| Social media

Parents overshare too: Should you post your children’s photos?

| 25 Sep 2023

Most parents are used to setting up boundaries for their children and taking care of their physical as well as mental safety. We tell our children not to talk to strangers, not to touch a hot stove, not to send their passwords to their friends. At the same time, we may occasionally forget that our own behavior can affect our children’s safety as well. For instance, when we post their pictures online.

Each of us may sometimes get swept up by the fantasy of presenting our perfect, happy life on the internet – and our children are a big part of that. Just remember the joy you felt on their first Christmas Day or the first day of school. It is only natural that we want to capture these happy moments and share them with those we love. The internet and social media may be great libraries for storing our joyful memories. However, this may not be the best approach when it comes to our children.

The act of sharing pictures or other posts related to your children on social media has become known as “sharenting”.

Considering that social media platforms have a policy of only allowing people over the age of 13 to use their services, you should think twice before posting your child online. Many of us have decided to use social media, but your child may not have made the same choice. The safety and well-being of children should be parents´ highest priority, and their digital safety should not lag behind.

At present, it is believed that children born today will have the biggest digital footprint in history, as there are often being documented and posted by their parents from a very young age. While all this content may be posted by loving parents who just hope to share their excitement, there are risks associated with putting your child on the internet.

Why should you refrain from posting your child’s pictures online? Here are 6 reasons. 

1. Your pictures may be accessed not only by your followers
Even if you have your profile set to private mode, there is always a chance that your posts may be seen by more people than just your followers and online friends. As a result, it is essential for you to think carefully about what you post. A good rule of thumb is, if there is the slightest doubt in your mind about a photo, it’s better not to post it. Before posting a photo, you can also try to reverse the roles: would you feel ashamed if it was you in the picture and your parents would show it to their friends? If the answer is yes, better keep the photo private. It goes without saying that you should refrain from posting explicit pictures of your child. Even an innocent photo of a child running around the garden nude may potentially end up in ill-intentioned hands, or could be later viewed as humiliating.

2. Once online, you no longer have full control over your photo 
Anytime you post a picture on any social platform, that image is no longer exclusively yours. The terms and conditions of these platforms often state that the moment an image is uploaded onto their server, they are free to use it without the user’s consent. While you retain the copyright to the image, the platform whose servers host the image owns the license. In other words, the social platform is allowed to use your picture in any way they see fit. In addition, your followers can also take a screenshot of your post and use it as they wish, for instance to create a mocking meme without your consent. As a result, some of your posts may remain on the internet – even if you decide to delete them from your profile. 

3. You may be revealing too much data without even knowing it
Sometimes when thinking you’re only sharing a happy moment, you may be accidentally disclosing more information than you originally intended. For instance, ultrasound pictures may include sensitive information about your future child, your child’s drawing from school might also capture their school’s name etc. All this information should ideally remain private, as once online, it can be potentially accessed by malicious actors, such as cybercriminals or online predators. Overall, whenever you feel the urge to post a picture, make sure that the background doesn’t also capture something you’d rather keep for yourself. 

Did you know that children can also become victims of identity fraud? Read more

4. Behind each post, there is metadata
While some social medial platforms strip your images of metadata, some don’t. This means that you may be unknowingly uploading not only a photo to your profile, but also other information, such as your location, type of device used to take the picture and so on. As a result, digital perpetrators may make use of this information and potentially even find out where your child goes to school, where they live, or what extracurricular activities they attend. 

5. Posting without permission can be inconsiderate – or even illegal
Seeking your children’s permission to post any of their pictures can make them conscious of the fact that there are choices to make and consequences that come with being online. If you want to post a picture of your child with a friend, you should ask their permission too, or that of their parents or legal guardians. Posting someone’s picture without consent may even be illegal in some countries. In France, for example, if you post a picture of your child online and they later object, you might face a fine of 45,000 EUR, or jail. Similar laws are also in place in Italy or Spain.

6. You wouldn’t want to reinforce risky habits
It is always good to remind yourself that you want to be a good role-model for your child. Oversharing or relying solely on social media as a form of sharing may reinforce unhealthy habits in your children and create a false idea that posting everything online is harmless. Imagine what it would feel like if the roles were reversed and your child shared moments from your own private life on their profile. Make sure to teach your children to use social media responsibly and share their emotions and opinions safely – online and offline. Talk to them about the dangers but show them the fun part of it as well. 

However, the most important rule is to communicate openly with your children. From a young age, teach them the importance of privacy and what it means to be present online. Be sure to create a safe space, where they feel accepted and free to talk to you about anything and everything that might bother them online and offline.

If your child uses social media, make sure they stay safe with ESET Parental Control, which helps you keep your child secure online. After all, taking your own, and your child’s, safety and digital security seriously and responsibly is the best choice you can make. 

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