Photo of Teen With Down Syndrome Used in Cruel Internet Meme

Say What!? 19

cameraSharing photos of our kids online is a touchy issue for parents, and it's about to get a lot more complicated. A family in Tennessee says a photo of their teenage son, who has Down syndrome, became an Internet meme used to demean kids with special needs. Now Adam Holland's family is suing a radio station and other defendants who called their son "retarded," among other offensive terms.

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: lawsuits don't solve everything. But in Pamela and Bernard Holland's case, it sounds about right. And once you hear what was done to their son's image, you'll understand why.

The original photo of Adam showed the then 17-year-old holding up a sketch with the words "Go Titans One." Hailing from Tennessee, of course, Adam is a fan of the local NFL team, and he'd drawn a picture to illustrate his support.

Unfortunately, the giant white piece of paper he'd used to draw his sketch was an easy mark for Internet bullies. According to the lawsuit, one Internet user altered the photo to read "I have a boner," and uploaded it to Flickr with a caption that read: "just a stupid photo of the sick retarded kid that lives down my street that my dogs hate." The lawsuit also alleges a radio station used an altered version of the photo to illustrate its disturbingly named "retarded news" section.

It's infuriating that people would treat a child this way and that such blatant hate exists for folks with Down syndrome.

But it's also a troubling reminder that this sort of thing can happen to any parent, anywhere.

As a mom and a photographer both, I know I struggle with what to share and what to keep to myself. I tend to share only photos that show my daughter fully clothed. I avoid any photo that shows identifying information (such as our home address). Still, we've had problems. My daughter has been called "ugly" (I'm just her mother, but I assure you, she is not). I've been forced to engage in battles over stolen photos.

More From The Stir: 13 Things Never to Say to the Mom of a Child With Down Syndrome

Being careful obviously doesn't keep all the bad people at bay.

But does that mean we should stop posting photos entirely?

The debacle over the photo of this boy certainly gives me pause.

We are trying to raise our kids to understand that kids with special needs may be different, but different isn't bad. We want our kids to look at a photo of Adam, smile, and move on ... not resort to hate speech and vile insults.

But evidently, that message hasn't settled in the brains of the trolls out there on the Internet. If a kid with special needs is still being subjected to this, is any child's photo really safe on the Internet?

It's with a heavy heart that I have to say no. Bullies are everywhere. Living in a digital society, we're going to have to risk them honing in on just about everything we do ... even posting nice photos of our kids.

What is your limit for sharing photos of your kids on the Internet?


Image via Annafur/Flickr

special needs, bullies


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LostS... LostSoul88

This is why I rarely post pictures of my kids online, in fear someone would steal them and use them for who knows what. 

hexxuss hexxuss

I've always hated frivilous lawsuits... but this one doesn't reek of that, and I hope those parents win.  It would be a major coup for the anti-bullying groups.

RoseL... RoseLiMom

how sick and cruel can people be? seriously

nonmember avatar Angie

It's sad how kids and even adults judge people with special needs. Majority of the time and I'm not saying every parent does this, but kids who bully learns it from their parents or another adult. It's really sad and I do hope these parents win the lawsuit and show people and bullies that its not OK. I used to work with Down syndrome kids, and they are the sweetest most affectionate people around. They deserve respect from us.

Graca... Gracalynsmom

I no longer post photo's online... several years ago i was member of, and a user stole picture's of my preemie baby girl and claimed she was hers and that she needed money to help save her life because insurance ran out.

JezeB... JezeBellyDancer

People, set your privacy settings as high as they can go and don't post pics online. Picture websites like Snapfish may seem like a good idea and you can limit who sees your pics, but many of those sites allow the people that you allow to see your pics to do whatever they want to them. They can in turn, share them with whomever they want.

I play some games on some social media sites. I have friends that I only know through those games and yet they friend me and have their settings so that I can see everything that they post, all the pics of their kids, stuff about their significant others, rants about their relatives. I cannot believe it. Some of these people...I know their kids' names, where they go to school, what ports teams they are on, the names of their family pets. It's an open invitation for pervs and others who may not have the best intentions.

Once somehting is on the internet, it's impossible to remove. THINK before you post.

mommy2JE mommy2JE

Just sick and twisted; that poor boy and his patents..

Stacy Clausen

it is very sad that in a country of freedom we have to be afraid to be free because of the stupidity of others. What is the problem with kids that have downs or as my sister who is retarded. they are respectful  kind,loving and caring. that is more than i can say for the so called "normal" kids that are sassy, mouthy, disrespectful, and for there parents who have more than likely never held them accountable  for there actions   shame on all of you  i would take my sister over any of you and fight to the death for her  grow up


tuffy... tuffymama

There is no accounting for stupidity and hatefulness from those who consider themselves somehow better and more important than folks like Adam. :0(

LadyM... LadyMinni

There are no photos of me or my children on the internet. Not even on the facebook that I never use. People ask me to post, but I tell them no. There is no privacy anymore. You never know when you or your kids may end up as the butt of a cruel joke or something even worse.

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