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.

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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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