Actress Olivia Wilde’s recent Instagram photo of her son in a cowboy hat — and nothing else — is stirring controversy online.
The image, which the actress posted from her Hawaiian family vacation, shows her 20-month-old son, Otis, from behind, nude except for the hat. When Wilde posted the picture on Monday, she included the caption “Naked Cowboy.”
But Wilde has since added a disclaimer to her photo: “Apparently unsuitable for those unaware that humans have butts.” The lighthearted addition is in response to some commenters who felt the photo was inappropriate, at least for online sharing.
“This is not a picture for social media, because unfortunately there are perverted people out there and these pictures could end up on child pornography websites,” wrote one user. “More people will ‘like’ that than you wish. Your naked child is nothing [to] upload [on] the World Wide Web, where it stays forever,” added another. And finally: “Why post nude pics of your child? So many psychos out there!”
The photo, which has more than 25,500 likes, has gotten a ton of support too. “Please don’t listen to these ridiculous attacks. People should not be shaming you for this pic. They should be ashamed for thinking this pic is in any way sexual,” wrote one commenter. Another added: “Totally cute picture showing the innocence of childhood. Enjoy your baby, they grow up too fast.” And one user said that these negative comments are just another way for parents to shame each other: “I can’t believe this is even a topic of discussion. He’s adorable! You’re an amazing momma. Let’s stop with the mommy wars people.”
Caroline Knorr, the parenting editor of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe technology for children, says the chance that this photo could be used by online predators is small. “I don’t think that’s really relevant to the conversation about this picture,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “The risk is really quite low.”
The main concerns with the image, she says, are the same ones that come with posting any photo of a child online. “Once you post something online, it’s out of your hands and people can use it for purposes you never intended,” she says. “Pictures of your kids can end up on meme sites like Imgur, and people can Photoshop them and turn them into something totally different. There’s also a risk that people can misappropriate your picture and use it for other things.” One example of that misappropriation, Knorr says, is the photo of the young girl with Down syndrome that was used without the family’s permission in an ad for prenatal genetic testing.
Once an image is online, it’s out of a parent’s hands, Knorr says. “It’s hard for people to get that,” she says. “We have a lot of power when we post something, and as a parent that’s a big responsibility. Olivia Wilde is a proud parent. Everyone is. But the proud parent of a toddler today might be the parent of a rebellious teen 10 years from now, and that kid might not love the photo.” To retain maximum control over a photo, Knorr suggests utilizing all the privacy settings available on sites like Facebook and Instagram, which limit who can see your photo.
Still, Knorr doesn’t disagree with the message Wilde is sending with her disclaimer. “She is making a statement, and she’s right,” Knorr says. “We should just say this is a cute picture of a toddler, not a sexualized being.”
(Photo: Instagram/Olivia Wilde)