Abusing freedom and new possibilities comes all too easy. Meanwhile freedom is necessary to a society worth living in. The abusive potential gives Libertarians a hard time when we try to convince others of the net benefit that a free and innovative society brings. Social Media is a breeding ground for this tension and the phenomenon of "Instagram Moms" is a very instructive example.
As Irish SFL leader Beatrix Geithner put it in this tweet: "I would love to read articles pointing the absurdity of a modern phenomenon known as 'Instagram moms'. They profit from their children’s images through paid partnerships without the kids’ consent and one can wonder if the kids will ever see the money. It’s unethical and immoral!"
Benefits and disasters
Yaël Ossowski addressed the basic issue briefly here at Freedom Today Journal in his essay on the difficult relationship between technological innovation: "The great benefits of social media connecting humanity while also causing significant sociologic stresses…"
And making a more general point Yaël said: "The benefits of technological progress and the technical society will surely increase the wellbeing of many people, and we have already seen that today. But to do so without the frame of human institutions may be disastrous, and we’d be wise to avoid such a path."
Instagram as a social network is a wonderful way to connect to friends as well as strangers. You can share beautiful moments and follow others as they explore the world around them. Everyone can present an image of themselves as they wish.
But it should give you pause when a mother drags her child into public to promote a brand. When the hunt for likes trumps the rights of a child there is something rotten.
The issue is manifold. While parents have every right to decide how to bring up their children they also have a moral obligation not to make bad decisions. Dragging children into public robs them of the possibility to determine their own public image when they grow up.
Also, it is never about the children's benefit, but always for the parents' feeling of self-importance. The parents get free stuff, sponsorships, prestige. The children pay.
If the psychological issues of child stars in music and film (remember Macaulay Culkin, Michael Jackson, or Britney Spears?) are any indication, being publicity-pimped takes a hard toll on children.
There ought to be no law
To be very clear: No law that can solve the tension between the benefits of freedom and the consequences of its abuse.
The best insurance against abuse of freedom is responsibility. Take it and encourage others to do so. If you know someone who treats their kid like that, remind them of the consequences and appeal to their common sense.
It's not easy, but it sure is simple.