Is It Ever Okay for Kids to Be Naked in Public?


I was a toddler in the early to mid 1980s, when little girls ran around in nothing but bloomers over their diapers on hot summer days in the front yard. We have pictures of me on the beach in very little more than my skivvies, or in a tiny bikini that was meant to be funny. I remember bath time with my brothers and little friends, and it was never once inappropriate. I spent many evenings running naked at the pool while my mother tried to wrangle me into a shower with Pert Plus.

Wrangling me with my older brothers egging me on was like trying to herd cats. Someone give my mother a medal.

But that was the '80s, and people think differently now about children and nudity.

Last week, a family visiting Spring Lake was warned by police to cover their 4-year-old and 2-year-old children, who stood naked while the parents shook remaining sand out of bathing suits. The family was told to cover up and that Spring Lake law dictated a $2,000 fine and 90 days in jail for public disrobing. The parents were horrified and irritate; the officials could not be reached for commentary. When I read the article, my first inclination was to say, "But they're babies! What is there to cover?" Then I started thinking about all the strangers on the beach, watching my child in nothing but his birthday suit.

Frankly, it made me uncomfortable. 

Kind of like that weird discomfort I felt when I changed my son's diaper in the trunk of our car, with folks passing by in the parking lot. Or when we visited the zoo and it rained, so I had to change his shorts before we got back in the car to drive home. I couldn't pin-point why I felt so awkward -- after all, changing a diaper is a normal task that requires a bare baby bum -- but I knew it was from a protective stance as a mother. It's why I don't put up naked pictures of my son on the Internet...ever. Not even the ultrasound proving he was a boy. Not even his first moments out of the womb. They feel like a breach of his privacy.

 I blame the shift in attitudes toward child nudity on digital cameras and the Internet. 

In 1980, a picture of me in my underwear landed in the private pages of a scrapbook that was kept for our family's eyes only.

 Today, a picture of toddler in her underwear could be splashed across the Internet in seconds, falling into the hands of…who? Not family. 

As parents, we just have to be more careful these days.

Even if that means shaking off sand in the car.

What do you think? Is this too paranoid? Do you think there's anything "wrong" with toddler nudity?

If you do feel toddler nudity is okay, at what age do you draw the line?

Do you think this applies to potty training pictures as well?

-By Beth Anne Balance