Everyone’s kids are brilliant, adorable, hilarious, future Olympic gold medalists and Nobel Prize winners. But that doesn’t mean their parents should be sharing the early indications of their genius willy-nilly on social media, both for reasons of safety and out of respect for their privacy and autonomy.
In fact, parents should consider instituting a family rule that gives kids a “veto” over any content concerning them shared on social media, according to a new study by pediatricians presented last week at the Academy of Pediatrics’ annual national conference in San Francisco.
In the study, titled “What Parents Should Share: Child Privacy in the Age of Social Media and the Pediatrician's Role,” the authors note that 92% of 2-year-olds in the U.S. have some kind of presence online, thanks to their parents or other family members. One-third are on social media within 24 hours of being born.
The authors acknowledge plenty of valid reasons for parents to share about their kids on social media, including getting advice, commiserating about parenting challenges, keeping grandparents and other relatives in the loop, and of course, good old-fashioned showing off.
However, they urge parents to consider the long-term effects of everything they share, and to pay particular attention to who can see this content.
For one thing, photos and personal information (including birth dates) can be stolen or re-shared by social media contacts without their knowledge, and eventually make its way to unsavory characters, including pedophiles or identity thieves.
Even if it doesn’t turn into this nightmare scenario, parents may regret sharing some kinds of content – think bath pictures – if their kids find it embarrassing when they grow up. Worse, it could potentially return to haunt them during the college admissions process, applying for a job, or forming personal relationships.
The study makes a number of recommendations, including always posting anonymously whenever asking for advice (or merely venting) about behavioral or developmental issues. As noted, when children are old enough, they should get “veto power” over any content their parents want to share about them, including photos, quotes, milestones, and so on.
Parents should never share photos of their kids naked or disclose their location online under any circumstances.
Parents who still believe over-sharing about their kids is essentially harmless may be in for a rude awakening.
Last month, I wrote about a court case in Austria, where an 18-year-old has filed a lawsuit against her parents for breach of privacy and data violations for sharing around 500 photos of her on Facebook without her consent, beginning in 2009, including photos of her as a young child in which she is naked, having her diaper changed or potty training.
Earlier this year, the French national police force warned parents to think twice about posting photos of their children on Facebook or other social networks, due in large part, to concern they may be violating their privacy, as well as exposing them to danger from unsavory adults. Among other things, they warned that these photos could contribute to “social or psychological problems that children could face later in life.”Meanwhile in the U.S., a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and University of Michigan found that one of the most common requests from children 10-17 was that parents stop posting photos on social media without their permission.