Sharenting: How to Wisely Share Your Kids’ Pics on Social Media

Your little one just lost their first tooth! The toothless grin is too adorable not to share on Facebook. A few clicks and now grandma, the mommies in your playgroup, and a few hundred other “friends” can see the precious smile.

If sharing your kiddo’s milestones on social media is your favorite pastime, chances are, you are a “sharent.” Sharenting describes parents who post pictures, videos, tweets, and blog updates of their kids’ lives to social network sites. If you’re one of those parents, you’re in a popular club. According to a University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers discuss their children’s lives on social media.

So what are we chatting about? According to the poll, getting kids to sleep, nutrition/eating, discipline, daycare/preschool, and behavior problems top the list. Let’s face it, being a new parent is exciting, but it’s also nerve-racking and lonely at times. We feel validated when other parents chime in on sleepless nights and childcare woes. The positive comments, likes, and favored tweets further assure us we’re not alone. In a sense, we are creating a community of support (instantaneously) without having to step outside our door. But is our sharenting posing safety concerns?

It’s Out There

It’s become second nature for us to snap a pic and immediately post. It’s fun and fulfilling to share our joy with the people we love and care about. But who else is reading and watching out there?

Just recently, innocent videos of children exercising, spending time at the beach, or just being kids have been targeted by predators, who have been leaving sexual content in the comments and even asking for direct contact.

Every time you hit the send button, you’re essentially creating a digital footprint of your child’s life – a permanent trail of any interactions you’ve had online, with your phone, digital cameras, YouTube, and so on… While that doesn’t mean you should stop posting pictures or join in on a discussion about potty training, you may want to pause and prepare before you share. Think about the long term implications, as well as your child’s safety.

Prepare Before You Share

Think online safety and you’re most likely imagining the worst. But there are a number of other cybercrimes that, as a sharent, you could easily fall prey to. The strangest involves strangers hijacking online images of children for baby role playing. Digital kidnapping is nothing new. But the newest trend has tween and teen girls, stealing baby photos to create elaborate, fictitious profiles in Baby Role Play on Instagram. There are thousands of stolen baby pics on almost any social media outlet where young girls can exchange and show off “their baby” profiles.

In addition, YouTube just released a statement saying that it has removed more than 150,000 videos featuring children that had been targeted by pedophiles. Your innocent videos may not be viewed they way you've intended. Rather than taking on the stress of trying to keep abreast of the various trends in cybercrime, use common sense to protect your family. Consider these tips before you share:

  • Utilize privacy settings so you can choose who sees the post and update location settings on a regular basis.
  • Share info with real friends only.
  • Turn off instant sharing from your apps and your camera that track your activity.
  • Check for identifying features like mailbox numbers, school or park name and notable landmarks before you post. People can use this information to seek out and contact your kids if they see them routinely at a certain park, favorite place to eat or even practicing soccer.
  • Consider using a blog that offers greater privacy.
  • Download Snapchat. It’s an app for photo and short video sharing. Snap a pic, add a caption and send it to whomever you choose on your list. The pic disappears in 10 seconds or less. You can also create short videos. The only way a picture is captured is if one of your friends takes a screenshot. However, you are notified of that action and if you don’t want your friends to share or save the image, advise them of your wishes.

Don’t Be THAT Parent

Now that you’re armed with how to sharent safely, think about how to share without embarrassing your children! You know that’s going to be their number one concern (far above safety!). And let’s face it, while they are your kids, and you feel pride at every little thing they do – hence the uncontrollable sharenting – you do need to let them develop their own identity in this world.

So while that picture of your little one as a naked, sleeping baby embodies all that they are to you, it just might not be who they want to be seen by their peers. And even though you may not use your child’s actual name as the blog heading or on your Facebook page, those naked baby pictures that were so adorable when they were 9 months old, but horrifying now, will be found.

So think about whether a picture you post now can prove to be embarrassing later – or even be used to bully your child. Remember: Not everything is news – a rash, diaper contents, a snotty nose is TMI. Also be respectful of other parents’ views on privacy. Taking group pictures and posting them without permission may get you uninvited from the next birthday party.

Do you share your kids’ photos on social media? What are some steps you take in order to protect their privacy? Share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments below!

Tags : relationships   safety   social media   

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