Do you love to share videos, pictures, and stories about your children on social media? Me too! We aren’t alone in that most parents do share some aspect of their child’s lives online. However, when is it too much sharing?
Do we really need to see diaper rash pictures?
Is it necessary to share photos of our children potty training?
Was that video in my feed of a child having a tantrum respectful to the child?
Recently it occurred to me in my sharing habits online. I am proud to be a mommy. In fact, I think my son is absolutely the cutest child out there. Sharing pictures of him, funny stories, and venting my parenting frustration online has become commonplace. For many of us in the thick of parenting, social media gives us a platform where we feel less alone. We can upload a photo, press submit, and within moments we can get feedback. If our pictures get a lot of likes or shares, we can get a rush knowing people are interested in our families.
At what expense is our need to share helpful to our children or respectful of their privacy?
After some soul searching and consideration about what my child’s thoughts will be about my sharing when he’s an adult – I realized that I needed to make some changes in how I share his story, his images, and his medical history. It’s not to say that I can’t share anything, but as a parent, I need to be more mindful of what I’m putting out there. I did some research on sharing habits of parents, and how we can share our journey without compromising the privacy of our children. After reading numerous articles, journals, and blogs on the topic, I pulled out a few nuggets that can help you in being a responsible online parent.
Consider that Everything you Share Online is Public
Most social media platforms allow you to mark the settings in which you chose to share your updates, photos, and videos of your children. However, even a social media setting of “private” or “friends” can be manipulated by anyone you are connected to and can be easily shared beyond your circle of online connections. Pictures you upload into groups, public pages, twitter, Instagram, and Facebook can be viewed by thousands of people that you may not know. Anytime a stranger has access to your photos; they can be doctored, altered, or stolen for insidious purposes. Even pictures that seem innocent can show up on websites you may not want your child’s images on. Before you click submit, make sure this is a photo you are comfortable with the whole world viewing. Try to be mindful of sharing pictures of images where your child is vulnerable – i.e., in the bath, potty training, swimming, diaper rashes, etc. Having these photos end up in the wrong hands can be detrimental to you and your child long term.
Don’t Share what you wouldn’t tell a Crowd
If you wouldn’t share it with a group of strangers, then don’t share it online. I often think of a status update as verbal vomiting to strangers. I imagine if it is something I would scream in a packed room, and sometimes I share, and other times I don’t share. Consider that anything you share or write will be read and viewed by strangers. If you would only tell a close friend or family member, then don’t share it online.
Think About The Future
Your child sitting on the toilet at age 3 is probably cute, but consider that this photo may be viewable and searchable when they are a teenager. Think about what your teen or adult child would think about their image being used, and how it will affect their emotions and long-term prospects in employment, bullying, and self-esteem.
There is No Such Thing as A Deleted Photo
We live in an age of screenshots and screen grabs. Even if your photo is only online for a moment, the picture or update can be grabbed and saved on anyone’s phone, laptop, or tablet. If you are questioning if a photo should be shared, pause for a few moments and think about if the photo is something you want in the hands of strangers. Anything you post online can be saved by anyone that views it – be mindful of the words you chose and the images you use.
Protect Your Child’s Medical and Mental Health Information
We all seek support and understanding from others when raising children, and it can be even harder when your child has a medical condition or mental health disorder. Just like you may not want the world to know about your medical background, the same should go for your child. Consider not using your child’s first and last name when sharing information, their location, and don’t post videos of them where they are vulnerable. Videos of meltdowns or children misbehaving can come back to haunt your child.
Protect Your Child’s Education Information
Schools are not allowed to release private education information to anyone other than parents or those that are designated by the parent. Please be mindful of sharing any education difficulties your child has in social media. Most children will grow up and have independent lives. Sharing information on learning disabilities, special education, or accommodations needed by your child can be ripe material for bullies. Remember even admissions counselors from Colleges and Universities can search for information (legal or not) about your child – you don’t want to share anything that could impact their future or job prospects.
Respect Your Child’s Wishes
At a certain point, around age 9-10, your child will understand social media and how it works. At this point, it is essential to talk with your children about what you chose to share with them online. Make sure you get their consent before sharing anything about them before posting it online.
When In Doubt – Ask for a Second Opinion
Finally – if you are questioning whether or not you should share something about your child, take a moment to ask a friend or family member. Get a second opinion before hitting submit.