Would You Trade Your Child's Privacy For A Few Likes?

Respecting kids' rights to future privacy is paramount.

My kids were lucky they were raised before social media was in vogue.

My wife and I were prolific snappers, posters and sharers of our children’s photos. We snapped photos of cute bouncy babies, naked toddlers baths, nervous new primary schoolers and attitude-filled teenagers.

The best pics were posted in family photo albums, which went into a cupboard never to see the light of day again. Favourites were framed, or shared with proud grandparents so they could claim boasting rights with friends.

That was the extent of photo sharing back in the day. Then the mobile phone became a versatile digital device and the social landscape change forever.

Now parents have the capacity to share their children’s photos with friends the world over in the time it takes to say, “Look at me.” In doing so they are making their children’s images available for future recruiters, partners and work colleagues to eyeball, as well as open for unsavoury characters to peruse for potentially sinister purposes.

There’s no doubt the basic parenting task of raising kids to be safe, savvy and smart now extends to the online world. My advice is to keep standards high, advocate caution and start the online socialisation process when at a young age.

Your kids don't need to be Insta-famous, they need to be safe. Image: Getty Images.
Modelling Online Behaviour

As a parent, be circumspect about the types of photos you post online. It’s not my preference to post pictures showing young children’s faces online. I won’t do it, and I won’t ask their parents for permission either. Photos of backs of heads are as far as I go and I resist the temptation to tag their names as well. Respecting their rights to future privacy is paramount.

Before posting a photo of your kids consider the same filtering question we ask of teenagers before they let a selfie loose on the world: 'Would you be happy for your teacher, future boss or prospective partner to see this?' If there’s any doubt, then don’t post."

The think-before-you-post approach we want from our kids will only work when parents model it.

Seeking Permission

The next step in the socialisation process involves seeking your child’s permission to post their photo online. This should occur at the age your kids start using digital media.

This age will vary -- for some it’s as young as six but for others it’s around 10 or 11, depending on their access and experience of digital technology.

Asking for permission needs to be done in a way that they understand and considers other children’s privacy rights as well.

As a rule of thumb, always seek permission before posting group pictures of children online. Many parents rightfully won’t be impressed if, say, an over-enthusiastic team manager posts a sports photo of their child online without seeking their permission.

Anonymity is the goal when it comes to group photos. Image: Getty Images.

There’s no doubt that kids benefit enormously when they are mentored in social media use by trusted, experienced adults. Show kids how to protect their privacy using the privacy settings. Discuss the pros and cons of using filters and other editing tools. Talk about tagging the location of posts and discuss when and where it may be okay to make their location known. Educate older users about how seeing likes and positive comments might make them feel good but not every post is going to generate a response like that.

Parenting in a Digital World

The digital world may be a relatively new landscape for parents, however, the old parenting techniques still apply. Model the attitudes and behaviours you expect from your kids; set your standards high and actively guide your kids’ social media use.

They might not appreciate this approach right now, but I’ll guarantee they’ll thank you later on.

Michael Grose is an author and educator and the founder of Parenting Ideas - Australia's leading digital provider of parenting education.