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EXPERT COMMENT: Should I post photos of my children online? Here’s what new parents need to know about sharing

Many of us share life updates on social media, but should we share photos of our children online? In an article written for The Conversation, Claire Bessant, associate professor of law at Northumbria University, discusses the potential implications of “sharing”.

More than 40% of British parents upload photos or videos of their children. Showing how widespread online sharing has become, in June 2022 the word “sharing” entered the Oxford English Dictionarythat is, when a parent shares news, pictures and videos of their children on social media.

Parents engage in sharing to many reasons: because they are proud of their children and want to tell their family and friends about the stages and daily life of their children; 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 brand partnerships when they share their family life online.

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

Some parents may think they don’t really have a choice. Increasingly, parents are encouraged in sharing by third parties. This includes family, friends, schoolscommunity, the mediaand 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 have stopped sharing after discovering the photos of their children have 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 and offline sources 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. Information shared can be collected by other companies, who monetizes 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 to limit who can see your posts. 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 may also consider using one of the many private social networksdesigned for families who don’t want to share information with a select group of people.

Images and information about children are increasingly shared not only by parents, but also by family membersfriends 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. It can avoid 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 messages – so their privacy steward you need to consider how your posts might affect them.

When you share your children’s information online, you create the Numeric identitya digital fingerprint that will follow your child all his life.

Consider whether your child will want friends or future employers to see the information you shared about them as a baby. When teenagers start develop one’s own identity they can become particularly concerned about their privacy and how the way they are portrayed online can affect their friendships and relationships.

Avoid information too revealing or privateor who could disturb or embarrass your child in the future, such as potty training, temper tantrums, nude or semi-clothed images, and images that children might consider making them look unattractive.

The children in the photos

Some research has been done to study what young people think about sharing. Some say it can be positive, if they are well portrayed and the content supports a positive online image or identity. Some children say their parents’ messages make them feel happy and proudwhile others like it, it may help them connect with extended family. A child of a parent who blogged online about his family, it can be “pretty cool…like having a big family of people who watched me grow up.”

Some children, however, suggest that sharing can cause embarrassment and anxiety. Many want their parents to ask for their permission before posting. Even one who didn’t think sharing had a negative impact on them said it could mean “another type of growthand it’s not something they would do as parents.

Once you feel your child is old enough to express a point of view, talk to them. Finding out what your child does and doesn’t want you to post can prevent annoyance, frustration, misunderstandings and conflicts.

Explain who you want to share information with and why. The NSPCC Online Family Agreementwhich encourages parents and children to agree on a strategy before posting information online, could be used to start conversations about sharing at an early age.