Does your child know they are on Social Media?

More than 80% of 2 year old children have an online presence 
This figure is shocking isn’t it? I was shocked but not surprised to be honest.

This is going to be a controversial post and I am writing it fully aware that many readers out there will disagree with me. I do not want to offend people but I’m offering my views to the world. Take them or leave them. Debate with me. Let’s discuss….

I see myself as lucky. I have 2 brilliant children who are growing up to be brilliant adults. I also see myself as lucky as my children were born before social media really took off. I did not take millions of photos on my phone when they were babies and toddlers as I couldn’t. I took photos on a camera every now and then to document how they had changed or when we were on holiday. I enjoyed seeing them grow and change and I cherish these photos now as I can look back and smile at what they did and how they were. I sometimes wish I had taken more photos but do I wish I’d shared more on Social media? No I don’t and here’s why.

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Does your child know they are on Social Media?

As you share that cute picture of your little one covered in chocolate from their first pudding, think this…..who will see this image? Why am I posting this image? Can this image be shared? and most importantly, will my child want this image to be shared? In a modern world shaped by our online presence, will your child welcome this image online forever? That’s the real question isn’t it? Will my adult child want this image of themselves online forever? Because we all know that online posts create a digital footprint that can last beyond a lifetime.

As our children grow, they are brought up in a household with a set of values and beliefs that shape that family. It may be as simple as the children wearing a particular football shirt or it may be about religious/political beliefs. A child has no say in this but as he or she grows up, those values are embedded within them and are carried forward into adulthood. Those values, together with other cultural and social experiences, become part of the mindset of that adult. As adults, we expect to be able to raise our children in the way we see fit. I agree with this entirely however I believe that by putting images of children online for all the world to see, we are taking away their ability to grow and change in private. A 6-year-old child may want their image online of them in a Christmas jumper because they relish the attention they get from it. Ask that same child at 13 and I can guarantee that they wouldn’t want to be on one of those laugh, click-through sites in their Christmas jumper! By creating an online presence for your child have you not crossed the line from being a responsible parent to invading your child’s right to privacy?

This is a subject where the consequences are unknown as those first children who had their entire childhood documented online are not quite adults. Yet, this is happening now and as an Early Years educator I have noticed a real difference in parents today when compared with parents only 5-10 years ago. Many, many parents stop their child and document everything. And I mean, everything. Their child’s first day at school, that dress up day photo to show Grandma, ‘smile…oh look you have lost your first tooth!’ I see parents taking photos of their children and children posing with their hands on their hips saying,  -‘is this cute?’ I hear children talking about putting that on Facebook at aged 6. It’s a little crazy. It’s almost as if the fun of the event is overshadowed by the chance to get the perfect shot to put on Instagram. Lets play perfect life when in fact, you’re missing that part of your life by trying to record it!

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Does your child know they are on Social Media?

I understand why people post pictures of their children online. I have done this too. In fact, I did this when my children were younger without thinking too much about it but now, I rarely share their images as they would prefer that I didn’t. There is a reason why there aren’t many photos of me aged 13 with that stupid hair cut! Thank goodness that was never shared online! Perhaps sharing family pictures to your friends and family is the only time to connect, especially with families living far away from each other. I understand that too because that is my situation. But is it right? Should we be asking our children’s permission to post things online? I think from an early age, that is exactly what we should be doing. Or at least asking children how they feel about it. Giving them the choice or perhaps be the adult here and hold back until they are old enough to decide for themselves?

I think when our children are born or when they are tiny, we don’t quite get that they are people. That they are their own self, even from birth. As parents, creating an identity for them online is not our job. It is our job to nurture them and keep them safe. It is our job to help them become responsible, happy and fulfilled adults. Can we be sure that we are doing that when we are not respecting their privacy?

Interestingly the government have been debating this too in a new Data Protection Bill which you can read about
here

I wonder if this new bill will help in protecting a child’s right to online privacy?

If that is the case perhaps you should consider the legalities of posting that photo. It just may land you in court one day when your adult child objects to the photo you innocently shared today. Just a thought.

Perhaps you have never considered this at all. Perhaps you have and still post pictures online because you disagree with me. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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61 thoughts on “Does your child know they are on Social Media?

  • Shout Hallelujah and pass the tambourine that woman! You have one aye vote here in France. I am HUGELY uncomfortable with the culture change on numbers of different levels. First, the issue of choice, second the issue of discomfort as a child develops and matures and third the issue of just who is viewing that picture. In an age when people are more aware and more scared of pedophilia than ever before it seems a dreadful irony that parents of children are quite happy to post on the forevernet pictures of those they most want to protect. My daughters are aged 30, 27, 25 and 22 and I simply didn’t have the equipment to endlessly record every single moment when they were little nor really until the youngest was well into her teens. But this life through a lens thing … I have grave concerns about the effects on the children. I follow a lovely lass called Madeleine Shaw who had her first baby a couple of months ago and she and her partner have taken a decision not to post pictures of him until he is old enough to decide for himself http://madeleineshaw.com/ In stark contrast, one of my eldest daughters had twins about 8 months ago and every single day we are treated on FaceBook and Instagram to pictures of them. I worry. Call me an old dinosaur, feel free world, but I worry. Have grown four daughters my concerns are rooted in the discomfort that these children will feel and the dismorphic way their lives will unfold with every detail recorded. My records are my memories and that’s enough for me. I understand having a globally scattered family but it is possible to share pictures without putting them on Social Media. My mother in fact doesn’t use a computer so my Brothers (one raising children in Western Australia and the other raising his daughter in Thailand) send her photo prints of the children which she frames and has around her in her house – hugely old-fashioned, it seems but so much nicer than the snappit, post it, forget it way. So thank you for this. I support every word you have written. And will now read this proposed legislation with interest. X

    • Thank you Osyth for this fabulous comment. Thank you for taking the time to write how you feel. I really wasn’t/am not sure how other people will react to this. I’m not the only one!! hooray….
      I think that when your children are young you do not appreciate that they are people that will grow up…..you can’t really see that until they have grown…if you know what I mean! I love seeing photos on Facebook of children that perhaps I can’t see as they live far away but am uncomfortable with the constant ‘living life through a lens’…that is what makes me question this issue. xxx

  • You articulate beautifully what I believe. Very brave to be among the first to post such views but the debate is needed x

  • I am really interested in this subject, I’m currently writing my photography dissertation on the rise of instamums and the morality of posting children’s photos on social media. I understand people are proud of their kids and personally don’t feel there’s anything wrong with sharing updates every now and then but there does seem to be a lot of oversharing. Like you it wasn’t around when my kids were young and I love to flick through photo albums every now and then to reminisce but I feel this is being lost to fb and instagram. Then there’s the question of where the photos are going, I posted a link on twitter the other day of a newspaper article talking about how photos on paedophile pages are often those innocently shared by parents of their children on the beach or at gymnastics. I suppose as a mummy/daddy blogger or instagrammer it’s inevitable that your children will feature but it does seem like they are a pawn in their mums/dads success.

    • It is a tricky one indeed ohprettycity. I blog and sometimes blog about parenting but I dont use photos of my my children really. The occasional one but I ask them first. With babies and toddlers you can’t do that…it just makes me a little uncomfortable. What an interesting dissertation! Good luck with it. x

  • You are absolutely 100% right!! I have never posted pictures of my kids and never will. On my personal FB page I don’t even have a picture of myself lol! My kids are older teens and can decide what they post on their own accounts. I refuse to take that choice away from them. I can’t stand the way people now live their lives on social media. How many people have to sit in a restaurant with their food going cold while their dining companion takes/deletes/re-takes a picture of their bloody meal?! How many people spend a family day out taking & posting pictures of themselves and their kids – there’s clearly no enjoyment being had as they’re spending the entire time on their phone! People are so busy recording and posting their life online that they’re not actually getting to enjoy and live it!! My hubby and I sat by the pool on holiday and watched horrified as a teenage girl took selfies – posed, preened, pouted, deleted, re-took trying to get that perfect picture for HALF AN HOUR! Our teenagers were in the pool playing! By constantly posting a picture of every little achievement (star of the day, 10/10 for spellings etc) we are bringing up kids who will need that validation to feel successful – if it’s not been ‘liked’ it can’t be worthwhile. Blimey…this has become a bit of rant…this is the longest comment I’ve ever written, but you’ve really hit the nail on the head! 🙂

    • Do u know? I thought I’d get slatted but I’ve only had positive feedback on this post. It just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I wonder where it’s an age thing? Or perhaps as our children are older we can see the effects of social media on our children? I’m not sure but I really appreciate your comment. X

  • This is certainly food for thought. I abhor how people now live their lives on social media. Maybe I am just being salty, but do I really want to know what you ate for lunch today or how great a time you’re having in some exotic paradise??!!

    Hi! Stopping by from Mom Bloggers Club. Great post and blog, BTW.
    Have a nice day!

  • This is something I think about a lot. I never post photos of my son on twitter and my FB is super private. Insta is the place I share photos of him and I’ve been thinking I might go private soon. It all makes me feel a bit anxious. #mg

  • It’s a different age, when my older children were younger there was no social media and nowhere to share photos. They are older now and really do not like their photos on social media unless, in the case of my eldest daughter, they are professional ones done at conventions. My younger children have been shared since birth. On facebook my privacy is protected although I do realise there are ways around this. I never post anything that would embarrass them and even though they are young I always ask before sharing photos with friends. On my blog I don’t use there real names and they can’t be searched by their real names. When I take blog photos I make them fully aware that’s what the photos are for. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t go ahead without their permission, even at a young age, I think this instils in them a right to know that they are in control of their images and I hope this will stay with them in the future. Everyone has their own opinion on sharing their children’s photos and that’s up to them, as you said, you don’t really know yet what impact this will have in the future, good or bad. I notice you have photos of children in this post. Do you think the children are aware that you are using them, or that their parents have sold their images for anyone to use? Just a thought.

    • You make a good point about the photos I use… I don’t know is the answer sadly. I expect their parents have allowed their image to be shared. They are beautiful images after all. It’s a tricky one definitely and of course everyone should do what they feel is right for their own family. I was just shocked by the statistic for babies. It got me thinking. I’m not totally against sharing images of our families but I’m advocating caution I suppose. And thought. Thanks for commenting. X

  • I’m not a paretn, but I’m often worried for the parents who post photos of their children online. It just seems dangerous to me. We live in an age of oversharing that’s for sure. But each time you share something personal online, but boundary lines get blurred just a little bit more. That’s something to think about. #mg

  • It’s something I have always been concerned about and try to keep images of Mini Me to a minimum. It has got to the point were she now pulls a face when she needs to be on camera, but that is just due to the fact she has to wait even longer to open something! I take lots of images but keep those off social media as there are so many memories that I want to keep just for us as opposed to the whole world xx Sim #PoCoLo

  • This is a really thought provoking post. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t really give huge thought to the effect that social media posts might have on my 2 year old when he’s older. It’s just something that everyone seems to do. Saying that, I don’t post often and I’m really conscious of not wanting to be a parent who has a camera perma-attached to their hand, too busy trying to capture the perfect angle rather than enjoying the moment. But you make some really good points about the importance of giving control to our kids and I’ll definitely be giving this some further thought

    • I’m glad you got something out of this Caroline. I’m just concerned about how our children will feel when they’re grown. Will they want to be online? I’m not sure however it’s up to parents to decide what is best for their children. Good luck. X

  • I totally agree with you. I only share photos where you can’t see my kids’ faces. It can make it quite difficult as a parenting blogger because you can’t rely on cute pictures to sell your posts… but then, should people be using their kids to sell stuff anyway?? I’m not sure that’s very ethical! By using photos that don’t include their face, I am hoping to find some sort of happy medium because none of the photos are obviously them – they could be anybody. I also apply this rule on my personal social media.

    But I know I am guilty of trying to document everything and taking a photo of everything. I work really hard not to let it impact on family life but I know I don’t always get that balance right… #mg

    • I admire you for protecting your children’s privacy Lucy. I noticed you did that. There are a few parenting bloggers who use this approach. Obviously if your job involves reviewing products involving children I can see this being a really tough choice. At least you have thought about it. I’m not sure all parents have.

  • Really one of the best, most thought-provoking articles I’ve read in awhile! I feel very strongly about this issue as well. I am very careful about the photos I share of my kids on Facebook – meaning they are always fully clothed (no bath photos, swimsuit, etc) and appropriate – and I don’t post very often … maybe a few times a year. I also dont’ post photos of my girls on my blog unless it doesn’t show their face. My husband actually didn’t even want me to blog about them because they couldn’t make the decision about whether they wanted to be online or not. I.e., my stories about them will be on the interest forever, and that worried him. It worries me, too, although I keep blogging for the moment.

    I think there must be a healthy balance – post tasteful photos sparingly (and email the rest to your family!) and once they can make their own decisions, let them decide whether or not you can post photos of them. But the age of “instamoms” and constantly photographing everything makes me want to gag. A majority of those photos are forgotten anyway…

  • Your thoughts resonated a lot with me. Like you, I shared pics of my kids when they were younger but am much more conscious since the past few years. I don’t put any of their pictures on my blog either. Like you mentioned, one we don’t have their consent, so it is better to err on the side of caution. Second, I hate it when people go on posting loads of their kids’ pics, aren’t they taking something away from spontaneous moments. I find it annoying when adults keep posting too many selfies of theirs too but that is another topic for discussion.

    • It is certainly a thing to consider isn’t it? Children don’t give their consent but their parents have to make decisions that they feel are right. I just feel there is this culture of over sharing. Thanks for commenting. X

  • I’m of your school of thought. I have NO pictures of my child online and I don’t intend to put them either. Their life is their life to live and it is not up to me to make their social media presence. This is what I firmly believe so I am on your side here. As a parenting blogger, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe it is safer to err on the side of caution. Always.

    Popping over from#TweensTeensBeyond 🙂

    • Hello there Shailaja. Thank you for your comment. It’s a personal choice but I think more people are waking up to the possibility that their children won’t thank them in the long term.
      I tried to comment on your blog but could only via Facebook. Can I comment another way?

  • Yep I agree wholeheartedly. I guess it’s only been the primary years when I posted. It wasn’t as a memory cache rather a sharing when necessary. I have, since my daughter started secondary school, in the main, stopped all reference to her in the blog and on SM. What’s there, is of course there but there is nothing that I am worried about. She doesn’t care at the mo but I do and it stops. What particularly resonates here is the ‘seeing’ a moment with the eye rather than a lens. I prefer the latter. The memory sticks along with the emotion felt. But sometimes the picture is necessary too. But all of those concerts and events when the cameras go in the air, stopping everyone from seeing. Well don’t get me started on that!!! #tweensteensbeyond

  • Like you, my kids were born before social media took off. I havent got a problem with people putting up photos of their kids but I’m glad I didnt have to worry about it. The issue about living in the moment and not through a screen is a huge debate in our house. I put pics on my blog of the kids now, but only after they have said yes to it. I think its the same as anything isnt it? Moderation. This whole crappy of thing of ‘look what perfect lives we have’ when really, you know its just a big fat fake, is quite disturbing. For us, its not just the issue of me putting pics of the kids on social media, its the other way around. I’ve lost count of the times they have taken a freaky photo of me and then run away laughing with their phones saying “Im sharing this!” Me, screaming “you are violating my privacy!”… Hmm great pst my friend, food for thought! xx
    #TweensTeensBeyond

  • It is something I have thought a lot about, and listened to any discussions about it also. When mine were little I was not on social media, and when I did join I didn’t post photos of them. I now do. My main personal Facebook page is private and I don’t even have a profile picture or my name on it so only a few people see my private feed. I decided though that I wasn’t going to let the ugliness in the world affect my ability to share some lovely images of my children, although I am careful which images I share, because like it or not, there are horrible people out there.

    My children do get asked if I can share their photos and some times my 13 year old says no depending on the image. In saying that though they are really too young to make a informed choice. One thing that I do is I use pretend names for them. On the blog they are Aspen, April and Adam, this is not their names. I also write under a pseudonym my real name is not Mackenzie Glanville, my first name I do share in my Bio which is Kylie, but I have never shared my surname. I also never post images of their school, or their uniform, or their sports uniforms or medals. So it would be hard for someone to trace who my child is because both their first name and surname have never been said or written.

    Your post certainly makes me think and that is a good thing, we should question ourselves about this issue. For now I am comfortable with what I share and how I choose to share it. But I will continue to examine this choice over and over I am sure. #mg

    • Well hello Kylie. X thank you for taking time to make such a thoughtful comment. It’s a hard subject; especially as bloggers gets but you sound as if you have thought about this issue quite a bit. I’m the same. I don’t share too much. X

  • great post and I agree, my children have their right to their privacy, i’d hate for them to document every mum strop i had or row with hubby, friend or neighbour or post embarrassing pictures of me online. I ask permission to post pictures and if i want to blog about how something effects me, the kids get copy approval first #tweenteensbeyond

  • I am in a similar position to you Sophie as my girls are older. By the time social media had taken off, they were old enough to express an opinion about sharing things online and the answer is usually ‘no’! This is a huge natural experiment and I can foresee many hundreds of Sociology PhDs centred on this subject. The same goes for the individual. Will they be happy with what they shared as a 12 year old when they are in their mid-forties? I fear that we have released a beast and it will not be possible to put it back in its cage. Society has simply not had time to catch up with the technology. We are told that it is possible to do something. We do it. There is no time for an informed debate about whether it is a good idea in the long run! Only time will tell I guess. As always, a beautifully written and fair analysis of the situation. xx Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Glad you enjoyed it Sharon. I honestly thought my views would be slatted but all comments so far, have been from people who agree with me.
      I suppose it was the same for most generations though; my dad smoked because it was cool and the terrible health consequences were not fully understood. My worry is that unlike smoking, children are not given a choice.I wonder, no I believe that the increase in mental health issues have arrived since social media became so much a part of our lives. I also believe the internet, although has so much positive brings more dissatisfaction in many peoples lives as they compare themselves.
      Sorry… longer than I expected!

  • Oh Sophie what a great post! Not controversial – well not amongst this audience at least – because the overall sentiment seems to be that everyone agrees with you. I made a conscious decision when I started my blog not to share pictures of me or my teens. I do share my name but not my teens’. I don’ t want them to have a high profile online and am quite strict with them that their accounts remain private, they exercise caution with other friends who may be posting pictures of them etc and similarly I respect that. Any shots of them I use do not show their faces. I certainly don’t want to create a profile for them. For me it is about protecting them as well as respecting their privacy. There are some who think my posts waver on the edge of invading their privacy but whilst I do use scenarios from their lives, they are only that and are intended to encourage discussion and debate, which they do. It is difficult. We all have our parameters and they will all be different. As with everything in life. There is no right or wrong answer. in an age where online content is going to continue to grow substantially, maybe we are old fashioned. Maybe we need to embrace the shift and be more open to it? I won’t of course but it’s an interesting perspective. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Thank you Jo! Do you know? I was quite worried about posting this as I don’t have very strong views about many things but do know my own mind and this is important. We just don’t know how little children’s will feel to seeing all these photos and videos of themselves when they are older. I am like you…I post little stories about family life or if I do post photos, I ask the permission of my children. Often, actual most of the time, they say no! That’s fine. This debate is interesting but all that have commented so far agree. Perhaps those that don’t agree, don’t post! Thanks for your comment. X

  • An excellent post. My children are adopted and have never had a photo published online, it’s a relief having had the decision made for me and the children understand this. As a designated safeguarding person i attended a police training on internet safety and some of the information has haunted me since. Some very evil people will take children’s photos off the internet and photoshop them onto photos to disguise the children being abused. The police officer advised not putting photos on line and if we did to ensure that they weren’t easy to use. It’s a horrific thought of what others might be doing with your images.
    I also worry about the likes and comments on all the photos, it’ll be interesting to see how this generation develop into young adults.

    • I do agree. As a teacher we have strict training too and I just couldn’t imagine the things I’ve been told either! It’s a scary world indeed. Having said that I do understand why people photos of their children as I did. I just think we need caution and thought. Thank you so much for commenting. Xx

  • Great post, it’s certainly an interesting debate and well done for writing it, my kids are definitely on social media and I personally don’t see it as a problem but it’s each to their own. Thank you for linking to #ThatFridayLinky Please come back next week

  • I’ve written and debated about this in the past myself. I always tried to be cognizant of the fact that my daughter somewhere down the line may be presented with whatever pictures of her that I am sharing. i didn’t start my blog until she was three and obviously that isn’t an age where she can give consent but she has always enjoyed posing for pics and likes the fact that daddy writes stories about her. The teenager has veto power over anything that I write about her but at this point has never used it. its a hard balance to find #thatfridaylinky

    • Thanks Jeremy. It is a tricky balance. My teens don’t want any photos taken of them so maybe that is why I have written this…. in their eyes it’s their right so it got me thinking. Every parent has to decide what’s right for their family. X

  • I totally agree with you [thumbs up] and I too feel lucky that I didn’t have to make difficult decisions when they were little, as there weren’t even smartphones. It’s a tricky situation for new parents now…

  • Sophie,

    This subject crops up in the blogosphere occasionally — but perhaps not often enough.

    Two dangers to beware of:
    Revealing personal info about your family via metadata on images.
    People who know you IRL revealing personal info about your family via comments on your blogposts.

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