Are parents harming kids by posting pics online?

Tiger and pumpkin Halloween kid pic
The first Halloween for my kids together.

What do you think the long term outcome will be for parents posting every moment of their kids’ lives on social media?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I was guilty of this myself.

Do you remember when once a year relatives or close friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house watching old slides of your parents?

For decades parents have loved to photograph their kids. That’s because our kids are the most gorgeous and special human beings on the planet. Even Lucy took lots of photos of Little Ricky. There’s an episode about that.

I took tons of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got cameras. I was guilty of taking photos whenever I could. And posting them on Facebook. Now, I don’t take as many photos of my kids, because when we’re together, I just want to be with them in the moment. And I’m not as active on Facebook, either.

I wrote the following post six years ago wondering what would happen when parents post photos of their kids all the time. Well, six years later, we’ve seen plenty of negative things. Some positive, too. Did we have “influencers” six years ago? When you read the excerpts of the articles I included, please remember they are dated. But they were already seeing issues.

Post from October 2015:

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.
First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

Thank goodness we didn’t have Facebook when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem and I could send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop that made double prints. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the end result of my old fashioned film and camera. A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

Stacks of photo albums in a closet
A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.
Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB. I’m learning Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think moms should post photos of their kids all the time on social media? Do you think that has an effect on the children’s social media habits?

When does posting our kids’ pics online cross the line?

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The day we dropped my son off at his college. Yes, I posted this on Facebook.

Parents are a strange lot. In a recent survey, a majority of parents worry that their children may be victims of pedophilia, stalking, kidnapping and cyberbullying—yet they post their kids’ pictures online at least once a day. According to an article in Michigan’s Morning Sun called “Survey: Parents ignore concerns of sharing images of children online,” more than 58 percent of parents don’t consider if their children want their images posted online in the first place.

Since I joined Facebook at least 10 years ago, I’ve posted plenty of pictures of my kids. Like their first days of school, graduation, proms, swim meets, vacations, etc. I never once was concerned with what my kids thought of my FB posts. Isn’t that funny considering how I HATE IT when a friend posts a picture of me? So, why on earth did I think it was okay to post pics of my kids willy-nilly?

I spent the weekend with my daughter and told her about my idea for her first day of work. I wrote about that here. She laughed but said absolutely “NO” on posting a picture of her leaving on her first day of work. However, she was more open to a photo of her pupper Waffles on her first day of adulting. At that moment, a flash went through my brain. My kids are now adults. They are autonomous, no longer under my control, or mine to post pics of them whenever I fancy. Shouldn’t they have had some say so all along? My son and daughter have never been shy about telling me to take down a photo or complaining about my posts. I just never listened carefully before.

From the article I mentioned, McAfee surveyed parents about their kid pic posting habits:

Nearly half of parents are concerned about pedophilia, and yet almost a third of parents surveyed said in a recent poll that they post a video or picture of their child at least once a day on social media.

Cybersecurity company McAfee recently announced results of its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent). But 58 percent don’t consider whether their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, these concerns doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images.

For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

I think the survey has some good ideas for us parents to think about—before we post. Also, take into consideration what our kids would like us to do with THEIR images. I remember my daughter’s freshman year of college. Her so-called friends stalked my FB page and downloaded embarrassing pictures of my daughter—Snap Chatting and Instagramming them. I feel bad about how I unknowingly contributed to online bullying. It was all in good fun and I’m sure and not meant to be bullying—but what would you call it when friends post pre-pubescent “ugly” photos of you—without your permission?

Here are four tips for parents sharing children’s photos online from the Morning Sun article:

Parental Tips for Safe Sharing

Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.

Lock down privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.

Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.

Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use. An identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection can help consumers proactively protect their identity and keep their personal information secured from misuse.

 

Maybe I’ll stick to posting pictures of Waffles and Olive from now on. I don’t think the dog and cat will mind too much.

What do you think about your children’s safety or their opinions when you post their pictures online?