Sharenting: “The posting of photos, personal information online of your children without realizing or fully considering there are real potential consequences for their own children in the long run”.
Disclaimer: Take this blog post like a grain of salt. Take what you like and leave the rest. It’s ok not to agree with everything on this post. Don’t feel judged if you do anything mentioned on this post. It’s just a research article to show a side that our generation has become so comfortable with that we may not have considered.
For many of us, posting on social media is a daily habit and showing off the things in our life we are proud of. For parents, that often means updates about what our young children are up to also. Sharenting is some thing that our generation never grew up with and will never personally understand. While many people have good intentions and see these photos and videos for exactly what they are, there are others who aren’t so well-intentioned, and that’s something many parents of this current generation likely don’t have on their minds or their own experience with.
This article breaks down the four, not-so-obvious ways sharing information about your child on social media may potentially harm your child, as well as questions you should ask yourself before hitting “publish.”.
Here is a quick summary of some of the things I will be discussing more detail in this blog:
- Technology is increasingly becoming very sophisticated in the information it is gathering about us. In just the past 20-30 years, we have had the birth of the internet, the rise of so many digital products and GPS tracking. Who knows how sophisticated technology will be in another 10-20 years when AI launches and what can be done with the digital identity information companies collect from us from multi-devices. In the future, ANNOMINITY WILL BE A SUPERPOWER! Let’s get a little educated about it all and give your child the privacy they deserve.
- The emotional and social impacts sharing their photos can impact their child later on in life. You’d probably like your child to come across as smart, well-behaved, industrious, kind and successful, right? Does what you are posting help that—or hinder it? Nothing is completely private on social media, especially with how easy it is to screenshots something on social media and make it viral without crediting the owner. An innocent potty training photo posted now can be ammunition to future bullies at school who can get a hold of a lifetime of photos. Some thing ‘normal’ now may be controversial in their future and may affect job and university placements when selecting candidates.
- Images that can end up all over the internet in places we don’t want them. Half of the shared on pedophile websites (of innocent kids playing) was stolen off social media.
- Ultimately, it’s not your information; it belongs to your children. There is a privacy act, to protect children’s information online, but it becomes void as soon as an adult (or person over the age of 13) post the information voluntarily. Your child’s identity can be vulnerable to the world with imposters from the breadcrumbs you leave online. For example, if you scroll through your social media, strangers can piece together your child’s full name, photos of when and where they born from the birth announcement, location based on photos of them in their school uniforms. Your child could also be prone to scary side of stalking by providing convincing information they have gathered about your child that they would trust them, from pets names, tagging photos with a current geographical location, plus many more…There is a checklist at the end of this blog post.
So get a snack and somewhere comfortable to sit because this in a long post. Also, if you read this today, please come back and check back on it again in a few months or so, because as I find new information, i will add to it.
TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING FAST… SIMPLY LOOK WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED IN OUR LIFETIME!
If you were born 30 or so years ago (like me), you grew up with the luxury of not having our lives documented online, unlike the generation Z today. It was not until we were in high school that the rise of the internet came out, mobiles got cameras, and social media (Myspace) introduced a social way for people over the world to interact with each other instead of the telephone and snail-mail. Therefore, (unlike the Z generation today) our baby photos luckily remained in physical photo albums in a back cupboard somewhere unless our parents decide to bring them out for a birthday party slideshow or we decided to share a few online for a fun “flashback”.
It’s incredible to think about how much technology had developed since we were born and how it has changed the way we live our lives!
Twenty years later, since the rapid introduction of most digital technology into our lives, all of these technologies (listed above) have all now become extremely sophisticated, fit inside your small mobile phone device and have a huge impact on the way we share and live our daily lives today.
Scrolling through my social media, it seems that my generation is naturally very comfortable with sharing their ins and outs of their family life online. Some children have their own branding account that has a ton of followers liking all their every fashion-forward move.
Most of the time, posting our child’s pics and information isn’t a big deal. But… yep…sometimes, it is! I think the issue is that some parents don’t understand, forget or are a bit nieve about the future dangers we are putting them at risk of that we never had to deal with growing up. With a bit of education of what is appropriate and what is not, we might give our children a level up in their future.
In the future, The greatest superpower for people might be those who have online anonymity!
It’s pretty scary how easily technology can invasively learn our habits, make a detailed portrait of us, and make personal predictions about us. The big giant tech companies are doing this with us now behind the scenes of your every move, gathering data from every purchase you make to where you are reading this very blog post from, forming information about who you are and perhaps that you may have children considering your reading this. But don’t worry, your children are safe from this. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), are in place to prevent others from collecting your children (people under 13’s) information. Sadly, Parents are the loophole in the Privacy Protection Act for children as there are no laws preventing people over the age of 13 from releasing information about others, including children. When it comes to posting about kids, parents are often the worst culprits. A recent US study found that 63% of mums use Facebook; of these, 97% said they post pictures of their child; 89% post status updates about them, and 46% post videos. Therefore, ‘Sharenting’ allows criminals and other unwanted onlookers to collect information about your children “legally”.
“More than 90% of all American children have an online history by the time they are 2 years old”.
Our generation who are quite nieve about privacy, carelessly leave trails of crumbs all over the internet. In the process, they are creating a digital identity of their child that can follow them around for the rest of their lives.
With a simple Google search, a stranger (or a school bully, an employer, a stalker, a scammer) can learn all about your child’s identity and personal details of their life just by everything you post about them years ago on social media or blogs.
But what if you only post from a private social media account, are your posts safe? Sadly, besides the fact that does not stop other people with access sharing your content (e.g. screenshot), private information about you can be abused by marketers, law enforcement agencies and even just savvy internet users. The big tech giants like Facebook and Google itself track and profile your every move. Both have abused their user’s privacy. Google was tracking and recording your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to on your phone. Facebook gave away personally identifiable information of “up to 87 million people to an outside source and with the data they were automatically and accurately able to predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender of the users. It’s just a window into what is going on behind the scenes and what they are capable of now… what will it be like in the future?
Our children’s digital footprint will look very different from our own.
Many companies are fastly becoming increasingly intelligent-gathering new ways to track and profile tons more information about us without us realizing. Facebook currently uses many machine learning algorithms to learn about us, our circle of friends, where we go and so forth:
- They can instantly recognize aging faces and changed appearance through facial recognition tools from any photo posted. (So your digital profile will follow you around for life).
- You can be unwittingly identified in the background of a strangers photo, putting you in a particular place (geotagging) and time in history … another data point to learn more about you. You can help not make it so easy for them by removing friends tags of your child on Facebook. (With the introduction of AI, it may learn all kinds of private patterns from your phone and other technology).
- Facebook “records” just about everything we do, including the content we provide, who we communicate with, what we look at on its pages, as well as information about us that our friends provide to create profiles on us.
- Facebook saves payment information, details about the devices we use, location info, and connection details.
- The social network also knows when we visit third-party sites that uses it’s services (such as the Like button, Facebook login, or the company’s measurement and advertising services).
- It also collects information about us from its partners.
As the business models of social networking sites change and digital technology develops, could these innocent snapshots someday come back and bite our children on the behind? Who knows how sophisticated technology and will be in another 10-20 years, with the current development of ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. It begs to question how it will change and exploit our children’s data in ways that we can’t even imagine what they will do in the future with the information they collect.
I think that our lack of attention to Facebook and Google’s tracking of our lives from cradle to grave might be something our children care about much more – or at least want to make an informed choice about participating in. ONLINE ANNOMINITY WILL BE A SUPER-POWER!
THE ISSUES WITH OVERSHARING:
1.CONSIDER THE “EMOTIONAL” AND “SOCIAL” IMPACT ON THEM LATER IN LIFE:
What type of information would children not want to see about themselves online at a later date? Your child has a ‘right’ to privacy.
Ask yourself, Is there anyone in the universe who shouldn’t see this about your child, now or at any point in the future? If the answer is yes, don’t share it. I know that sounds extreme, but it’s growing more common for employers, college admission staff or possible romantic interests, or school bullies among others to do Internet searches about people. If what you are thinking of posting could come back to bite your child in any way ever, don’t do it.
It’s one thing if you are an adult and have chosen to post or share content about yourself—or have done things knowing they could be shared online. It’s entirely another if you had no say in it whatsoever—especially when the content might be embarrassing, or worse. Young children don’t really understand the long term consequences or have the opportunity to disagree with their parents posting their sensitive photos.
But is it safe, or even ethical to publish something about someone who can’t give their consent? I’m sure many of you would have your side of the fence answer for this question… I’m not judging, I’m just making you think and consider something you may not have before.
Your Social Media Posts Might Be Used for Bullying
Studies show that 1 in 4 kids are embarrassed by the information that their parents are sharing of them, especially when it comes to early childhood anecdotes, funny photos, and updates on developmental and behavioral challenges.
An innocent post now that we think is fine because they are “young” could actually bother them later on with the lack of privacy of their early life. Puberty is hard enough but imagine other students having thousands of searchable photos freely available at their disposal to make fun of them, insult, and even bully your child as he or she grows older. What’s to stop a peer from sharing a photo that your child finds embarrassing with his or her own networks? It doesn’t take much for a photo to go from an inside family joke to being the laugh of an entire high school, or worse- goes viral. It’s also pretty horrible to read the ruthless “anonymous comments on kids videos posted on Youtube. Science Daily reports that “Children (and young people under 25) who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior”
An extreme case: An 18-year old unnamed woman is suing her parents to force them to remove childhood pictures of her from Facebook. She told one newspaper, ‘They knew no shame and no limits…they didn’t care if I was sitting on the toilet or lying naked in the cot, every moment was photographed and made public.’
The doomsday scenario is an online profile that can follow you around for life and affect their future!
“The reality is that the data shared by parents could be revealed by Google search algorithms for many years to come. And we don’t know what our children’s goals might be when they get older“. Stacey Steinberg, an associate director for the Center on Children and Families at University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Parents might think a video of their child is harmless and funny but the child’s words or actions in the video could be deemed highly controversial years later.
A great example of how “time changes personal taste on what is appropriate or not” is from the Australian TV show “Hey, Hey It’s Saturday”. 20 years ago 5 contestants did a Jackson 5 comedy skit with their faces painted black and won first place. Australian’s whom never grew up with black slaves) thought that the impersonation act was funny. The show tried to make a comeback show recently (with the SAME act) but viewers were absolutely horrified and disgusted at the bad taste racist joke, and the show did not make a comeback. With time and education, something we snicker or find funny now can hurt or cause conflict in the future.
Last year, there was a widely reported case of 10 students who had been accepted to Harvard who had those acceptance rescinded because of racist social media posts. The posts were supposedly in a private chat,” said psychologist Shane Owens, who treats adolescents, college students and young adults in Commack, New York. “Most kids are not able to appreciate the long-term consequences of their actions.”
You should consider how your sensitive childhood moments posts may impact their future careers if they ever decide to run for public office or live a more public life. How will they feel looking back at being used as political statements on their parent’s social media page holding controversial political election signs?
Is this something you want to be part of your child’s digital footprint? Even if it’s not embarrassing, how does it paint your child? Think about it. You’d probably like your child to come across as smart, well-behaved, industrious, kind and successful, right? Does what you are posting help that—or hinder it?
Nothing online is completely private, and everything is permanent
You can use privacy settings, and you absolutely should, but there are always ways around them (such as screenshots)—and even when you take something down, that doesn’t mean it’s completely gone. Removing content from the web is not very easy. It’s sad but you also have no privacy control over any images shared on Facebook taken of you and uploaded by other people. (You can try asking them to remove it or report the image if it fits in with the violation terms).
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to control information once it’s posted online. You can’t prevent anyone from taking a screenshot of your post and disseminating it beyond your reach. Your deleted posts, while apparently gone from your social media profile, may still live on in Internet archive websites and on the social media servers themselves. With that in mind, you should consider how your photos and stories may impact your child when he’s much older, even an adult.
Deleted tweets, private messages — just about anything — can be unearthed these days . For kids, the potential dangers of that are endless.
2. IMAGES CAN END UP WHERE WE DONT WANT THEM:
We lose full control of where our kids’ photos end up when we share them online.”, said researcher Dr. Kristy Goodwin about “sharenting”. Most parents are unaware or naive of how easily the images they post can be downloaded and saved by friends or strangers.
An Australian government official estimated that about half of the images shared on pedophile sites have been taken from parents’ social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
Photos and videos of children shared by their parents on social media sometimes turn up on disturbing websites and forums, some of them dedicated to child pornography. The photos themselves were mostly innocent, everyday scenes of kids playing, but within 10 days of being uploaded, the content had been viewed 1.7 million times and was accompanied by explicit, inappropriate sexualized comments about the children said Senior investigator at the eSafety Commissioner, Toby Dagg.
Parents should definetely avoid posting any pictures of their kids in any state of undress.
Bearing this in mind while having a social media page that focuses soley on our homeschooling activities, I am mindful to keep all my cute photos for my own collection and the family and for my social media account I mostly leave him out, show him from the back of his head or overhead so his face is not fully identifiable. This actual blog post your reading now actually stemmed from me feeling super uncomfortable posting my son all over my social media page for strangers to see when I first started my account. It felt weird putting him all out there “for me” so that i could build my account. I also felt super uncomfortable seeing some mothers have no filter on what they were putting up of their kids in a public forum. I’m not perfect, but researching this topic has really given me some more insight before I post something. Some moms were doing posts in their stories showing “how” they “toilet trained their child”, and there were stories after stories of them being completely naked, showing their ‘accidents’ and pooping on the potty. Things that i would be horrified if my mom posted about me. I would be ringing her up straight away and demanding she take that shit down!
3. DANGERS ON THE WEB:
Every time you post about your child online, their life’s online profile grows and you are literally giving away information that could help somebody to steal your child’s identity, be vulnerable to imposter scams, stalking or digital and virtual kidnapping. All they need to get started is your child’s photos and some personal information, which seem readily available on the internet.
(Keep in mind that your baby-photographer may post on their page too, meaning that you have definetely lost all privacy and control of your daughters image and information she has shared).
There have been numerous examples of this in recent years, including a 2015 incident in which a stranger took a photo of an 18-month-old boy from a mommy blogger’s Facebook page and posted it on her own Facebook profile, acting like he was her son. When someone is impersonating you or your child, you can lose control over your child’s identity and they can drag their reputation through the mud with anything false they say or do on their posts. (It’s more alarming when they are older).
Stealing your child’s identity:
So where do you draw the line with what to post? Here is a checklist guide to be careful giving away too much information.
- Full names: By using a pet name, rather than your child’s real name, you have afforded them some protection against those companies or individuals who might be interested in your child’s personal data; even if your privacy settings let you down, a search for your child’s real name would not bring up any of your posts – at least for now.
- Date of birth & Place of birth: Birth announcement photos at the hospital (and of course birthday photos and birthday announcements) can reveal 2 huge security information about your child in order to steal their identity.
- Uploading pictures full of identifying features: school uniforms, sports teams, school awards, street names in backgrounds, etc.
- Phone numbers: Self-explanatory.
Stalkers/Physical Kidnapping: Your posts might attract dangerous people. Don’t post any information that could provide anyone with a convincing-sounding connection to your child in the park for physical kidnapping.
- Names: Don’t tag captions with the real names of pets and soft toys, your children (or nicknames). If they know your kid’s name and know some personal information about your child (e.g. mom’s name), your child is likely to trust them and go with them. Use a pet name instead of your child’s real name. When people Google or scan social media no images will come up.
- (CURRENT) Location: It’s easy to forget that social media posts can also provide little indicators that can help people identify where you currently are, where a child lives, plays, and goes to school. Posts with information like location tags and landmarks give strangers as well as known aggressors the ability to locate a child and other family members. Don’t tag any photographs with a (current) geographical location (e.g from a holiday or local cafe) can give away your location right now. (It also tells robbers when you are not home). Post them AFTER you have left!
- Friend Requests: Be careful accepting random friend requests from people you don’t know as they could potentially be online scammers to collect data about users. It might even be worth doing a clean up of your friends that you don’t know or have never interacted with. Ask friends and family to refrain from posting photos or videos of your child.
- Privacy Settings: Have your privacy settings on Facebook. You can post photos to only those you want to see by putting those family members in an album and posting to them. 50 percent of our social media friends, according to one study are colleagues, friends-of-friends and ‘people we just like the look of’. (Instagram becomes more tricky as it does not have this feature).
- Get off social media: Of course, I still keep my family up to date with photos and videos of my immediate family. If I don’t send out them, they would miss out on special moments. I love to use WhatsApp (which can be connected through an app or viewed on your computer). invitation-only photo-sharing platform so that friends and family, including those far away, could see the photos.
Do you have your own guidelines for posting about your children on social media? We’re interested to learn how your family handles this delicate situation. Please reply below in the comments or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
DONT FORGET TO FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM WHERE I POST ALL MY TODDLER’s ACTIVITIES AND INSPIRATION.
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