Gone are the days of capturing your memories on film and putting those photographs into baby albums.
Social media has become part of our everyday lives. But what about when it comes to posting about your children?
Parents can now post those birthdays, trips, achievements and embarrassing moments on social media instantly and without a second thought.
“I sometimes call Facebook the modern day baby book,” said Stacey Steinberg.
Steinberg is a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. She is also the supervising attorney for the Gator TeamChild Juvenile Law Clinic and serves as an associate director for the Center on Children and Families.
As a parent, and a photographer, Steinberg has researched and written articles on the new cultural norm.
“I was always curious about how children’s rights issues might overlap with the things that I was doing as a mom and a photographer. I had shared pictures online and I was curious whether kids had a right to control their digital footprint,” Steinberg said. “There’s just not a lot of guidance out there for parents. And so my goal is certainly not to silence parents voices, because there’s so much good that comes out of sharing online, but instead to encourage parents to gather information so that they can make the smartest sharing decisions on behalf of family.”
Some sharing online can be harmless.
“I do it just so family can keep up with looking at them and stuff because they don’t get to come here often,” said parent Stephanie Thompson.
But others can share too much.
“I saw a couple of my friends posting pictures of their kids sitting on the toilet for example,” said parent Inara Alimova.
“It’s different than when we just share with our close family and friends. We sometimes have very large news feeds and we should think about who might be on that newsfeed, who might want to hurt their child or harm their child,” said Steinberg.
A child’s social media footprint can start before they are even born, with baby announcements and ultrasound photos. A study from Internet Security Firm AVG found that by the age of two, 92% of toddlers have their own digital identity.
“Because we’re the first generation of parents experiencing social media, I think that it’s really tempting to think of our interests when we share online. It’s a lot harder to kind of step away from ourselves and think of our kids,” said Steinberg.
Posts can take away a child’s privacy, put them at risk of identity theft and even cause bullying or embarrassment. That’s something Dr. Wendy Rice, with Rice Psychology Group, has seen with clients.
“It was an ongoing struggle with somebody I worked with for years. Finally, the child felt a little bit better about it and would sometimes OK it. But that child didn’t want anybody to see pictures of them. So sharing on social media, which the mom wanted to do, was an ongoing battle with them.”
Right now, California is the only state with an “eraser law” which permits minors to remove or to request removal content or information posted about them on the internet.
Steinberg has come up with some best practices that parents can follow before sharing about their children online.
- Familiarize themselves with the privacy policies of the sites on which they share
- Set up notifications to alert them when their child’s name appears in search engines: may use Google Alerts/Talkwalker Alerts
- Share anonymously when sharing about their children’s behavioral problems
- Use caution before sharing their child’s actual location or full name
- Give their older children “veto power” for online disclosures
- Not post pictures that show their child in any state of undress
- Consider the effect sharing can have on their child’s current and future sense of self and well-being.