what?' I get it. It's just humour. I also get that there are different kinds of humour. Verbal, visual, written word, situational, candid moments, set-up, staged, and more, but I'm also thinking of the following points...

  1. What happens a few years down the line when it's viral online and they know about it?

  2. How does this affect their early self esteem, growing up being posed and laughed at?

  3. At what point does a set-up or staged photo, or video, become abuse?

1. We all know the classic moment where teenagers hate the family photo album coming out in front of friends, because of their baby photos. Although a baby may be unaware of their role in making others laugh, and I know laughter is crucial to wellbeing, it is not appreciated when those photos are shared later. How will this affect them when they are old enough for someone outside the house to recognise them and tease them about a photo being not only viral online, but being used over and over for various meme's?

2. How will it affect their self esteem to know they have been used for other people's humour? Not saying don't do it, but certainly to consider the type of humour and how far it is taken, for the day they do find out. What if the photo's shared and the MEME's added, are offensive to them? That's pretty personal, especially if in high school years a photo is discovered online and becomes a point of social torment. Could a moment of fun with your baby lead to their social anxiety and depression later on? Again, not saying don't do it, but to be considerate when posting that if you were posting that same photo with yourself in it as a baby - what would you think then? Would you have been happy if your parents did it to you?

3. At what point does putting a child in a funny situation, become abuse? This may sound a horrendous question but it's definitely one that needs to be considered. Is it possible to subject them to situations that may seem funny to adults, but could terrify them as a child? Could the situation also highlight some parents that are neglectful?

A photo of a baby girl I saw recently:

I recently saw an advertisement for a recording software that was advertising old fashioned office work, being replaced by AI that takes notes automatically. I get why they chose the picture they did, of a baby girl no more than a year old, sitting in a downsized chair, at a downsized desk with an old typewriter, dressed like some 40's office worker with jacket, skirt, short socks and cute patent leather shoes. She really looked the part. The idea was to create a comparison between old fashioned hard work and their new easy to use software. My issue was not with the advertisers, but the state of the little girl crying and the state she was in while being photographed.

All babies and children cry at times, and sometimes it creates funny photos, but this little girl didn't seem funny at all and the photograph disturbed me instead. Being able to read emotions through expression and body language, I could see the panic and terror in her whole body.

A photo shoot can be daunting for a child who is being put in what seems like an alien situation. A child who is a little sad, afraid or uncertain and seeking support from an adult, or feeling anxious, will cry, but look for their parent while remaining afraid to move to some extent. Their arms will still hang by their side and their legs dangle where they sit. It's just their face that will pull what can sometimes be cute or funny faces, with a genuine tear to go with it.

The little girl in this photo however had gone beyond that. Her crying expression had one of breathless panic - the type where they cry but can barely stop to breathe. This was accompanied by eyes tightly squinted shut due to the fear of what ever was happening to her. Instead of her legs dangling, they were extended straight forward from the knee with full tension, while her arms were the same state, thrust out sideways in a defensive form of tension, even extending out to her fingertips, leaving her palms fully extended open and forward.

I'm aware this may have been a momentary reaction and for all I know she may have been smiling again seconds later, but my instincts are usually pretty strong in reading the reaction in the moment. Ant the moment this photo was taken, this little baby girl was terrified.

Watch and see funny reactions:

As a thank you for reading this far, I've linked a video of funny babies, many having shocked reactions. Certainly have a laugh as these are all genuine reactions, while using the opportunity to notice the arm and leg reflexes in many of them. Notice that only a couple get a far as squinting in fear momentarily. Some of the reactions are split second and easy to miss but they are there. Some of the reactions are in the parents rather than the baby but they all highlight that when you see a type of reaction often enough, you start to see the pattern.

So back to the main question - there are many amazing photo's and videos online that make people smile and laugh, but when is it taken too far just for the sake of laughs?


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