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. How many of us have innocently posted a picture of our children on social media and not thought anymore about it?
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.
Digital footprints last a lifetime.
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.
Children deserve privacy.
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?
What are the consequences?
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!
Do we need our child’s permission first?
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
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.