3 things you should consider before posting about your children online

Social media and the place children have on it is a hot topic at the moment. Amongst much debate, Australia is leading the way in challenging tech giants when it comes to how and when youth can start to build their online presence. However, as parents and caregivers, we also have a part to play in protecting our young loved ones – and it starts with considering what we ourselves post. 

Social media plays a prominent and important role in our society and culture today. However, as the generational impacts of oversharing are starting to be better understood, parents across the world are being implored to pause and think before they post. Sharing seemingly innocent memories and moments can feel like a natural thing to do but it could be the first step in sinister activity that is committed by others and completely outside of your control. 

With several countries drafting legislation around the sharing of children online by adults, it’s only a matter of time before we see similar conversations and actions here in Australia. Until then, we break down the three things parents and caregivers should consider the next time they plan to publish. 

1. Identity theft

After a couple of decades online, we’ve wised up to the fact that parents should not share their child’s school name, school uniform, or immediate location online; however, even the smallest, seemingly irrelevant piece of information shared about a person online could be a piece of a larger puzzle that makes up a clear, accessible picture of their identity. Did you publicly update your surname on your social profiles when you got married? Did you follow the typical birth announcement format of posting their name, date of birth and size? Have you ever sold your home and shared the property listing online? Do you regularly post pictures of your pets and call them by their name? These innocent posts will have now given someone access to you or your partner’s maiden name, as well as your child’s middle name, first street name, and pets’ names – the information often asked for from the likes of banks and phone companies as ‘memorable information’ in order to access accounts. 

Identity theft is a crime that is crippling to its victims. Not only does it cause immediate stress, but it can have lifelong ramifications and often puts the responsibility and onus of proof back on the victim. 

2. Ownership and Autonomy

The first generation of digital natives has now reached adulthood, and, across the globe, there are examples of them speaking out in fury of having established, extensive digital footprints that they had no hand in creating. 

Speaking out at a hearing for new proposed legislation in the US earlier this year, the children of influencers have spoken out about the practice; detailing emotional trauma and risks to their physical safety they’ve experienced as a direct result of their parents detailing their lives online. If passed, this new law will ensure that children are compensated for their work and that they have the ability to request the removal of all materials they are featured in online at the age of 18. Taking things further, France has green-lit the drafting of new legislation that, influencer or not, will preclude people from sharing pictures of children online. Key to this decision is the fact that, on average, a child will have 1300 images of them online before 13 – which is the age they have to be before they’re even allowed to open an account of their own on any of the key social media platforms.

What you may think of as a funny story of childhood or a therapeutic retelling of a parenting experience may cause immeasurable discomfort to your child as they age. Sharing with your inner circle over a group text or a coffee is very different to giving a story or image a lifelong platform with no guarantee of complete removal. It’s easy to think these issues are limited to the children of those who make their living online, but a posting from a regular parent can expose the same level of personal information and embarrassment, which is in no way limited by the number of followers or friends a person has. 

In coming years, we’re expecting more young adults to speak out, and even potentially seek compensation and the payment of damages, as a result of the adults in their lives taking away their autonomy and ownership of their own experiences online. 

3. Misuse of imagery 

Recent analysis shows that, alarmingly, nearly 50% of images of children found on child exploitation sites originally came from social media platforms. A stark reminder that we don’t actually own anything once it’s published online, the majority of these images were snapped and shared innocently with no knowledge that they are now being used for nefarious purposes. 

As AI and the advent of ‘deep fakes’ continue to develop over the next few years, it’s more important than ever for parents to understand the risks of sharing images of children online. If you want to keep sharing tales and snapshots of your family life, ensure that your security settings are set as tightly as possible on every platform and that other adults in your life understand and respect the restrictions you have placed on posting when it comes to your family.