Should you post pictures of your kids on social media?
Parents are proud of their kids, and it’s natural to want to share special moments from their lives with friends and family on social media. But a growing chorus of experts is warning that sharing too much of our children’s private lives can do real harm.
What you decide to put on social media is a personal decision…but it should be an informed decision. Here are five things to consider before posting those baby bathtime photos—along with some tips to protect your children’s privacy and help keep them safe.
Privacy and Consent
Remember that your child has a right to privacy—and that social media simply isn’t the same thing as an analog family photo album. Very young kids aren’t able to say yes to being “Instagram famous”, so think twice before you share every moment of their childhood with the world.
Tip: Consider limiting the type and amount of photos that you post, and only sharing them with close friends or family. If you have a large number of friends or followers, it may be worthwhile to create private, “family only” groups or even alternate accounts where photos can be shared with just a few people.
The Lessons We Teach
Big tech companies have less-than-stellar track records when it comes to respecting their users’ privacy…and governments aren’t much better. Most of us see the problem with this. But if we overshare our children’s lives on social media, we’re helping to normalize the idea that there is no expectation of privacy. Before you post, consider the message you’re sending—and the lessons you want to teach your little citizen.
Tip: As your children get older, start to engage them in a dialog about what photos they want you to share—and which they’d rather keep private. Allow them to make age-appropriate decisions in order to reinforce the message that they should expect privacy and control of their data.
Privacy Settings are Hard
The privacy settings on the big social media platforms are famously opaque, making it difficult to know just who is able to search for and view your content. Add to this the fact that many of us have friends lists in the thousands, and it’s difficult to say with certainty who will be able to see the pictures we post online.
Tip: Review the privacy settings of your social media accounts before posting photos of your little ones, and consider conducting regular “privacy audits” by reviewing these settings to make sure nothing has changed. It may be wise to post family photos to just one or two social networks whose settings you are very familiar with.
The Internet Never Forgets
Once something has been online, it can be surprisingly difficult to get rid of—as anyone who’s ever Googled themselves knows! Facebook and other social media services allow you to delete photos, but they may retain copies on their servers for some time, and cached material can still show up in search engines months later. And that’s just the stuff you actually remember to delete!
Tip: Steer clear of highly personal or potentially embarrassing content altogether. If you’re not sure where to draw the line, try to imagine your child’s highschool classmates or potential employers finding the photo. If you wince a little, it’s a pretty good indication that you might not want to share that particular picture.
Bullies, Creepers and Trolls — oh my!
As your kids get older, those embarrassing baby photos may come back to haunt them if the school bully or some troll halfway around the world gets ahold of them. There’s also the truly disturbing phenomenon of strangers downloading photos of minors and then using them to create fake social media accounts for “their” children. The potential for bad actors to misuse digital images of our kids is a compelling reason to be very mindful of who can find the things we post.
Tip: Do everything possible to make sure pictures of your children are only visible to family members and close friends. Use available privacy settings whenever possible to make sure your photos are not indexed for search engines. Consider setting Instagram accounts with photos of your children to private. And avoid using photo or geographic tags that could help strangers or classmates search for your child by name or location.
If you want to post photos of your kids on social media, that’s fine. By understanding the issues at play and following a handful of commonsense guidelines, you can spare your kids potential embarrassment (or worse). Choose what to post very carefully. Beware of oversharing. And use the tools available to you in order to protect your children’s privacy now and in the years to come.