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Posting about your child on social media may be beneficial

Posted May 29

Parents showing off their children via social media can have its pros and cons. In a Wall Street Journal piece examining the practice, a supporter says social media sharing can be a tool in building an online support community, while detractors warn of the safety risk a lack of privacy can pose to children.

"Raising children is a more isolated endeavor than ever before," wrote Lauren Apfel in the WSJ. "I live, for example, thousands of miles from my family. In this atmosphere of modern parenthood, we all struggle to make it through the day, and the Internet has become an incredible source of support."

It is crucial to avoid sharing photos that are tasteless or may be embarrassing to your children, said Apfel, executive editor of Motherwell magazine.

"I don’t actively avoid unintended negative consequences, because I don’t fear them per se and certainly not enough to stop posting," Apfel wrote. "If problematic unintended consequences did arise because of a photograph I posted, I would deal with them on an ad hoc basis."

Parents should examine their motives in sharing their experiences with their children on social media. According to Market Watch, a Vital Smarts survey said that "80 percent of adults say they’ve seen parents put their attempts to get the perfect photo ahead of their child’s enjoyment of an event."

One mother of a 3-year-old told Vital Smarts researchers, “I disciplined my son and he threw a tantrum that I thought was so funny that I disciplined him again just so I could video it. After uploading it on Instagram I thought, ‘What did I just do?’"

Parents can reveal their competitive natures by frequently boasting and oversharing their children's accomplishments, Mackenzie Dawson wrote in Parents Magazine. "There are parents who seem suspiciously like they're trying to boost their own image," Dawson said.

A child's privacy is crucial to maintaining their safety, which should be paramount for all parents, experts said.

“Anything posted online means others have access to it and the material is no longer private,” Alastair MacGibbon, a children’s eSafety commissioner, told the Daily Telegraph. “When you post an image online, it’s very easy for someone to copy the photo, tag it, save it, or use it — and you may never know."

MacGibbon noted posts can reveal vital information about your child, including your child's school, age and where they live.

She advised parents to change their privacy settings to limit their audience to only close friends or family and to turn off location settings.

Consent is rarely offered to children who are the subject of photos or videos being posted on social media, Morgan G. Ames wrote in the Wall Street Journal, explaining the cons of parents posting about their children on social media.

"They may not understand how that embarrassingly cute photo of them that parents adore might come back to haunt them years later when bullies or future employers or bitter ex-lovers unearth it," Ames said.

Allowing your children to create most of their online identities themselves is necessary to encourage their independence while maintaining a trusting and healthy relationship, Ames noted.

Megan McNulty is an intern for the Deseret News National Edition. Contact her at mmcnulty@deseretnews.com

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