I was recently asked to complete a survey about children (say, under 13) and blogging and I’ve also had a conversation this week about people posting photos of their children online behind limited or no privacy settings.
Is this post a hysterical reaction – or common sense? Here are three questions for us to consider when we are sharing our children – or “oversharenting” – with the world:
1. Our children have not chosen to be online
This one is pretty obvious. Little humans they may be (and gosh, they can be annoying at times), but they still have rights and the appropriate advice is that anyone who has content online should have given informed consent. Even schools have to cover themselves, with various permission forms, before they post images of students online. Should parents consider similar issues? Even if our children enjoy seeing themselves online, it is debatable whether they can comprehend potential ramifications of a growing digital footprint or what it means to see themselves on the web.
2. We cannot always control the information we post
Yes, we can choose our settings and our controls. We can tick the boxes and run checks. But once the photo is in the cloud, it’s there, somewhere in the ether, forever. How large a digital footprint do we want to create for our children without that ‘informed consent’? How might they feel years later to have photos, notes, information, stories etc shared about them in public from when they were small?
3. We want to model effective cybersafe practice
Is it too much to suggest that an identified child on the net is the same as a child wearing a t-shirt bearing their name, address etc, wandering around in a big city? We do not know who sees our images or our children’s images, who stores our information, or how easily we can be found. So, we probably don’t want our children to have their name, address, location or school linked to their image even if we have decided to post their photos up there. This is not about ‘weirdos’ wandering around – this is about the longevity of data in the public domain and the ease of access to people we know.
Yet, here’s the rub.
We live in an online world, and we share our lives with our loved ones via the web as naturally as we used to send them copies of the school photos in the mail. We understand the power of collaborative learning that is enabled by web tools and games. We are a highly mobile lot, who rarely live close to our folks anymore. What about Grandma in the UK who never sees her grandchildren? Or the ante-natal group of mums who bond online, sharing news, views and shots of their bubs doing mad stuff, to keep themselves sane?
I would be recommending the obvious: if images of your children must be posted online, ensure you have the tightest security settings you can, don’t refer to them by name and give all that personal information a second thought.
Perhaps we should allow our children to define their own digital shadow when they are old enough. Then at least, when we are lecturing – sorry, supporting – them about cybersafety, we can say we tried to set an example back in the day…;-)
- Should parents post photos of their kids on Facebook?
- ‘Batdad’ and other parents: To post or not to post?
For more information…
- Cyberbullying advice for parents and schools [NetSafe]
- Keeping safe: Parents and caregivers [NetSafe]
- Protect your children [Australian Govt]
- Child safety online: A guide for parents [The Guardian]
[Image source: WoodcraftPlans.com]