Why I my Facebook profile picture is still my face.

Facebook has been overwhelmed with images of children’s television programs throughout the years. Until today—December 6, 2010—there has been a social networking campaign for the elimination of violence against children. For information about the campaign, check out this.

I’m all for the elimination of violence against children. Children are one of the most vulnerable people groups and need to be protected from the evils of violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect. But will inundating Facebook with television profile pictures really help? I’m sceptical. I’m doubtful. And maybe I’m a little cynical too.

Here are some reasons who I didn’t change my profile picture to a television show from my childhood (although if I had, it probably would have ended up being Zoobilee Zoo, Today’s Special, the Elephant Show, or Polka Dot Door).

  1. Changing profile pictures doesn’t address the reasons that children are abused. While the campaign is meant to raise awareness about the fact of violence against children, it fails to educate about why this violence exists in the first place. Issue of violence are often tied to other issues, like race, class, gender, mental illness, parenting, and addiction. But none of this is discussed as people change their profile pictures and bask in nostalgic memories of their childhood. We need to know why children are abused, how to stop violence against the young, and what resources are available to speak out and fight back against child abuse.
  2. Faces matter. When dealing with issues of peace and justice, it helps to see the faces and hear the stories of those who are struggling, in this case those children who have suffered from abuse and violence. Removing human faces from Facebook takes away the humanity, the actual lives of real people who are in the campaign for the elimination of violence against children. Instead of removing our faces from this campaign, what about putting ourselves into this fight for justice in a bold way? What about launching a campaign where people have the courage to stand up and say that they have experienced violence as a child? What about creating a forum for people who have suffered from violence as a child to tell their stories, and join in speaking out against child abuse. For a group who is doing something like this, check out the Catharsis Foundation.
  3. It seems as though Facebook has become an omnipresent, universal reality among younger generations in North America. But for many of us who are adults, the magic of television was the universal feature that united the children across a continent for decades. As I watched the Elephant Show as a child, I knew that children across Canada were watching it with me. I knew that I could go to school and talk with my friends about the same television shows we watched from miles away from one another. But is this really healthy? Is television really the most appropriate medium for generating a tsumani of childhood memories? Is that all we really have in common with one another? Why are we continuing to buy into the consumer culture that we’ve been fed as we’ve grown up on shows like Teddy Ruxpin, Size Small, Mr. Dress-Up, My Little Pony, and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?
  4. Will it really help children in need? In the end, what can a Facebook profile picture do? Sure, it can do wonders for raising general awareness about the issue of violence against children. But will even one child be safe tonight because of the campaign? Will it help usher in policy and legislation aimed at eliminating violence against children, help open shelters for battered women and children, and crack down on protecting the young ones in our cities, countries, and world? I’m sceptical. For the sake of real children who will go to bed tonight with bruises, for those who are thinking about running away, and for those who are wondering if they’ll be awaken by an angry fist, we can do so much more that simply change our Facebook profile pictures. And that is why I’m not changing mine. I’m on a campaign to do more.

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