Why Posting Pictures Of Kids On Social Media Doesn't Float Every Parent's Boat

08/02/2016 7:27 PM AEDT | Updated July 15, 2016 12:51
PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson via Getty Images
Children at birthday party

Nothing could be more innocent than uploading a couple of photos of Sammy's fifth birthday party to Facebook, right? The weather was perfect, the kids look cute and it's a milestone you are excited to share.

But before you go ahead and hit 'upload', you might want to stop and think. Is this something everyone will be okay with? Will the children's parents appreciate you tagging their name in a photo of their son? Is this image technically yours to broadcast?

"I guess the challenge in this area is we simply don’t have any established social norms yet," Dr Tama Leaver, Senior Lecturer in Internet Studies at Curtin University, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"These days everybody has access to a camera or a camera phone, and everyone wants to capture and cherish memories of their kids. That's completely understandable."

What it essentially comes down to is whether or not the pictures are of your child only, or if other children are involved.

"When it's parents making decisions for their own children, there are still considerations to make, such as whether your child will appreciate those photos being online once they come of age," Leaver said.

"But the more difficult scenario occurs when the child isn't yours -- and this often crops up at birthday parties and the like.

"Unless you get permission from every parent before the party takes place, it can be a really tricky situation and parents are left to socially negotiate those things.

"If a whole bunch of photos get posted from a birthday party, some people might be happy to see them whereas others might be understandably more protective and don't want those pictures shared online.

"It can be a difficult thing to tackle after the fact, and you have situations where kids get cropped out or there is a clunky solution like putting an emoji or an image on top of the face of the other children, which nobody really likes to see."

Leaver says there are a couple of ways to avoid this situation -- such as gauging the personal preferences of each parent before the party (perhaps even make a note of it on the invitation?) or only sharing the pictures within a private Facebook group of party attendees.

"I would recommend having that conversation in advance -- just asking the question, 'does anybody mind if photos of this are shared?'

"You might get an 'absolutely not' or a 'yes, but only if it's only people at the party that can see it,' but regardless -- at least you know where you, and the others, stand," Leaver said.

messy kids

Cute now... but when she's older?

Leaver also pointed out the value in properly understanding the privacy settings associated with different social media platforms.

"Instagram is pretty good because it's either private or it's not -- it's all or nothing," Leaver said. "Facebook is where it gets trickier. There are a smorgasbord of options and people can find it quite difficult to navigate."

In the event another parent does post a picture of your child, and you don't agree with it, Leaver says it's important to remember your way isn't necessarily the right way -- it's just a different approach to what is still a relatively new situation.

"No one is posting these pictures maliciously," Leaver said. "And that's what can make it so difficult to negotiate -- because you can feel like you are impinging on someone's joyful sharing.

"Where it can become even more difficult is where it comes down to a difference in parenting approaches -- that can turn into two adults just butting heads."

Whatever your personal policy when it comes to children and social media, Leaver says any decision is a good one, as long as it's informed.

"Know what you want before you have kids," Leaver advised. "If you're completely cool with it, that's fine, but it should be a decision, not something that happens by accident.

"You also have to think about what your child might be okay -- or not okay -- with in the future. In their early teens, they might say 'I am uncomfortable with this huge trail of information about me on the internet' or 'I want to fashion my own identity.'

"The thing is, it's only this generation that has their entire history of baby photos accessible to their friends. It might not necessarily bode well in the politics of the schoolyard."

Of course, the other potential consequence of sharing pictures of children online is their safety -- particularly when, for example, posting a photo of a child in uniform on their first day of school.

However, Leaver stated that most parents are savvy enough to only share this kind of information with friends.

"I do think most parents have a rudimentary understanding that Facebook should be set to 'friends only' by now," Leaver said.

"That message seems to be understood.

"But it's worth keeping in mind, especially if you have a public profile, that as we share it does give people with less than good intentions access to stuff they would have had to otherwise stalk people to find out.

"There is an important message to do with stranger danger awareness, though I think, in all honesty, most parents are across that. If not, it's certainly worthwhile looking at making your Facebook profile friends-only, particularly if you plan on sharing photos of your kids."

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