In today’s digital age, it’s not unusual for someone to post a pic of their kid online before they are even born. Think ultrasound image.
But the issues around sharing pictures of our children online has come to a head again. You may have heard about when Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple Martin, called her mother out for posting a picture of them both skiing without her consent.
Paltrow isn’t alone though, 42% of parents share pictures of their little ones online, with half of those posting photos including their children at least once a month. These parents have given rise to the “sharenting” nickname whereby parents share large parts of their children’s lives on social media platforms.
But if you are unsure about whether to document your children’s lives online or not, it’s worth considering the risks.
Risks of Sharing Photos of Your Kids Online
There are several potential causes for concern when sharing a seemingly innocent picture of you with your little ones. Many of which you may not have even thought about.
Let’s start with who you are actually sharing those photos with.
When did you last check the privacy settings on your social media profiles?
It may be that while you are happy to share images of your children with close friends and family, you may be unwittingly sharing them with the rest of the world if you have a public profile on any of the major social media platforms.
Photos Don’t Just Show Faces
In nearly all social media, images are posted with what’s known as “meta-data” which reveals data to viewers of the photo such as location details, time stamps, and other identifying information.
This poses a real risk for vulnerable children who’ve been fostered or adopted, as birth parents could use that information to track them down.
You Could Lose Ownership
When you post a photo of your child on a public Instagram account for example, it could end up anywhere on web. Often these photos show up in Google images and are then downloaded for alternative uses.
For example, this Danish company has received a lot of criticism for using publicly available pictures of children for their range of mugs. Yet they haven’t done anything remotely illegal, these are all publicly-available images with no copyright status found on Flickr.
A Photo’s Perception Can Change
Will your son or daughter be a fan of your photos in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time?
What you think is a funny photo of an apocalyptic diaper incident now, may cause serious mental health issues for your child in the future.
This is especially true given how frequently old photos can go viral many years after you first posted them, causing issues for your child in a school or even a work setting.
So what steps can you take to ensure you’re protecting your child if you do decide that you want to share some photos of your children online?
What Steps Can You Take to Protect Your Child’s Images Online?
First, are you concerned about who may gain access to your photos? Then make sure to make all of your accounts private and heavily vet the individuals you allow to follow you.
With regards to Facebook, check your privacy settings, and adjust them to a level you’re comfortable with.
In your photos, avoid using their names or tagging a location, especially if they are vulnerable for any reason.
If you want to share pictures with friends and family, consider setting up a WhatsApp group to do so.
This particular app has strong end-to-end encryption which prevents any third parties from unscrupulously gaining access. Although once more, you should think carefully about who you do and don’t add to the group.
Finally, think carefully about how a photo will be viewed in the future. You are likely posting these pictures without the consent of your child, so make sure that these photos can’t become an issue for them later down the line.
When they come of an appropriate age, you can even sit down with them. Discuss what is or what isn’t ok to post of them online.
This may be earlier than you might think. Even most 4-year-olds are now well-versed in social media platforms such as YouTube, meaning that conversation needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Think Before You Post
Thankfully, the vast majority of the world’s population do not have any malicious intentions with photos of your children. But by putting them out there, you do invite the possibility of something happening that you’re not comfortable with. Such as their faces appearing in Google images.
Taking simple precautions such as improving privacy can prevent people you don’t know from gaining access to those photos.
It’s also wise to take time to think over which photos you would like to share with the world. As what you share can have a dramatic impact on your children in the years that follow.
What rules and procedures do you have in place for your family photos? Or perhaps you’re not bothered about where your photos end up?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!