Social media has connected people like never before and it won’t be long until everyone is tangled in its web of tweets, reposts and timelines.
As more and more parents show off their kids’ lives and achievements online, many children have an online presence before they can even speak.
But can you be sure of exactly who is seeing your family photos? Is it right to publicly share someone’s childhood?
Viewpoints by the numbers
A recent Ofcom study has revealed just how divided parents are over this question.
44% of parents post pictures or videos of their children to social media, with many of them uploading at least once a month. Although the majority of these parents do consider how their children would feel about the images being posted, the idea of publishing intimate family photos is shocking to many others.
Of the 56% of parents that do not publish images of their children, an overwhelming 87% of them said it was because their children’s lives should remain private.
This is a stark difference, with almost half of parents making their family photo albums public and half that would never dream to do the same.
But how much of an issue is privacy? Do we really need to worry about our children’s lives becoming public? Can’t we just delete the photos we want to keep private?
Photos online forever
Deleting a photo from Facebook may seem simple enough but, once anything has been published online, you cannot guarantee that it’s gone forever. The image could have been downloaded onto a computer, copied to another site, duplicated on someone’s page or slipped into one of the countless nooks and crannies of the internet.
If your Facebook privacy settings aren’t set correctly, you are massively increasing the odds of your personal photos and posts leaking out into the world. Privacy options can be set from the settings menu on the Facebook website. From there, you can change who’s permitted to view your posts, timeline and photos.
Maybe this sounds a little paranoid to you. A family photo is harmless enough and it might not be something that you’d rush to hide away from prying eyes.
However, there’s a more well-grounded reason that you might want to consider before publishing images online.
Real life isn’t real any more
Many people’s activity on Facebook is tied to a sort of ‘social economy’, fuelled by likes, shares and tags – an unspoken competition to look as fun, interesting and attractive as possible.
71% of people try to look their best in the photos they post online, with 44% going as far to enhance their selfies with image editing software.
The most common images to be posted are holiday photos, followed by pets and interesting places. Scrolling down the timeline can seem like everyone’s having fun but you.
Although people go through all the effort, a massive 74% of people don’t think the lives seen on their friends’ Facebook timelines actually match up to reality.
It all adds up to a strange game that everyone’s in on, but no-one talks about. If you want to play along, images of your children are a sure-fire post for some easy likes.
But is it worth it?
Few people would want their baby photos out for the whole world to see but, when you post pictures of your kids online, that’s exactly what you’re doing to them.
An embarrassing photo might be fun in the moment, but it could end up following them around for years afterwards.
Of course, as hard as you can embarrass their kids, they can just as easily embarrass themselves.
Children don’t use the same websites as adults. More and more young people are migrating their activity away from Facebook and towards platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, parts of which are adult-free zones.
Seeking online approval is becoming increasingly important among young people, fuelled by the image of online celebrities and the ‘Instafamous’ stars of Instagram. It’s an oddly cut-throat world where countless young people fight for attention and approval.
Be aware of what your children are posting about themselves online, and what sites they’re using to do it.
Publishing online content can be a great way to foster creativity, confidence and social skills, but make sure your kids know and understand the risks involved and that everything they post is permanent.
There are YouTube channels and Facebook pages that make a living off of embarrassing children, uncovering kids’ awkward and cringeworthy videos from the dark corners of social media and reposting them for their millions of followers to see.
Overnight, these children become the target of public ridicule, harassment and bullying – all for a silly video they published online.
Check your children’s privacy settings, talk to them about what they already know, or just show them a “kid cringe compilation” video so they know what to avoid.
MAIN IMAGE: Travis and Taska/Flickr