LIFE

Should You Post Photos Of Your Child On Social Media?

And when does 'sharenting' go too far?

30/08/2017 8:13 PM AEST | Updated 30/08/2017 8:13 PM AEST

As humans, it's in our nature to want to share. We share stories, we share meals, we share information.

And with the global adoption of social media, we can now share with more people, more easily than ever before.

This is a great thing in so many ways. But we also know there is a dark side to social media, and as such, is it something we want to be involving our children in, quite often from literally the day they are born?

Sharenting

The act of posting pictures of your kids online is known as sharenting and, like social media itself, it has its pros and cons.

Benefits include being able to easily share moments and updates with family and friends, particularly those who live far away. But there are some pretty serious downfalls too.

"Some of the main concerns relate to identity theft (privacy risks), digital harvesting of kids' images on predator sites (cyber-safety risks), sharing personal information about your child that should remain private (psychosocial risks), and revealing embarrassing information that may be misappropriated by others (psychological risks)," researcher and author of 'Raising Your Child in a Digital World', Dr Kirsty Goodwin, recently wrote on her blog.

"It has been suggested that 50 percent of images shared on paedophile sites have been taken from parents' social media sites. We lose full control of where our kids' photos end up when we share them online."

Of course, there are ways to help prevent this (and more on that later) such as upping your privacy settings and ensuring you are only sharing photos with people you know.

Getty

But the concerns regarding sharenting go beyond what other people do with the photos we're posting.

Because the social media culture we're currently living in is still so new, we don't really have any idea if there are any long term implications for our children and if so, what they will even be.

"Look, my philosophy is parents need to make an informed decision," Goodwin told HuffPost Australia. "But my big concern is digital DNA.

"Digital DNA is my term for digital footprint, because I don't think the term 'footprint' is strong enough when you take into consideration every image, every comment, every post has some kind of record.

"Parents are posting their kids' life on social media and curating that on their behalf.

"What habits are we teaching our kids if we are curating every moment of their lives on digital devices? Are there private moments that would be better kept private?"

Total eclipse of the heart

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Kim Kardashian West has spoken of her fears her children will be bullied on social media.

It's a sentiment echoed by parenting expert Michael Grose.

"As a parent, you really need to be thinking of what message you are sending to your child by putting a picture of them up on social media," he told HuffPost Australia.

"With social media, there is a notion of a brand. Everyone is a brand these days, even kids. They are the future brand. So you have to be really careful about protecting that brand and what images you are putting out there."

We want our kids to be real, and no one is real on social media. Michael Grose

Grose went on to say many children are by nature perfectionists, and this, coupled with the 'perfect' world of social media, could be a problematic combination.

"It goes to vulnerability. We want our kids to be vulnerable and no one is vulnerable on social media. We want our kids to be real, and no one is real on social media.

"I never put a picture of myself up when I'm struggling."

"I just think [it is important] to reinforce the notion it's okay to fail. That is a really big issue for many children. They don't want to be seen as failures, a lot of kids are perfectionists."

To share or not to share

Ultimately the decision of whether or not to share photos of your children on social media is up to you, and of course there are many, many parents (and children) who don't have a problem with it at all.

But if you do decide to post, perhaps keep the following tips in mind.

Permission

"If your child is old enough, make sure you have permission. And if they aren't old enough, make sure the father or anyone else involved gives you consent," Goodwin said.

"Plus, if the child is old enough to understand concept of 'permission to post', it teaches them about online etiquette."

Privacy

"It's wonderful seeing pictures of kids in the moment doing things, the funny things, the silly things. It's a fantastic way to see your family and enjoy each other," Grose said.

"I want to stress that sharing isn't bad, but it's about the forum. It's about where to share. Certainly where you have those closed groups and you choose who is going to be on it, I think it's a great thing."

Grose suggested using WhatsApp as one alternative to more open forums like Facebook or Instagram, while Goodwin praised the online baby journal Tinybeans.

If you still want to stay mainstream, consider changing your privacy settings so only family and friends can access your account, and refrain from tagging your location or giving away personal information.

You may also choose to share photos of your children, but not ones which reveal their faces.

Pause before you post

This is a general rule and goes back to Goodwin's earlier point about digital DNA. Think: what DNA are you creating for your children to retrace in the future?

"When it comes to sharing pictures, always pause before you post," she said. "It can be so easy as a mum in frustration or embarrassment or pride to share something in the heat of the moment you might later regret."

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