Monday, October 12, 2015

Blogger and reality star Jaime Primak Sullivan defends exploiting her children

Facing mounting criticism from her readers after posting daily updates and photos of her young children, the Yahoo mommy blogger and 'Jersey Belle' star lashes out.

Sullivan says it's okay to exploit her kids. Here, we respond to her flawed and misguided reasoning.

  • Sullivan says the support of strangers is a beautiful thing.

Our response: It's normal for human beings to want to feel loved and supported. However these emotions almost all feel deeper and more sincere when they come from people you have a stake in, namely family and friends. Most strangers probably have all good intentions when it comes to offering support to another stranger, but how do you distinguish the good from the unhealthy or even sinister, especially when the support is for your little children? And why aren't these strangers concentrating their support on their own friends and family?

  • Sharing her children's humor brings joy to her 100,000 readers, which in turn brings Sullivan joy.
Our response: Again we ask, wouldn't the emotion of joy be felt much deeper if it were a grandparent, husband, friend or sibling your children brought joy to? What's more, children should not be brought into the world to bring other's joy. That puts too much of a burden on a young child who will not always feel silly or joyful. A child needs to be free to experience a variety of emotions, including getting angry and acting out, without the pressure put on him to make others happy all the time, much less complete strangers.
  • I never post if they ask me not to, Sullivan says.
This is good I suppose. However, it's not enough. The Sullivan children are not teenagers like the Gosselin twins, getting to an age where they fully understand what they want the public to see and not see. They are only seven, six, and four years old. None of them are even remotely old enough to understand the implications of posting a photo on social media. They are not old enough to even be told about what physical and emotional dangers could befall them from such posts, let alone capable of understanding those dangers. Sullivan needs to be the adult here and make these adult decisions for them instead of burdening them with decisions they are not old enough to understand. Sullivan also needs a much better understanding of her children's emotional and cognitive development before burdening her children with the complex decision of whether something should be posted on social media.
  • The risk the children might someday look back on what Sullivan did and resent it are not any greater than letting a child play football, go trick-or-treating at night or to a sleepover, or letting a child ride a bicycle down the street.
Not knowing how her kids will feel someday, it's hard to compare risks. The risks may be the same. They might be less, they might be much more. It will depend on her individual children.  However the risks Sullivan compared social media to have a very important distinction. Those other risks all enhance childhood to a degree so important that it's worth any negligible danger. Those risks all promote a child's social and emotional development. It's important for children to strike out into the world and learn how to navigate it, whether that's on a bicycle or at a friend's house, or playing a team sport.

Social media, in striking contrast, does not provide any benefit to her children. Social media does not make her children's lives any better or worse. It certainly makes Sullivan feel better. It clearly justifies her, makes her feel important, makes her feel validated, and is financially lucrative. But her children reap none of these benefits. They're just kids, too young to feel the complex emotional gratification Sullivan does after every "like". 

  • Sullivan believe the risk of pedophiles coming after her children is unlikely and overstated.
Why take the risk at all when there is no benefit to them to plaster them all over social media? 

  • As a parent, Sullivan has a "given" right to decide what's best for her children.
She does. And when she chooses to make those rights public, readers have a right to criticize it.  As one comment said so pointedly on Sullivan's blog post, "The real reason(s) that you let people watch your kids online is for the money and because you want to be popular."

Final thoughts. As for the #noshameparenting hashtag, talk about confusing the issue. No one is asking anyone to feel shameful about parenting. We're simply asking that parenting be done in private. What's particularly frustrating about this situation is that Sullivan is a smart and savvy businesswoman who has made it on her own. She spent years in Los Angeles as president of a highly successful PR firm for some of the hottest bars and nightclubs, and recently started venturing into movie production. Her husband is a high powered lobbyist  She doesn't "need" to exploit her children to be successful. Due to the Sulllivans' hard work and success, their children's privacy rights can be protected without need for them to earn the family's paychecks for their parents. We urge the Sullivans to give their children that right.