Are You Posting Too Much About Your Kids?
For most of us, posting on social media is nearly an everyday occurrence. For people with families, this often includes updates about what their kids are doing, complete with photos and videos of their latest antics or achievements. However, parents would be wise to pay closer attention to the information they're sharing.
Sharing About Yourself is Different
Sharing stories and photos of ourselves online is one of the easiest ways we have to stay connected. As lives change and evolve, posting about it on Facebook or Instagram is often the most efficient way to keep friends and family in the loop. Sharing information about our own lives is one thing, but sharing details about someone else's life — say, a child's — is quite another.
The term "sharenting" refers to the phenomenon of parents over-sharing information about their kids in their social media channels — posting endless updates, photos, and videos of their day-to-day activities and personal milestones.
Often tied to the concept of "too much information," sharenting can be more than a merely annoying habit. Though done with the best of intentions, putting so much private information about individual children into the public domain may have unintended consequences.
Data is Currency
In this digital age, issues of data privacy and online surveillance have become increasingly important. When we post something to social media, we're not just sharing it with our friends and family.
Though we may not realize it, that information may also be of interest to people we don't know or to companies we've never heard of. Even a post about something as innocuous as a birthday party can contain information that could be sold to an advertiser such as names, birth dates, locations, and so on.
Over time, anyone harvesting this data could compile a "digital dossier" on an individual (including a child), containing personal details gleaned from online sources. Should it fall into the wrong hands, the data might leave them vulnerable to identity theft. Unfortunately, there's just no real way of knowing (or controlling) who gets their hands on this information, or how they'll use it.
Everything Lives Forever on the Internet
While considerations around data privacy are extremely important, there are also deeper ramifications to posting so much personal information about a child online, without their explicit consent. As many fallen public figures can attest, the internet never forgets: Once something is published online, there will almost certainly be a record of it available forever.
As children grow into teenagers and enter adulthood, they may be saddled with public records of moments in their lives that they wish had not been made public. What strikes an adult as cute or entertaining might actually be embarrassing to the subject when they get older, especially if it leaves them open to teasing or bullying from others. As they move through life — applying for college admission, seeking employment — this digital record will follow them.
Ultimately, sharenting creates a "digital identity" for a child before they can consent to it. As a result, they'll never have the same control over their own digital footprint that their parents have. In a larger sense, making so much personal information about a child public deprives them of the option to never participate on these platforms in the first place.
Sharing is Still Caring
Social media platforms help us connect and build communities by sharing information about ourselves and our lives. Posting about family life is not inherently dangerous to anyone, but being a bit more mindful of what you put out into the digital world will keep everyone safer.
Best Practices When Posting About Your Kids
Sharing stories and images about family life helps create a sense of community, especially among parents. If you're tempted to post something about your child on social media, consider taking these steps before hitting the "Post" button:
- Give your child a veto. This may be age-dependent, but it's a good idea to check with your kids before disclosing something about them (especially teens who may be more sensitive to how others see them).
- Think before sharing. As innocent as the information or picture may be, the material you're sharing can be saved and used in ways other than what you intended. Better to err on the side of caution.
Remember, you always have the option to share moments in your child's life in a more targeted (and more private) way, such as mailing the grandparents the latest photos.
FAST FACT: According to one British study, the average child has nearly 1,500 images of them posted online by the time they reach the age of 5.