Recently, I was at a coffee shop playgroup with friends and a man whom none of us knew pulled out his camera and took a picture of three of our girls.
It’s not quite as sordid as it sounds. He had a preschool aged boy with him. The boy, he said, was his son. I didn’t doubt that the kid was his son, as he said, but I didn’t get the feeling that he was regularly involved in his son’s life. Not that this particular observation really makes much of a difference to my story.
Our initial interaction with him was his son sitting down to play with our group of kids and doing something that made one of our friends cry. Not really a big deal, kids cry all the time at that age, 3-4. Our friend comforted her child and took care of the matter. The man, sat back and stared at the scene. I wondered why he didn’t even come over and ask what had happened or see if his son had done something wrong. Or even to see if his son was okay.
Then the kids all ran over to another part of the coffee shop. It’s a large warehouse-type place so all the other moms weren’t aware of what he was doing.
As I was walking in their direction, I noticed him snapping a photo. Before he could take a second picture, I went up to him and quickly said, “I don’t want you to take any pictures of my daughter.”
I wasn’t particularly friendly about it, although, I don’t think I was mean, just matter-of-fact. I hadn’t thought through how he might react, but when he got snippy with me, I was surprised.
“That’s my son right there,” he said pointing at the boy whom I had already assumed was his kid.
“I know that, but I don’t want you to take pictures of my daughter,” I repeated.
“Look,” he said, showing me the blurry photo of the three girls. During the quick flash, I couldn’t even see his son in the picture. “I can email it to you.”
“No thanks,” I responded.
“Well, I tried,” he muttered, putting his camera away.
I was kind of surprised at his reaction. Sure, he can think I’m being overprotective or bitchy, but overall, I pretty much assume that most parents will cater to the parents’ requests when it comes to their kids. As far as I’m concerned, it’s irrelevant what my reasoning is, I don’t want some stranger having access to personal photos of my daughter.
Considering that I’m a blogger and I regularly post photos of my daughter on the internet, it may seem strange.
Honestly, it seems a bit strange, even to me, why the idea of a stranger taking a picture of my daughter bothers me. Anyone with a computer and a slight bit of technical knowledge could easily pull photos of Annika off of my blog or Facebook and have them for all eternity. I’ve considered that when posting the photos.
For me it’s about respecting the boundaries of another parent.
When I told Toyin about it, I figured he’d tell me I was overreacting. So I was surprised when he agreed with me.
“The kid could be a cover,” he said. That was a thought that hadn’t even occurred to me.
Then I asked him what he would do if that had happened to him, as the person taking a photo. He said he would immediately delete the photos in front of the mom and apologize. However, he also said he wouldn’t take a picture of a child he didn’t know in the first place.
And to clarify it wasn’t even that this person was a man.
It happened once before when Annika was barely a toddler. A woman, a grandmother even, while we were playing at a park, snapped a picture of Annika with her grandson and then offered to email it to me. She didn’t ask me first if I minded her taking the picture.
At the time, I felt uneasy about it, that a stranger was taking photos of my child. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say anything to her though. But I filed it in the back of my head and this is the first time since that it’s come up.
So I wonder, what do you all think? Does it bother you for a stranger to take pictures of your child without your permission? In this day and age, does it even matter considering that photos of children are easily accessed all over the place?
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