Sharing pictures of our children with friends and family is one of the most popular uses of social media and has become an everyday way to stay in touch. It seems harmless, but every time you post about your child on social media you are helping to create a data-rich, enduring and potentially problematic online profile for them.
There are three issues to think about before your next post:
The first is the amount of information that you give away, which might include things like date of birth, place of birth, the child’s full name, or tagging of any photographs with a geographical location – anything that could be used by somebody who wanted to steal your child’s identity.
The second issue is more around consent. What type of information will children want to see about themselves online in future? Children learn by example, even a bad example. Most of our children don’t have veto power over the pictures we take and share of them online. So, when they take a photo of a friend sleeping or drooling or kissing a boy, for example and pass it around, we can’t stand the higher ground.
We need to teach children the message that we own our body and we own our image and we need to ask them if they are ok with us sharing an image of them. If your children are too young to give their consent, follow these basic principles: Keep these eight photos of kids off the Internet
Thirdly, when parents vie for the attention of their peers on social media, it can lead their children to do the same. Where they go on vacation, what they wear and what they look like start to become important. It can be a very vicious competitive environment, especially when those kids become teenagers. Then they see who is hanging out at whose party and they know every single thing they’re excluded from and it really creates a fear of missing out.
Our behaviour on Social Media can teach our children that it is desirable to find a public audience. According to a study in the USA on children between 10 and 12 years old, (published in the March 2012 edition of the American Psychological Association’s journal “Developmental Psychology”) fame was the number one value, selected as the most important value for participants’ future goals. The next most selected value was benevolence, defined as “being really kind.” So there is hope!
There is a lot of joy in sharing memories and the Internet has brought people closer together. Our Smartphone technology has enabled us to record special moments in our family’s lives. However, we need to respect our children’s autonomy and privacy and recognise that while Narcissism in our culture is so destructive, it has never been so accepted.
Be thoughtful about what you share where, use your privacy settings and limit the audience of posts about your kids.