9 Questions to Ask Before Posting about Your Kid Online
Childhood today is the most documented in human history. It is also the most public – we are obsessed with not only recording every moment of our children’s lives, but also sharing those images and videos with the world.
There can be value to this – shared experiences build community – but a backlash is brewing. While a report that an Austrian teen is suing her parents over their online posts has been proven fake, society is slowly starting to recognize such an eventuality is not far-fetched. France even has privacy laws protecting minors from their parents’ oversharing.
But courts are a resort only after the pain of exposure. And in many countries, there is no legal recourse at all to protect children’s digital privacy. Which makes it doubly important for parents to consider the implications of sharing someone else’s life online. Consider these questions before posting a photo of your child online.
Why are you sharing the post?
Often, we decide to share photos or videos of our kids online in order to share cute moments with faraway relatives and friends. Sometimes, we share photos of or stories about our kids to celebrate them and their achievements. Still other times, it’s because they’re hilarious, or adorable. But seldom are we sharing this information about our children for our children – not for their appreciation, not for their amusement, not for their benefit, and definitely not to ensure their digital privacy.
Who is featured in the post?
If your child is in the photo with another child, it’s not just your own child’s privacy you need to worry about. Check with the other child’s parents to make sure they’re comfortable with their child’s image being shared online.
What does it reveal about your child’s physical self and location?
Naked baby photos aren’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to children’s digital privacy (though they do reveal 100% of a child). The world is moving toward facial recognition technology so advanced it will soon replace passwords. In the future, posting a smiling photo online may well be akin to handing out your netbanking password.
In more immediate scenarios, it could be the background of a photo that reveals too much about your child’s physical situation – street signs, shop signs and school signs can all provide a digital map to your child’s life, which some in the real world can take advantage of.
What does it reveal about your child’s social situation?
We live in an era of online bullying, an era when peers or even strangers, think it is acceptable to embarrass and demean others online. Across the world, parents talk to children about this topic and schools hold seminars on how unacceptable such behaviour is.
Yet, what lessons are we teaching kids about boundaries and respect when we upload photos of bathroom accidents, hysterical crying or goof-ups? No matter how cute or funny these seem to us, it’s likely our children do not find them so. Even innocuous photos of birthday parties may have digital privacy repercussions, as they show not only who was invited, but who wasn’t.
If you want to embarrass your kid, stick with the ephemeral goofy dance in the middle of a store. Let’s not put our children in the position where their experiences are held up to the world, which can so easily use it against them.
Who will see the post?
If you are posting photos, videos or stories online, the answer is: Assume anyone and everyone. The unfortunate truth is that, despite digital privacy settings or other current privacy measures, we really have no control over how the data we post online may get used in the future.
How will your child feel now, in 10, and in 20 years about the post?
You took the photo, yes, and you are the parent: But one day, your child will be an adult with full agency – and they may not like having their childhood shared with people beyond their immediate family and friends.
Indeed, they may face certain repercussions for it, through no action of their own: Business owners are already make hiring decisions based on what they see on social networks.
Is the post (relatively) protected?
If, after the questions above, you still decide to post a photo, video or vignette of your child, ask if you’re protecting them as much as possible. Avoid geotagging, even if it means not geotagging yourself in a photo. Avoid facetagging them or even identifying them by name, which is searchable (consider referring to them by a nickname or initials).
And if you’re sharing photos on a personal blog or photo-sharing site, take measures to make it as difficult as possible for visitors to copy and paste them. (Though note that these measures are not fool proof.)
Did you read the fine print?
As of July 2015, Instagram’s policy retains full rights to all photos users post. In other words, If you post family photos there, you and your child lose all control over what that image is used for in the future. Before you share, make sure you know what rights the platform – whether Facebook (which owns Instagram as well as WhatsApp) or Flickr or YouTube or others – you’re using has retained over your family photos.
Is there an alternative way of sharing this information with a more select group of people?
There are many apps and platforms that purport to protect digital privacy. And they probably do a better job of it than Facebook and Instagram (though definitely check the fine print before using to be sure). And of course, there’s always good old-fashioned email.
But the reality is, as long as these platforms utilize the Internet — which all do, including email and apps — there’s potential for you and your child to lose control of these photos, videos or posts. The reality is that regardless of how you share your child’s information online, no matter how many precautions you take, the nature of the Internet is not on your side.