Do you share something about your child(ren) on social media every day or once in a while? From cute stories to funny photos, are you the share it all parent or the private parent? “Oversharenting” is the new term to describe parents who literally over share daily activities and photos of their children.
But in the age of consent, digital security and online permanency; many parents are putting their children at risk and creating a digital footprint for their children too early. Your child’s digital footprint is important and should be treated as such. Recruiters refer to digital footprints to hire nowadays. One careless picture or comment on social media can cost a future job!
While we are all wondering what age is appropriate for children online and how can they be responsible digital citizens; we have to take a look at ourselves first and ensure we have the right online behaviour. Read Why Digital Intelligence is important
Have you ever asked yourself why you post about your kids online?
For some parents, they believe that since they gave birth to that child, they have every right to do anything they want online with their child’s story or picture. For others, they simply want to share cute adorable moments with family and friends while others simply want engagement and likes. Whatever your reason, you need to consider your child’s online safety and reputation first.
How do children feel about this?
Here’s a story of a 14-year-old girl whose parents had made a rule that she could not get online until she was 13. She felt it was unfair because her friends had been online since they were 10, but she was obedient. Imagine her shock when she got online at 13 only to realize that her parents and elder sister had been sharing embarrassing pictures and stories about her online.
According to her, “When I saw the pictures that she had been posting on Facebook for years, I felt utterly embarrassed and deeply betrayed. There, for anyone to see on her public Facebook account, were all of the embarrassing moments from my childhood that I had no knowledge of. It seemed anything I had ever said to my sister that she thought was funny was online. Things I had no idea she was posting online.
I hated that I didn’t have control over it, I was furious and I felt betrayed and lied to. I gave myself time to calm down and simply told my mother and my older sister who had done this, “Don’t do this anymore without my permission,” and ever since then they haven’t posted about me online, without my permission. They were genuinely surprised about how I felt.
Teens get a lot of warnings that we aren’t mature enough to understand that everything we post online is permanent, but parents should also reflect about their use of social media and how it could potentially impact their children’s lives as we become young adults.”
Why Parents need to stop
You might console yourself with the fact that you asked your 3-year-old or 10-year-old child for permission. According to Sexuality educator Thornhill, a child’s understanding of the Internet and social media is an evolving process as the child ages, learns, matures and experiences more online. Simply put, they do not know what they are agreeing to.
Whether it’s ensuring your child is not bullied over something you post, that their identity is not digitally “kidnapped” or that their photos do not end up on a half dozen child pornography sites, parents and paediatricians need to know the importance of protecting children’s digital presence.
What Parents Can Do
1. Be cautious and very selective when posting.
Remember it is just not a picture, it is your child. Ask yourself, “Why are you sharing, What are you sharing. and How will it affect someone else including your child?” Do not be in a hurry to post something about your child because it is cute or it will get more likes. Think things through first.
While the convenience of posting everything about our children is a handy way to keep relatives connected; there are always those individuals who will abuse the latest upload.
2. We need to go old school on new media when it comes to our children’s lives.
We are adults and we can decide to post anything about ourselves. Let us give our children the opportunity to decide for themselves when they are older. Before then, we will have educated them on how to be responsible digital citizens. However, because we now know the dangers of oversharenting, we need to avoid it.
3. If you have to share, do not share your child’s personal information
Personal information like birth date, picture of your child in their school uniform, location/house address, where your child is going to for a birthday party etc should not be shared online.
4. Remember that you are Leading by example
Children are likely to imitate their parents’ behaviour, so lead by example. Check with friends, family and your kids before you post a photo, video or comment about them online and ask them to do the same. Like the girl above, when children get online, the first thing they will do is check your social media account to see what you have been up to. Ensure they see you practice what you preach.
Hope you have learnt a thing or two from this article. Hope you will leave with the conviction that you need to guard and guide your child’s digital footprint and online privacy. Not all Social Media companies care about your child’s safety and privacy. That is your job. Visit the Technology and Parenting for more