Hours after he was born, my son's image was all over the internet. Some of the posts were by relatives, while others were by friends wishing to share in our joy. Not one photo out there had my consent to be published.
Photo: U.S. Army/Flickr
I can't say I haven't made my own bad decisions on social media. There was that incident when I posted an image of my son, about a year old, having had some, erm, bathroom issues. Some parents found the picture downright hilarious, but most people were just grossed out.
Those experiences got me thinking. I knew I didn't want anyone sharing pictures of my child that I didn't approve. But it was clear that I didn't always have the best judgment on what to post, either. I love keeping my friends and family in the loop by sharing images, but where is the line?
The degree in which you share your children on social media — whether through photos, videos or stories — is a personal decision. Some parents are completely ok with their toddler becoming the next viral sensation. Others are like me and keep online images of their children to a minimum. Maybe you fall somewhere in between.
Wherever your own line may be, it's important to consider the possible consequences of oversharing. Before clicking "post," remember these guidelines:
Ask Your Kid for Permission
By four years old (if not sooner), children have their own opinions about what they would like others to know and see. Social media is no different. Ask your child if they are comfortable with what you want to share about them before posting.
If your child isn't old enough to talk, consider the "embarrassing throwback" scenario. How would you feel if you were the child, and your parents showed that image to all of their friends? If the thought causes the slightest hesitation, you should probably reconsider your post.
It's also important to make sure those close to you seek approval before sharing images of your children as well.
Consider the Possible Long-Term Consequences
Online record-keeping makes images and videos accessible almost indefinitely. Before each social media share, reflect on how the content will affect your child's image, future career opportunities, and relationships with others. Do not use your child's image in controversial materials or anything that can be seen as divisive. You do not want them to have to live with long-term consequences of your one-time decision.
Consider the Possibility of Misuse
It is really easy for photos to be used for unintended purposes. For example, on Facebook, anyone can download images and save them, even if they aren't friends with the person.
While it's sad to say, if you're in the public eye, you should be extra mindful of sharing photos of your family. Journalist David French saw images of his seven-year-old daughter photoshopped in gas chambers after he opposed Donald Trump.
It's horrifying to think that something as innocent as a child's image can be weaponised, but it's a reality these days.
Don't Share Location Info
Sharing information about where your child attends school or daycare is a commonly known danger. But sharing other location information, like details about your street, surrounding shops or neighbourhood, can make it easy for online predators to track your routine and locate your family, too. That goes for Facebook and Instagram check-ins. If you want to share highlights of your child's life, do so without including all the details.
The most important thing to consider when posting images of your child is safety over their shareability. Think before you share, and do what you can to make sure the content can't negatively affect your child's future.