5 Reasons Not to Post About Your Child on Social Media

Many par­ents post sto­ries, pho­tos, and videos of their kids on social media because they’re proud of their fam­i­lies and they want to stay con­nect­ed with rel­a­tives and friends. Social media is also use­ful for get­ting advice and feel­ing less alone, as par­ent­ing can be chal­leng­ing! As par­ents our­selves, we under­stand the desire to share what we expe­ri­ence in rais­ing a child.

But how much shar­ing is too much, and can shar­ing on social media put chil­dren in dan­ger? This arti­cle breaks down the five, not-so-obvi­ous ways shar­ing infor­ma­tion about your child on social media may poten­tial­ly harm your child, as well as ques­tions you should ask your­self before hit­ting pub­lish.”

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Posting on Social Media Can Invade Your Child's Privacy

While young chil­dren might not give any thought to what their par­ents share about them on social media, that may not stay true as they grow old­er. Accord­ing to Com­mon Sense Media, at around 5 years old chil­dren start to devel­op a sense of them­selves as indi­vid­u­als and how the rest of the world per­ceives them. Their pri­va­cy becomes more of a con­cern. They may start to feel embar­rassed about the con­tent their par­ents post about them on social media, espe­cial­ly when it comes to ear­ly child­hood anec­dotes, fun­ny pho­tos, and updates on devel­op­men­tal and behav­ioral challenges.

Shar­ing the wrong type of con­tent on social media can also make chil­dren feel like they don’t have own­er­ship over their own bod­ies or own val­ues. Chil­dren don’t real­ly have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­agree with their par­ents post­ing bath-time and oth­er sen­si­tive pho­tos on social media. They also have no say in what­ev­er polit­i­cal or social mes­sages their par­ents press on them. For exam­ple, how will some chil­dren feel about the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion signs they’re car­ry­ing or slo­gan t‑shirts they’re wear­ing when they look back on those pho­tos as adults? How will they feel about being used as polit­i­cal state­ments on their par­ents’ Face­book pages?

Your Social Media Posts Might Be Used for Bullying

You should also be con­cerned about how oth­ers may react to the stuff you share about your child on social media. Whether your child cares about old pho­tos and sto­ries about them on social media, oth­ers may be able to use that infor­ma­tion to make fun of, insult, and even bul­ly your child as he or she grows old­er. What’s to stop a peer from shar­ing a pho­to that your child finds embar­rass­ing with his or her own net­works? What if that share catch­es on? It doesn’t take much for a pho­to to go from an inside fam­i­ly joke to gos­sip fod­der for an entire high school. 

The poten­tial for bul­ly­ing doesn’t stop with the peo­ple you know. To get a feel for the ruth­less per­son­al­i­ties of anony­mous peo­ple on the Inter­net, just take a peek at the com­ment feeds of kids videos on YouTube. What will your child think and feel if they see your social media audi­ence doesn’t react well to your update?

Social Media Messaging Could Impact Your Child's Future

It’s dif­fi­cult, if not impos­si­ble, to con­trol infor­ma­tion once it’s post­ed online. You can’t pre­vent any­one from tak­ing a screen­shot of your post and dis­sem­i­nat­ing it beyond your reach. Your delet­ed posts, while appar­ent­ly gone from your social media pro­file, may still live on in Inter­net archive web­sites and on the social media servers them­selves. With that in mind, you should con­sid­er how your pho­tos and sto­ries may impact your child when he’s much old­er, even an adult. 

The reality is that the data shared by parents could be revealed by Google search algorithms for years to come. And we don’t know what our children’s goals might be when they get older.

- Stacey Steinberg, an associate director for the Center on Children and Families at University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Par­ents need to think about how poten­tial employ­ers may react to find­ing cer­tain sen­si­tive child­hood moments on social media. They should also won­der how their posts may impact their child if he or she ever decides to run for pub­lic office or live a more pub­lic life.

Sharing Puts Your Child at Risk for Digital Kidnapping

Dig­i­tal kid­nap­ping is a type of iden­ti­ty theft. It occurs when some­one takes pho­tos of a child from social media and repur­pos­es them with new names and iden­ti­ties, often claim­ing the child as their own. There have been numer­ous exam­ples of this in recent years, includ­ing a 2015 inci­dent in which a stranger took pho­to of an 18-month-old boy from a mom­my blogger’s Face­book page and post­ed it on her own Face­book pro­file, act­ing like he was her son. 

Your child’s pho­tos can also be kid­napped for baby role-play­ing. If you’re unfa­mil­iar with baby role-play­ing, search for #BabyRP, #Adop­tion­RP, and #KidRP on social media sites. Baby role­play­ers cre­ate accounts on social media sites to post stolen pho­tos along with cap­tions that give false details about the child in the pho­tos. Some­times the stranger imper­son­ates the child by respond­ing to com­ments as the child or from the child’s point-of-view. These com­ments can be dis­turb­ing, though not all are mali­cious. Baby role-play­ing accounts appear to be cre­at­ed by peo­ple who appear to want to be a par­ent or a child. They are, how­ev­er, anoth­er exam­ple of how you can eas­i­ly lose con­trol over your child’s iden­ti­ty when you pub­lish infor­ma­tion about them online.

Your Social Media Posts Might Attract Dangerous People

Pho­tos and videos of chil­dren shared by their par­ents on social media some­times turn up on dis­turb­ing web­sites and forums, some of them ded­i­cat­ed to child pornog­ra­phy. In one instance a Nashville moth­er tried to track down the iden­ti­ty of a stranger who had shared a pho­to of her daugh­ter. She fol­lowed the pho­to to a page belong­ing to a man in Chi­na. On that page she dis­cov­ered her pho­to, along with a lot of oth­er pho­tos of lit­tle girls. 

This isn’t as uncom­mon as you might think. Accord­ing to an Aus­tralian Children’s eSafe­ty Com­mis­sion­er, one site offered at least 45 mil­lion images, half of which were pho­tos of chil­dren tak­en from social media accounts. The pho­tos were of every­day fam­i­ly activ­i­ties, but were accom­pa­nied by inap­pro­pri­ate comments. 

It’s easy to for­get that social media posts can also pro­vide lit­tle indi­ca­tors that can help peo­ple iden­ti­fy where a child lives, plays, and goes to school. Posts with infor­ma­tion like loca­tion tags and land­marks give strangers as well as known aggres­sors the abil­i­ty to locate a child and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers. This is espe­cial­ly dan­ger­ous for fam­i­lies who are try­ing to man­age cus­tody dis­putes and escape domes­tic vio­lence situations. 

What to Do If You Share About Your Child on Social Media

It’s under­stand­able to want to share about your fam­i­ly on social media. If you do decide to share, try ask­ing your chil­dren what they’re com­fort­able with and take some pre­cau­tions. Pay close atten­tion to pri­va­cy set­tings on your social media pages. Choose your pho­tos care­ful­ly and water­mark the ones you post pub­licly. Ask friends and fam­i­ly to refrain from post­ing pho­tos or videos of your child. And start involv­ing your child in decid­ing what is appro­pri­ate to share with oth­ers. Those con­ver­sa­tions can help ward off bad feel­ings in the future and are use­ful for prepar­ing your child for liv­ing in a dig­i­tal age.

Do you have your own guide­lines for post­ing about your chil­dren on social media? We’re inter­est­ed to learn how your fam­i­ly han­dles this del­i­cate sit­u­a­tion. Please reach out to us on Twit­ter @jelliesapp to share your best prac­tices. Click here to down­load the Jel­lies app.