Children Also Deserve Privacy
Children under the age of five might not care what you share online, but that quickly changes. From the age of five and onwards, children begin to develop a sense of their own identity. It can be devastating to children when they realize how much of their early lives have been shared online without their consent. Even if they don’t show signs of this upset at age five, they probably won’t thank you when their peers start finding this content in their teen years.
Parents should take extra care with any sensitive content they may post. You find it cute to share your child’s bathtime photo on Facebook, but they’ll be upset and embarrassed about it when they get older. You should also avoid trying to use your child to make a political, social, or religious statement. At a young age, your child has no context to decide if their beliefs match yours. As they get older, they may feel differently about the situation you put them in and resent you for trying to turn them into a tool to spread your own beliefs further.
You Could Attract the Wrong Kind of Attention
Children usually get big numbers on social media sites. Posting a cute picture of your child is tempting if you’re aiming for social media stardom. You have to take into account that you might also attract the wrong kind of attention. Posting many images of your child as they grow up could make them a target for child predators. The risk only grows if you’re not careful about sharing your personal information online.
In a demonstration by Tom Scott, he showed how easy it is to locate someone and get their personal information. Combine this with oversharing of pictures and video of your young child, and you’re putting your offspring at risk.
It Gives Bullies Ammo
Unfortunately, children and teens get bullied, and the internet enables bullying to go on even further. No longer is bullying relegated to the playground; now, it can go on 24-7 thanks to social media. There are some troubling statistics about the sorts of damage cyberbullying can do to children, in some cases doubling the chances they’ll self-harm.
If you’ve spent your child’s entire life putting pictures and videos of them up on the internet, then all you’ve done is given bullies ammunition. If a bully wants to torment your child, all they have to do is go through your public post history and find all those photos and videos you’ve uploaded. Even if you then remove them, you’ve already done the damage. Likely, your child could even blame you for posting the picture in the first place.
You’re Selling Their Data
Another critical factor you need to take into account is how much information about your children is online. Companies collect data about you by providing services, then sell data to advertisers. These advertisers use the information to target you with specific ads that are more likely to make you buy something. Most adults only had to deal with their data being sold to companies since they were teenagers. The younger generations are having their data harvested as soon as they get online.
Children are having their information bought and sold from younger ages. When you upload milestones, pictures, and videos of your children to the internet, you’re selling their data to online companies. Advertisers are accessing children’s data before those children are old enough to know about it.
It Can Create Social Pressure
If your child grows up with an online presence from a young age, it can severely impact their teenage years. According to Psychology Today, children increase their sensitivity to self-image when they enter their early teens. As teens, your children may become embarrassed by the images you shared of them when they were younger. Their self-esteem can suffer, which can affect how they interact with their peers.
Growing up with a lot of social media attention may also make the child feel pressured to keep getting attention. Children could be lead down a dark path of doing more outrageous things for social media attention. Attention seeking is an unhealthy habit that has destroyed many older children and young adults.
You’re Reinforcing a Bad Habit
It might seem insignificant, but young children ape what you do. If you’re continually posting yourself and your children onto social media, then they’ll get the impression it’s something you’re supposed to do. Growing up learning to put their entire lives online can be extremely damaging for a child without considering the other dangers associated with it. If they form a habit at a young age, it’s incredibly challenging to break it again, especially if they developed the pattern with a parent’s help.
What You Should Do About Posting
It’s understandable to want to share your child with the world, but you have to remember it’s not your own life that you’re posting. While your child won’t mind as an infant, they may come to resent your social media posts as they grow older. Until your child is old enough to decide what they want to post to the internet, you’re better off avoiding it.
If you want to share photos with your family and friends, be sure that you understand privacy settings on social media beforehand. Share only within your close friend group, and consider sharing via e-mail or a chat group rather than social media posts. If you post an image or text to Facebook, then Facebook collects that data. If you share something via WhatsApp with your family, only your family can see it. WhatsApp has no access to the content of your messages.
As your children grow up, they might decide they want to have a presence online. Your children should be able to make that decision themselves. You have more than yourself to consider when posting pictures with or of your children. That’s a lesson you should also remember when taking group pictures that include other people’s children.
If you’re worried about your children’s safety online, our comprehensive Family Protection Plan will protect you.
Featured image by AlesiaKan from Shutterstock.com