Should You Post Pictures of Your Kids on Social Media?

When you think of social media safety, do you think it’s something you only need to worry about when your child is in their teens? Won’t it make more sense by then? How are you sharing pictures of your kids online anything to do with social media safety? Isn’t it the preserve of the paranoid? The ones thinking that the dishonourable lurk around every corner? What is so dangerous about sharing amusing or cute photos of your child online? Let’s take a realistic view on social media safety and social media etiquette right from the moment you snap that first picture in the delivery suite.

The Facts and Stats on Sharenting

By the time the average child is five, their parents will have posted 1,500 images of them on social media.

Sharenting is the term coined by the media for posting photos online of your child. A report by Ofcom in 2017 revealed that one in five  parents upload images of their children at least once a month.

The majority of parents surveyed by Ofcom actually avoid sharenting altogether. The majority says this is in order to protect the privacy of under-18s. However, it’s a divisive issue. Parents tend to fall in the sharing or the vehemently non-sharing, with little middle ground.

36% of those surveyed by Ofcom strongly believe that personal photos should be restricted to friends and followers. 80% feel confident about putting these restrictions in place.

So is sharing photos of our kids a matter of social media safety?

Is Sharing Photos of Your Child on Social Media Safe?

There are a number of different factors to consider in terms of what makes posting photos of kids online safe or unsafe. The NSPCC urges parents to carefully consider whether to post photographs of their kids on social media. An NSPCC spokesman told the BBC: “For very young children, think about whether they would be happy for you to post or if it will embarrass them. If you aren’t sure, it’s best not to post.”

This argument focuses on the digital footprint that you are creating for your child. Once a picture is online it is never 100% in your control again. This generation of children and teens are the first reaching adulthood with completely documented digital lives. It’s still too early to see the impact this will have on them in the future.

However, this is just one of the risks highlighted by those who believe that you shouldn’t post pictures of your kids on social media. Dr Kirsty Goodwin describes the risks of posting photos of your kids on social media as falling in to distinct categories:

Privacy Risks: concerning identity theft
• Cyber-Safety Risks: the risk of having images harvested by predators (in fact, she states it has been suggested that “50% of images shared on paedophile sites have been taken from parents’ social media sites.”
Psychological Risks: such as breaching privacy, or sharing embarrassing information which may be misappropriated by others.

Goodwin goes on to discuss what messages we’re sending our children when we are sharenting advocates. Are we missing moments rather than being present in them? What lifetime habits are we teaching them? What example are we setting?

How Do You Share Pictures of Your Children Safely?

Of course, the reality is that we are in the social media age. Many of us use social media for staying in touch with family and forging connections. For parents, often isolated by the nature of the ‘job’, or simply bursting with pride over their offspring’s latest development, sharing photos is important to them. So how can you share photos safely?

Firstly, you need to consider permission. If your child is old enough to have an opinion then you should seek it. If they don’t want their photo posted online then you should respect this. If they are younger then you need to consider how they may feel about the image in the future. Is the image potentially embarrassing?

Secondly, you need to consider your privacy settings. For each and every social media account you need to check that your privacy settings are such that no one can get your images without your knowledge. However, do remember that this doesn’t give you complete control. No matter how well you know your ‘friends’, they can still copy and share an image you post. Take time to familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of each social media account you have.

Do make sure that you control your ‘friends’ lists and ‘followers’. Consider turning off your phone’s GPS. Perhaps only use a nickname for your children online. You could also consider only sharing photos using photo sharing sites such as Flickr or Picasa whereby you only give the password to your chosen few.

What About Sharing Pictures of Other People’s Children?

It’s not just about sharing photos of your own children. Our children live inherently social lives. What about that snap of them in the school nativity bursting with pride with a tea towel on their head but their classmates are in the background? What about your child’s birthday party where their friends are watching as they blow out the candles?

You need to think carefully about social media etiquette here. There’s a bit of an unwritten rule that you simply don’t post photos of someone else’s child on social media without their permission. In fact, the Ofcom report  revealed that 70% do not think it is acceptable to share images of others without permission. You’re also likely to come in to contact with school and childcare setting’s own rules on sharing such photos.

For social media etiquette it once again comes down to permission. You need to seek it and only post if granted it.

Keeping Your Kids’ Photos Safe

At the end of the day, it is a divisive issue. Therefore you need to choose what you believe is right for your family, and put the right privacy and permissions in place if you do share. The NSPCC’s guidance ‘A Parents’ Guide to Being Share Aware’ explains that you can call the O2 and NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 for advice and support regarding privacy settings, understanding social networks, and how to keep your child’s images safe.

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