Sharing: Should I post photos of my children online?

Set your account to private if you want your information only available to your followers. [iStockphoto]

Showing how widespread online sharing has become, in June 2022 the word ‘sharing’ entered the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning a parent shares their children’s news, pictures and videos on social networks.

Parents engage in sharing for many reasons: because they are proud of their children and want to tell family and friends about their children’s milestones and daily lives; ask for help and offer advice to other parents; and to store memories. It can also be a source of income. Influencers can earn substantial sums through brand partnerships when they share their family life online.

Decisions about whether, where and how much to share pose a dilemma for many parents. New parents may find themselves faced with an uncomfortable paradox: they know that sharing can have privacy implications for their children, but find social media to be an important source of support and connection with other parents to the first time.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of starting a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or simply making friends as adults. The articles in this series explore questions and provide answers as we navigate this turbulent time in life.

Some parents may think they don’t really have a choice. Increasingly, parents are encouraged to share through third parties. This includes family, friends, schools, community, media and major brands.

Further research is still needed to confirm exactly the impact of sharing on children and their privacy. However, sharing seems to pose certain risks. Some parents stopped sharing after discovering that their children’s photos had become the target of predators.

The researchers also found that it is relatively easy for third parties to obtain photographs, names and birth dates of children through parents’ Facebook and Instagram posts and link this information to other online sources. and offline to create detailed profiles. New parents considering posting a birth announcement on social media should keep in mind that sharing this information may put their child at risk of identity theft.

Many popular social media providers collect and share information with each other. The information shared may be collected by other companies, who monetize this information, profiling children and their families, using their interests and tastes to target marketing.

What to keep in mind

There are ways to make social media sharing safer. You can turn off geotagging on your smartphone’s camera app so that location data isn’t associated with photos. Another option is to review privacy settings and limit who can see your messages. On Instagram, for example, adult accounts are set to public by default. Set your account to private if you want your information only available to your followers.

You can also consider using one of the many private social networks, designed for families who don’t want to share information beyond a select group of people.

Children’s images and information are increasingly shared not only by parents, but also by family members, friends and schools. New parents may find it helpful to think about how they want their children to be represented on social media and to have conversations with friends and family about how their children’s information will be shared online before the birth of their child. This can avoid a conflict at a later stage.

It’s also worth thinking about the impact your posts might have in the future. Babies and toddlers can’t tell you what they think of your posts. As a privacy officer, you should therefore consider how your posts might affect them.

When you share your children’s information online, you create your child’s digital identity, a digital footprint that will follow your child for life.

Determine if your child will want their friends or future employers to see the information you shared about them as a baby. As teens begin to develop their own identity, they may become particularly preoccupied with their privacy.

Avoid information that is too revealing or private, or that might upset or embarrass your child in the future.

[Claire Bessant, Associate Professor in Law, Northumbria University, Newcastle]

This article first appeared in The Conversation

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