Imagine this scenario. You are at the beach and your kids are playing by the surf with friends, making sand castles and climbing on the groynes. A man comes up and asks them to pose for a quick shot, they happily oblige and wave at the camera.
This is all unbeknown to you until you stumble upon a tourism brochure with your kids plastered across the front. You didn’t give permission for the photo to be taken and you certainly didn’t give permission for it to be used as a form of marketing.
What do you do? Complain, go absolutely nuts, contact a solicitor, try and get it banned, sue them, have a stiff drink and blast them in every forum you can think of?
I’d certainly do some of those things if it happened to me.
But you see that scenario did happen to me, except i wasn’t the parent i was one of the kids. I’m in the blue swimming costume with the daisy and my older sister is in black on the left.
We came across the brochures in an box at my parents the other day when we were sorting through old photos. It was nearly 30 years ago now and it made me think of our reaction at the time. We took the brochures to school, showed our friends and enjoyed a very brief spell as minor local celebrities. It was a good thing.
I asked my Mum and Dad if anyone expressed any concerns to the contrary. No, why would they? It was just an innocent shot of a bunch of kids at the beach enjoying their summer. Why would anyone think of it as anything else?
They did phone up the council, not to complain, but to request a larger print to frame. You see the reaction at the time wasn’t one of fear or anger. It was one of pride. Fancy that.
When did everything start to change, what’s so different now?
I know there are people out there who might raise an eyebrow over my choice to put pictures and details of my children online for all the world to see (should they choose to). Everyone has their own level of comfort but for me it will be a sad day when the joy of my sharing pictures and memories is overcome by the fear of them being seen as anything more untoward.
So now the weather is changing and it means more trips down to the seaside, more chances for us and the boys to have the sorts of days captured in that cover shot.
There may be days when i forget their swimsuits, or there may be days they fancy running about naked, just because it feels free. Naked running generally becomes more illegal as you get bigger so i will encourage them to tick that box off the life list now.
As me and J watch them enjoying everything that is good about being a kid our eyes will be locked firmly on their smiling faces, not casting backwards glances over our shoulders.
You see we made a choice and the choice is not to live in fear.
P.S. My new book is out NOW. It is very stupid and makes a very lovely Christmas present for people (unless they don't like terrible drawings or the word fuck). You can buy it on Amazon (CURRENTLY 67% OFF) here or in all good bookshops and supermarkets :)