A Daughter Sues Her Parents For Being Assholes. Good.

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An 18-year-old Austrian woman is suing her parents for continually posting embarrassing childhood photos of her on Facebook without her consent. Since 2009, she alleges, they have willfully humiliated her by constantly posting intimate images from her childhood—about 500 to date. Among them are potty training photos and pictures of her having her diapers changed.

The abused daughter told reporters, “They knew no shame and no limit – and didn’t care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot – every stage was photographed and then made public.” Her parents have  700 Facebook friends.

The technical term for them is “cruel and merciless assholes.”

They have refused to delete the photos, with her father arguing that since he took the photos he has the right to publish them to the world.

Oh, what does the law have to do with this? If the parents had any decency, and sense of fairness, respect and caring, the law wouldn’t have to be involved in any way.  Their daughter feels humiliated, as most of us would be, by having such photos published. There is no ethical principle under which publishing photographs (or videos) of anyone that were taken without consent when the subject objects or one knows or should know that he or should would object can be justified. This controversy, if ethical parents were involved, would be settled with a simple exchange:

Her: “Please don’t put anymore of those photos on Facebook, and take down the ones that are up now. They are embarrassing.”

Them: “OK!”

How hard is that? I know it’s hard for parents to resist posting photos of their adorable infants and toddlers while they are too young to protest, but the protest should be presumed. The Golden Rule rules, and I go further: this is an absolute. Children should not have their lifetime privacy scarred by parents selfishly indulging themselves by treating their children like pets. Children should be able to trust their parents to respect their sensibilities and vulnerabilities, and not to sacrifice them for cheap Facebook “likes.”  Obviously, many of them can’t.

This is an extreme case, where the embarrassing childhood photos are being posted when the child is not only all grown up, but has registered a legitimate protest. Under such cruel circumstances, the Ethics Alarms mantra that when ethics fails, the law steps in is apt. I don’t know how Austrian law works, or whether the daughter will win; I don’t know if a similar suit would have a chance in the U.S. I am, however, thrilled that the daughter sued, if only to publicize the problem.  Our society has to learn that it is wrong to treat children this way, when they are 18 or when they are two. Ethical parents should keep those intimate, nude, cute, embarrassing photos to themselves, and off the net, at least until their children are old enough to give informed and willing consent.

18 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

18 responses to “A Daughter Sues Her Parents For Being Assholes. Good.

  1. valkygrrl

    All correct Jack. If my parents had doe something like that, not only would I be infuriated about the privacy violation I’d have it right in the front of my mind later in life when the subject of nursing homes comes up.

    Oh you don’t want to be put in a home? Think of all the adorable pictures I’ll get of the nurses changing your diapers. Facebook will love it!*

    *I’d need a facebook account which I’ve never had or wanted but might be worth it for revenge.

  2. Other Bill

    What are the ethics of taking over five hundred photos of one’s children?

    • I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with it. I’ve probably got more than 500 photos of my daughter, and she’s barely over 3, and the people I know have a similar amount. The mere existence of these pictures does no one any harm, and as long as I am careful about sharing them, my daughter should be just fine.

      • Other Bill

        T, having raised my kids in the age of cameras with film that had to be processed at the drug store for real money, like my parents in the ‘fifties, I took photos rarely. Vacations, the beginning of the school year, family get togethers. I think the incessant picture taking that goes on today (leaving selfies to be discussed another day) is nuts and a waste of time and runs the risk of creating a shallowness and obsession with looks that could be damaging to kids being brought up today.

        Call me a crank, but I just think it’s nuts. End of rant.

        • I think it’s generational. You took pictures, even though they cost more money to take, more money to develop, and more time to process, because on some level you thought it was worth it to. Take away the barriers of cost and time and it just makes sense that people have more pictures. 500 in three years? That’s one every second day, never mind multiples you might take on occasions like Christmas, birthdays or the first day of school. Don’t like the picture you took? Awkward facial expression? Take 20 more until you get a good one, they’re free!

          • Other Bill

            that’s certainly a big part of it, but as you point out later, posting the pictures of everything and nothing is another thing all together.

  3. Steve-O-in-NJ

    What are the ethics of taking 500 pictures of your child? I wish that I could say that the ethics of taking large numbers of pictures are always the same but they are not. I am in the middle of a two-week vacation and I have been taking a large number of pictures. I see absolutely nothing wrong with shooting a large number of pictures during an air show, particularly where the opportunity to get a particular shot is very limited. I see absolutely nothing wrong with taking a large number of pictures at a place like Colonial Williamsburg, where the actors are deliberately dressed up in costumes designed to attract attention. The same ethics generally applies to any event where there are costumed individuals who are seeking attention. The same ethics probably apply to sporting events. Of course the shooting of inanimate objects like in a museum is perfectly all right, subject to whatever policies the institution puts in place and makes known.

    As for shooting multiple pictures of the ordinary people in your life, different rules apply. The most obvious is to listen to the objections of those who can voice them. The second is moderation. The third is thinking ahead. The last is discernment.

    Ask yourself is it necessary to capture every smile, every diaper change, every moment falling asleep, every this, every that? Ask yourself if any of these pictures will matter to anyone but you down the line. Ask yourself is anyone or anything but your vanity served by putting those pictures on public display? 9 times out of 10 the answer is going to be no.

    The golden rule should also apply. We all had awkward stages and embarrassing moments growing up. Those aren’t who and what we are as adults. Would any of us want images of ourselves bare-ass naked at 3 or with freckles and braces at 10 or crying over something that seems silly now but didn’t then plastered where anyone could see them? Probably not. Yet most parents seem to think it’s OK to do just that, as well as tell embarrassing stories about their kids, sometimes just to make the kids squirm. As much as I hate to agree with V-girl, sometimes it’s the kids’ right to have the last laugh when the door of the nursing home closes on the parent who embarrassed them every chance they got.

  4. Glenn Logan

    It’s truly hard for me, who grew up with two loving, wonderful progenitors to imagine such self-absorbed douchenozzles as these technical “parents” of this unfortunate young woman. Taking childhood pictures is fine, even intimate ones I suppose, but publicizing them, particularly nude or seminude, seems really creepy. Refusing to remove them on the request of their now-adult daughter is the act of a shameless reprobate.

    May a syphilitic sheep drag his dangly bits through their Cheerios on a daily basis until either their demise or compliance with their daughter’s wishes, and may the community of these idiots ostracize them as they so richly deserve.

    While I’m in an insulting mood, p’raps a bit o’ the Bard:

    “Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.”

    • Wayne

      Doesn’t a sane parent take pictures of their kids accomplishments or sometimes their moments of goofiness or frailties? I don’t believe that all picture taken should be portraying the Hallmark
      family. That is a fraudulent representation of what occurs in life. However, please parents don’t show pictures of your kids that might be embarrassing to them for your narcissistic gratification.

  5. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    Gee, I hope my son doesn’t decide to sue me some day for the 6-month photo of him — laughing and being adorable — that was sent out in a card…

    Honestly, not having seen the photos, I wonder how terrible they really are… I can think back to being 18, and my sensibilities and sense of self as an ‘adult’ were quite different then. Of course my parents didn’t post infant and childhood pictures of me on Facebook, but I clearly would have been embarrassed had the old album come out for visitors. Now, having inherited those same photos from my parents, I have some framed and on display for visitors to my home to see, and I love the record of my growing up.

    So, yes, I think the Facebook angle of it — especially since the young woman has asked that the photos be removed — is unkind, and cruel insofar as the daughter has made her feelings known.

    But, is the the act of taking many photos in and of itself ‘cruel?’

    For parents (as I have done): take the photos, enjoy them, don’t send them to others, but save them for your kids, because when they are truly adults they’ve love the memories.

  6. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    PS I should note here that nowhere, nowhere, is there a photo of me nude or on the potty, however… That does go beyond the pale, at least in my conservative family.

  7. I f the pictures are, as you described them of a little girl in the nude Have them arrested for the transmission of child pornography!

  8. These parents went way beyond what’s considered acceptable behavior, I’d sue thepants right off of them too and I hope she wins any inheritance there might have been right now. Then I’d move to another country, legally change my name, sever all relations with the parents and my past for good. It’s time to walk away from the assholes.

  9. To the best of my knowledge publicly displaying pictures of a child naked or using the toilet fall under child pornography in the state of NY. The daughter has legal rights to have the pictures removed from social media, the original photos deleted or destroyed, and pursuing legal action action against her parents. If the pictures show “private parts” regardless of their daughter’s age they could face criminal charges for distributing child pornography. This is the law in NY, I cannot speak for other states.

    • Errol

      Colleen said “If the pictures show “private parts” regardless of their daughter’s age they could face criminal charges for distributing child pornography. This is the law in NY, I cannot speak for other states.”

      I have seen a number of comments on the internet such as Colleen’s above suggesting that any pictures showing “private parts” of children is child pornography, but NY Penal Law Article 263 states;

      3. “Sexual conduct” means actual or simulated sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct, anal sexual conduct, sexual bestiality, masturbation, sado-masochistic abuse, or lewd exhibition of the genitals.

      The part of the law involved here states “lewd exhibition of the genitals”, which would mean that the photo of the child would have to go beyond being merely naked to be child pornography.

      What the actual meaning of “lewd exhibition of the genitals” is I don’t know, but I would think that would not include photos showing children playing naked in the backyard inflatable swimming pool.

      That still doesn’t make it ethical to show the photos on the internet without the daughter’s permission though.

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