At first glance, one may revel in the glee and exuberance of childhood innocence in the photo professional skateboarder Tony Hawk posted to his Instagram earlier this week. Hawk is seen swinging his delighted 4-year-old daughter, Kadence Clover, into the air as they skateboard together at his 5,000-square-foot skate park in his backyard.
But on closer inspection, you’ll see Kadence dangling in the air without a helmet.
Hawk’s caption: “Updated frontside fling photo via @mikeblake. She is learning to skate on her own, so we might not be doing this much longer.”
The photo, which soon went viral, sparked instant uproar on Twitter and Instagram.
In response to the angry messages he received from some of his 3 million-plus followers, Hawk posted another image on his Instagram, along with the caption, “For those that say I endanger my child: it’s more likely that you will fall while walking on the sidewalk than I will while skating with my daughter.”
Catherine Connors, editor-in-chief of Babble, a Disney-owned parenting website and magazine, told ABC News (which Disney also owns) the compelling photo opens the doors to discuss the broader issue of childhood safety. As a powerful and influential figure, Tony Hawk inevitably serves as a role model for his fans and followers.
However, as Hawk is the father of four children, Connors says it is up to Hawk and his children’s mothers to decide how they choose to raise their children.
“It’s up to the parent’s own assessment of what risk their child can tolerate and to make their own parenting choices,” Connors said. “In that sense, Tony Hawk is the assessor of his own children’s ability.”
The photo, Connors said, sets an example against the use of safety gear. “In reality, it is important to encourage greater use of safety gear.”
Representatives for Tony Hawk did not immediately respond to ABC News.com’s requests for comments.
A few days later, Hawk posted a picture of his young son Riley skating, but this time, with a helmet on.