Growing up, I never had tan lines. Want proof? There’s a color snapshot on display in my parents’ home: a naked 2-year-old is shown from behind, climbing up a bathroom counter. For as long as I can remember, a framed 3×5-inch print has sat next to the sink where it was taken. My dad doesn’t carry a copy in his wallet. My mom hasn’t distributed it to family or friends. Up until now, unless you were invited into my childhood home, you never would’ve known this cute little portrait even existed.
Proud parents have been perfecting this genre for decades. While the intimate moments themselves remain largely unchanged, how we choose to share them—much like the tools for capturing them—has evolved dramatically since my parents first became parents in late 1979.
Today, the default is, of course, Facebook. Although privacy settings allow us to control which circle(s) of friends has access to parts of our profiles, many people either don’t understand how to use them or prefer not to. Plus, like record labels and print publishers, parents are discovering that once content becomes digital, it can be easily copied and redistributed willy-nilly (hello, grandparents!). The result: photos of kids in compromising, colorful circumstances, and status updates recounting even more compromising, colorful circumstances, intended for a select few, are now spread out over the Web for everyone.