Perverts Go After Maddie Spohr: Are You Scared?

Jeanne Sager
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maddie spohrThe perverts have gone and done it. They've attacked one of the most sacrosanct pieces of the blogging world. And it's launched a whole new debate into the safety of our kids' photos online.

If you haven't heard of Maddie Spohr, hers is the angelic face (right down to the cherubic ringlets of blond hair) of Friends of Maddie, a group created in memory of the toddler daughter of Heather Spohr who passed away at just 17 months old.

Spohr is the author of the wildly popular The Spohrs Are Multiplying blog. And if it wasn't bad enough for her to have to deal with having lost a child, she got a call from England recently notifying her that Maddie's face was among the pictures a child porn collector had on his computer.

Break for you to run and grab a garbage can to retch.

It's a story that's becoming too common, and one brought to The Stir's attention by another influential blogger. Jessica Gottlieb does not believe in allowing photos of her kids online. She'll even tell other moms to yank a pic of her kid if it makes its way onto a private Facebook page.

In a day when 82 percent of kids 2 and under are found to already have an online presence, Jessica's policy sounds antiquated until stories like Heather Spohr's come along.

Which is why the Momversation debate between Jessica, Heather and Rebecca Woolf of Girls Gone Child is so fascinating. 

 

Guess who's yanking her photos offline?

Not Heather.

It's a personal decision, so Jessica Gottlieb has every right to keep her kids' photos under lock and key. Her reasoning -- that keeping her kids off-line to protect them from ridicule is especially compelling in light of the horror that is anonymous Internet commenting.

But what must always be kept in mind in these debates is that privacy laws and the freedom of the press allow your children to be photographed in any public place in America. The beautiful photo of Maddie Spohr is the same sort of photo that could be legally snapped at a public park by a pedophile, taken home and digitally manipulated. Keeping your child's photos offline won't protect him or her from sexual predators.

So the real question of what photos should be shared isn't: will a pedophile get hold of them but "is this photo something anyone would see of my child when we were out in public?"

Even published to Facebook, a photo can become public. Especially with Facebook's plans to enlarge the photos on the site, easily allowing photos to be copied and printed. 

But step back. If someone gets a photo of your child eating ice cream, will it hurt your child? More importantly: is it any worse than the weird old dude who shows up at the ice cream stand at the same time as your family looking at your son?

Sadly, it isn't always within our power to protect our kids from evil that lurks within the hearts of men.

Image from Heather Spohr

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