When a New Jersey father posted a picture of his young son toting a rifle he’d received for his birthday in order to follow a family hunting tradition, the boy was nearly lost to his family when he was caught in the social media crosshairs. This is not about gun laws, but what we, as parents, are choosing to fire-off to our social media sites that could make our kids and families targets for a very gun-shy society that’s become trigger-happy about reporting kids and parents to authorities.
I know I wrote about a little girl in Pennsylvania getting into trouble for pointing a Hello Kitty bubble-blowing toy at another child and saying, “I’m going to shoot you!” When we have people pointing fingers at kids who point finger-guns, it’s really just common sense not to put our families in harm’s way by posting photos and stories that could easily be misunderstood to our social media feeds.
In just such a posting, according to The Associated Press, Shawn Moore uloaded a photo of his son Josh holding a rifle he gave him for his 11th birthday, at their home in Carneys Point, N.J. The photo shows Josh, a little boy, in cammo, smiling with what looks like a military-style assault rifle, but is actually just a .22-caliber copy. This doesn’t blow bubbles.
The Moore family says this photo, posted on Facebook, led the state’s child welfare agency to the family’s house on March 15 demanding to be let inside to inspect their guns. It’s truly not a leap of logic to see how that picture being posted on Facebook by the father snowballed into a mess.
Mr. Moore is terribly upset about the ensuing raid and I would be as well. In fact I would be angry and terrified that people would misjudge my child and my parenting as the result of a Facebook picture. However, the fact is that no matter how defiant I often feel about the nanny society that has risen as the direct result of numerous children being murdered and wounded by gun-toting classmates, I also take great pains to try to understand and thus not inflame it.
When posting a picture of your child on Facebook can result in child abuse hotlines being called and the child nearly being taken by authorities, it’s time for parents to change our social media habits. We can be angry and shout about not bowing to social pressure, but the bottom line is that this is one more way we must move with the times and not against them in order to protect our families.
I have spent countless sessions with my nine-year-old son trying to recalibrate the expressions he uses and things he says in, around, or after school. I don’t like having to bow to social pressure either, but frankly when the media blew up the fact that the Sandy Hook shooter had Asperger's, every parent of an autistic child that I know called me to get a consensus on how to handle things socially. We worried that our kids could no longer say, “I’m mad at you!” to another child, raise his voice, or do anything to show emotion that would not have us out of school and in court.
It’s not fair, but as we so often tell our kids, “Life’s not fair. Sometimes we just have to do things we don’t like.”