We all want to share our lives with the world. Don’t we all want everyone to love and adore our kids? But, what are the dangers of posting images (and real names) of your children on your blog or social media (also referred to as “sharenting”)? There is a huge community of mom bloggers out there that can creates a sense of safety (everyone is doing it, right?), but that is not always the case.
While using your own photography that includes your child(ren) does come with dangers, there are ways to lessen the threat.
Sharing information and pictures about our children is an essential part of mom blogging but is it a safe thing to do? Are we inadvertently putting our children at risk by doing so? Well, here’s what we know:
Sharenting is a word coined for sharing parenting related images and information online.
It’s scary to think that the simple action of posting a picture of your child online could have safety consequences. As parents, all we want to do is protect our kids from harm…but also share their beautiful lives with anyone who will listen.
We are proud. But we are also scared.
“Through sharenting, or online sharing about parenting, parents now shape their children’s digital identity long before these young people open their first email. The disclosures parents make online are sure to follow their children into adulthood. Indeed, social media and blogging have dramatically changed the landscape facing today’s children as they come of age.”Stacey Steinberg (source)
No matter how this article is written, this mama knows how hard it will be for some to stay civil when this topic can trigger a very strong response. The protective mama bear lives in all of us moms. That bear is there for good reason!
Despite the inevitable, verbal protectors that will arrive in the form of comments, the decision to use photos of your kids or not is up to YOU.
What follows are the potential risks, ways to at least minimize the threat to your child, and the benefits for sharing images of your child. The information is shared not to scare, shame or persuade you one way or the other, merely to help you make informed decisions.
i) Identity fraud
While a post containing your kid’s full name, place of birth, pet names and photographs might seem harmless at the moment, that will not be the case now or even 10 or 20 years down the line. Once they are adults, such information could be used in shopping scams and fraudulent loans or, worse yet, to carry out crimes using your child’s information.
TIP: If you are scared about your child’s identity being stolen, check his or her credit report through their social security number.
We all know about the every day bullying that occurs in schools – some of us may have fallen victims ourselves. But, the online world has brought a whole new aspect to embarrassment and intimidation from bullies.
At a time when many kids (who are barely into double digits) have smartphones, bullying is quite rampant on social media and more often than not extends to physical circles. A joke regarding a facial expression or something of the sort can easily turn into a tool of hurt in the hands of peers.
While this may present in the physical world, kids can be bullied digitally through social media in ways that weren’t possible before. Many of us grew up in a world without the internet. But, kids today have the added concern of being embarrassed online that affects their life and social circles.
This is by far the greatest fear of any parent. To let your photos or information fall into the wrong hands with horrible intent. Any photo of your child online can be seen and saved (even by taking a screenshot).
It’s a horrific reality we live in that this has to be a worry.
The world of today is rife with predatory people and sadly sharenting has facilitated the efforts of these criminals. Location-based posts (even the locations in the data of a photo from a smartphone or internet connected camera) can reveal where you can be found: consequently making your children easy targets for those with terrible motives.
Moreover, kid photos shared on social media can easily wind up on the “dark web”- the virtual underground which makes up 99% of the internet infamous for trafficking, prostitution and everything…bad.
iv) Infringement on a right to privacy
Your son or daughter is probably too young to understand what’s going on and revealing aspects of their life at such an age is completely in the hands of their trusted parents. But, you might just be infringing on their right to privacy.
TIP: If you choose to share images of your child, before posting an image online ask yourself if your child will mind seeing (or reading about) a particular moment in their life when they are older.
Now that we’ve taken a look at one side of the coin let’s take a look at the other. Here are some benefits of sharenting for your mom blog:
A picture is worth a thousand words, especially in a world that thrives in a digital world full of images and videos. Adding images to your blog feels more like a friend having a nice chat with a friend. Plain blocks of text with reference to unseen parties tend to create distant writing that feels somewhat robotic and unappealing.
ii) It makes content relatable
The essence of a mom blog is that it ought to be as relatable as possible and sharenting does that excellently. The person on the other side of the screen should be able to look on and say, “Hey, I am struggling with that too!”. Sharenting your bad and good moments lets others know no one is perfect.
iii) You’ll be helping other moms overcome their problems
Aside from relating to it, providing information on how you got past common parenting difficulties (such as overcoming tantrums or finding a great busy craft for your child who won’t sit still) can help other moms in similar challenges.
Conversely, more experienced parents could also help you circumvent your own problems. It certainly takes a village to raise a child and that village is best typified by sharenting.
iv) Images aid your SEO cause
Well-optimized images will endear you to Google and other search engine algorithms thereby boosting your SEO rankings and by extension the traffic to your website.
However, you can easily use stock photos to aid in SEO rather than a personal image.
We all know the power of a photo, especially when it’s illustrating a point or helping a “how to” guide. Pictures and videos are nearly a requirement in this new, visual world.
If you choose to share images of your child online, keep in mind the following tips for proper and safe sharenting:
i) Privacy is vital
While it seems like one that goes without saying it still has to be said nonetheless – personal information should stay that way: personal.
This includes addresses, the school your kid attends, date of birth (yeah that’s a hard one but at least update your privacy settings in your personal account before sharing this and if you have a Facebook Page for your blog, refrain from sharing the actual date), house number (even in the background of a photo) and other such details should be kept private.
ii) No airing of dirty linen in public
This is meant quite literally. Whatever happens in the bathroom, ought to go no further than there.
Naked or semi-naked pictures taken during baths or potty training should be for your eyes only.
iii) No embarrassing stuff either
Embarrassing not only means naked but also spans a number of things such as goofy costumes, shaming and punishment posts, and reprimanding poor performance in school or anything else that could potentially fan the flames of ridicule.
Again, look at your photo and ask yourself if it could embarrass your child later in life. Even though you can delete the photos or remove your blog from the web, once something is on the internet, there’s no guarantee it’s completely gone.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t share your life, merely to be aware of the longevity of the information or imagery.
iv) Keep private settings private
Facebook (and other social media platforms) gives you the power to control who sees your pictures and posts. Ensure these settings are exclusive to your friends or family only and basically people you know and who are genuinely interested in your life.
If you have a Facebook Page for your blog, you are much less likely to have privacy settings that will apply to filtering imagery out of feeds. So be conscious of what you share even if you have your personal account settings updated for your privacy.
v) Check terms and conditions
When you share an image on social media, many times the social media platform has full rites to your photos to use as they please.
Here is an example: A while back British citizen Zoe Holland entered a competition to find the country’s untidiest bedroom with her daughter. She won the contest. Pictures of her daughter’s messy room were splashed all over the local paper’s front page the next day. She hadn’t read the terms & conditions of the site, and her young daughters (ages 10 and 12 at the time) could be open to ridicule from friends. All from a single photo shared. (source)
vii) Keep in mind long-term implications
Remember, the internet is always watching so tread carefully. Stay clear of content that could adversely affect your child’s future, which could include career opportunities, friendships, school life and even relationships.
viii) Use fake names
To ward off phishers (people who attempt to collect sensitive information) and other dangers, give your children fake names or nicknames in your blog. The use of names goes a long way in bolstering your connection with the reader. But, you can create those bonds without using your child’s real name.
Social Identity: Today And Tomorrow
Whatever you share about your child (even if it’s not images) will be on the internet. Anybody and everybody can find your blog or social shares.
Even if you eventually delete every image and every mention of your child from your blog, there is no guarantee that it’s gone forever.
Maybe your child was just born or maybe your child is in high school. Whatever the age, what you share about them is now out in the public.
What seems harmless to share now (like maybe your child had a hard time potty training) could have ramifications in the future when your child is older. They may have a reaction (good or bad) to what was written or shared about him or her.
How To Protect Your Kids
Whatever your decision, there are some ways you can help protect your child(ren) stay safe:
- Ensure that your child is never in any state of undress
- Never share a photo or information that could lead to your location*. This can include photos from a baseball game that can give away the team or your child’s jersey number.
- Think about using a fake name or nickname rather than your child’s real name.
- Many suggest that you don’t share your child’s birthday on social media or on your blog.
- If you take images with newer cameras or devices, your location may be tagged in the photo’s data. Turn off the location settings in your devices.
*Due to Federal regulations, any email marketing you send to your subscribers must include a physical address. Think about getting a PO Box or digital mailbox to further protect you and your family.
Back to the question of the day, is sharenting dangerous and should you avoid it completely? The answers are yes and no, but ultimately the final decision rests with you.
As a mom blogger, content centered on your children will largely form the bulk of your topics. However, take a moment before posting on your blog or on social media to think over what you just read.
Share-ability should never supersede safety, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share your life with (or without) images of your child.
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