There's no parenting textbook that will entirely prepare you to raise a child. So, when your child goes viral on the Internet, even grown adults have no control over what gets shared. How do you protect your kid and remain a good parent?
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"I knew on the way home that it was a really special picture, and I was excited that I got it," says Laney Griner about the image of her then 11-month-old son, Sammy, holding a clenched fist and wearing a smug grin.
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"It was just weird to me; I didn't get it," says Laney. "I felt like maybe I was too old to get the whole meme thing."
Internet users took the image and ran, adding phrases out of Griner's control. Because his face appears slightly conceited in the picture, Sammy's meme briefly evolved into "Imma F**k You Up" or "I Hate Sandcastles." Griner was fortunate that it naturally evolved into Success Kid, but she decided to license the image to Getty to protect herself and Sammy.
Advertising agencies discovered the image on Getty and contacted her. But using Sammy's picture in ads, like Virgin Mobile UK, required several contracts, so Griner removed the image from Getty and licensed it herself.
David Devore is the father who filmed the above video clip, "David After the Dentist." His wife had to work that day, and his son David, Jr. was nervous about a trip to the dentist, so he decided to record the experience and share it with family.
"I just got really lucky," says Devore on capturing a funny moment with his son.
Devore says that YouTube's policies are partly responsible for the video going viral. Because privacy settings limit users to only five emails, he decided to just make the video public to share with friends and family, "because no one's going to care about this."
Instead, the video earned 3 million views within three days.
As a father, the biggest initial concern for Devore and his wife was whether the people viewing and sharing the video were ridiculing David, or making fun of him.
"Once we realized that it was all very positive for him -- not necessarily toward me, which I can deal with that -- we just decided to embrace it and enjoy it, and have a special experience with our family," says Devore. "And that's what it's been. It's been a lot of fun."
Because the video was uploaded to YouTube, the family received revenue from the site's partnership program. They've also entered into discussions with Vizio and TiVo, and David, Jr. will be featured in a Guinness Book of World Records about viral videos.
But there are negatives to raising a child with unexpected Internet fame. Both parents admit that they've been accused of exploiting their child.
However, Devore sums up his idea of child exploitation in one phrase: "Toddlers and Tiaras."
At 44, he also says many people roughly his age don't understand the nature of the Internet, which can make defending himself a bit awkward. "I think you just need to take it with a grain of salt -- yes, you need to be smart about it and cautious, but I think there's a slight overreaction to posting photos of your kids and that sort of thing. Just calm down a little bit, you know?"
In Sammy's case, his mother posted the beach picture to social media -- where it traveled on the web was out of her control. She says that she's not worried how people react to her decision because there are more people getting joy out of the picture than anything else.
"It doesn't even matter anymore," says Griner. "People like it and it makes them happy. He's a funny kid."
At the conference, Jay Maynard, known for his viral fame as Tron Guy, brought up an interesting point: How will this web exposure affect the children in their 20s and 30s? Could this type of Internet celebrity status at a young age destine a child for disappointment?
David, Jr. (David at the Dentist) answered Maynard with an earnest "no," that's not going to happen.
Five-year-old Sammy has a lot to say about his celebrity status. When asked what the best part of being famous was, he responded, "When I was a baby, I was putting sand in my mouth, and then I was famous -- and that's why I was born."
Here's what he had to say about scary things on the Internet.
Do you think these parents are handling the situation well? What would you do if you couldn't control an image or video of your child on the web? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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