Safe Sharing Tips for Parents on Social Media

We've covered the reasons why sharing about your child on social media can be ill-advised and even dangerous. Keeping all those concerns in mind, you don't have to refrain entirely from posting about your parenting experiences and family on social media. With some feedback from your family and by utilizing some strategies to filter out who can see your updates, you may be able to safely share social media content about your children. Here are the steps you should take should you decide to share photos, videos, and other messaging about your children on social media.

Establish Rules About What You Share With Who on Social Media

To promote a sense of security and mindfulness in the way you share about your family on social media, you need to set some ground rules. Some content about your child is obviously not suited for sharing on social media. You probably think twice about sharing the more private, intimate posts about your child's life, especially content involving nudity or graphic stories or imagery. For other types of content, though, it's not so clear-cut.

The first thing you should consider before sharing is “Why do I want to post this photo or story?” You may want to pull the trigger on sharing about a negative parenting experience to vent or seek feedback from friends and family. It's normal to reach out to others for help with the more challenging aspects of raising a young child. Keep in mind, however, that it's very difficult if not impossible to control what's posted online. The information you post could bring up not-so-great memories down the road and work against you and your family.

In a story NPR wrote about whether a child's privacy is invaded when their parent posts about them on social media, one mom talked about the process she uses to determine what content is appropriate enough to publish.

"For mom Karen... avoiding nudity or posts about bodily fluids is a given, but for things she's uncertain about, she asks herself a series of questions. 'Who does this serve? If it's anyone other than the kid, no go. Is this something people would enjoy hearing or seeing? If the answer is no, no go. Is this something I would love to see pop up as a Facebook memory on a bad day? If not, no go.'"

One good guideline to add to your own family social sharing rules is to make sure you only post content that you believe you and others will want to see now and later. Your rules should also determine who you want to have access to the content you share about your family. Do you want to give access to your friends and family? Or do you want to make all family-related posts private as a historical record that only you can review? Once you've decided, you need to take steps to secure your social media posts.

Learn About and Use Social Media Privacy Settings

Social media privacy settings are not the most intuitive, so do your research. Here's a quick breakdown of the privacy settings available on popular social media sites with links to learn more:

  • Facebook privacy settings allow you to share photos, videos, and messages you post on your profile with your friends or subsections of your Facebook friends list. Learn more.
  • Instagram allows you to mark your entire account as private so you can pick and choose who gets to follow you (and see what you post). Learn more.
  • Twitter gives you the option to filter out who sees your tweets using their “Protect my Tweets” feature. Like Instagram, this impacts all of your Twitter messaging and doesn't allow you to pick and choose which posts to protect like Facebook. By activating this tweet protection, you approve who gets to follow your Twitter account and see your posts. Learn more.
  • Snapchat lets you filter who can see your “Story” posts down to your entire friends list or a segment of your friends list. You decide who makes it onto your friends list. Learn more.

Keep an eye on the Jellies blog for a more in-depth tutorial on changing your social media privacy settings.

Who can view your social media posts is one thing. You should also look for settings that help you control who can take your social media photos and videos and share them outside of your profile page. You can supplement this level of protection by asking others not to share photos, yours or their own, of your child on social media. This requires you to actively reach out to friends and family and share your concerns about them posting photos or other messages that include your child. Don't be afraid to ask them to remove a tag, crop out your child, or flat out remove the image if it makes you uncomfortable.

Remember that privacy settings are not forever. Social media sites can always change their privacy settings and policies, so stay vigilant.

Connect With Family and Friends Via Private Photo-Sharing Platforms

Because of the sensitive nature and risks of sharing photos of your children on social media, you may want to opt out of sharing photos and videos of your children on social media entirely. Instead you may choose to use photo-sharing platforms to lock down who can and can't have access to content about your child.

Photo-sharing tools like Apple Photos and Google Photos allow you to create private albums and share photos directly with family and friends. With Apple Photos' iCloud Photo Library, you can create a shared photo album and invite up to 100 friends and family members. Whoever you invite can view your album, and even comment on the photos or share their own photos with the group you created.

Google Photos recently added sharing suggestions and shared libraries. Sharing suggestions is a machine-learning feature that recommends photos to share as well as who you should share them with based on the people captured in the photos. A shared library enables you to grant another person access to a collection of your photos. You can share your entire photo library or photos of your choosing.

Using these photo-sharing tools requires a little more work than uploading to the social media sites you already use on a daily basis. That added level of protection might be worth it to you and your family, though.

Watermark Your Photos to Deter Digital Kidnapping

Adding watermarks to your photos requires even more effort, but may give you more confidence in publicly sharing photos of your family. As we mentioned in 5 Reasons Not to Post About Your Child on Social Media, digital kidnappers will take photos of children and use them to fool others or participate in baby role-playing. Watermarks alter the photo, making it more difficult for strangers to pass it off as their own.

The key to creating effective watermarks is placing the mark in a central part of the photo to make it difficult for someone to crop it out. You can use basic software like Microsoft Paint or simply launch Preview from your Mac Finder to achieve this. Check out these guides to adding watermarks using Microsoft Paint and Preview for more information. If you decide to use a freebie or cheap watermarking tool online, make sure that tool is secure and doesn't keep a copy of your images. Watermarking your images only to have them under the control of some unknown third party tool is defeating the purpose.

Have Discussions with Your Child About Social Media

It's important to discuss with your child, especially as they mature, about how they feel about other people seeing them online in photos or videos. Having these conversations can help your child understand the implications of posting anything online as well as the potential consequences. Children today don't really have the option to remove the internet entirely from their lives. They should learn how to safely use and express themselves online. By showing your child a photo and discussing with him or her about posting it online, you're preparing them to think about and interact with the digital world. The earlier you start these conversations, the better.

Be sure to adjust your message depending on how old your child is and to what extent he or she has been introduced to the digital world. Stacey Steinberg, associate director for the Center on Children and Families at Florida International University, suggests that parents consider starting to have these discussions with children when they are around 4 years old.

“By age four, children have an awareness of their sense of self. At this young age, they are able to build friendships, have the ability to reason, and begin to compare themselves with others. Parents who post regularly can talk about the internet with their children...”

That age is a guideline only. You might want to wait until feel your child can understand what you're asking them. You know your child best after all.

Finally, Things You Shouldn't Share About Your Child on Social Media

Mindfulness, permission, and privacy settings aside, there are some things you should never ever share about your child online.

Location clues: Never post content that can be used to identify your child's location. That means no location tags, photos with signs or landmarks. Also keep in mind the information you provide elsewhere on your social media profiles as people can use that along with your photos to determine where your child goes to school, lives, and plays.

Identity info: This includes your child's age, date of birth, and name.

Private imagery: Never post nude or nearly nude photos of your child on social networks, no matter how locked down you think they are. This includes photos of your child at the beach, pool, in the bath, or in their bathing suit.

We talk in-depth about the dangers of posting photos, videos, and messages about children on social media in 5 Reasons Not to Post About Your Child on Social Media. Check it out to learn more.

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