Why Pediatricians Are Discussing Social Media With Parents

There is, unavoidably, a lot of demoralizing, toxic trash lurking in every corner of the internet. One shining example of content that doesn't fall into that category is photos of adorable, happy children posted to your friends' and family members' social media pages — or even your own. Still, the reality of the dangers that can be associated with offering up these images to all the world means that pediatricians are now encouraged to discuss parents' online habits with families. While there's no rule that says parents shouldn't update Instagram with a camera roll's worth of memories from that class play or toddlers' first dentist appointment, it's definitely crucial to get all the facts before tapping "share."

And while it's tempting to think of snapping photos of kids for the 'Gram as nothing more than a natural extension of documenting the rest of your life for the internet, commentary recently published in the journal Pediatrics insists otherwise. Co-authors Bahareh Ebadifor Keith and Stacey Steinberg, both of the University of Florida, write that bad outcomes of going from "Say cheese!" to posting on a public forum can include "identity theft, resharing pirated information on predator sites, sharing psychosocial information that should remain private, and sharing revealing or embarrassing information that may be misused by others."

So, yikes. Most parents would never opt to expose kids to these types of dangers intentionally — but, still, the debate lives on. "As children's-rights advocates, we believe that children should have a voice about what information is shared about them if possible," Steinberg, a legal skills professor at the university's College of Law in Gainesville, recently told NPR.

While posting photos of kids online is a great way to stay connected with family and friends you don't see regularly in-person, the convenience factor contends with some pretty serious stuff when it comes to deciding what's the right move. About half the photos on pedophile image-sharing sites originated from social media and family blogs, an an informal study of the material in Australia found in 2015. That's a danger that's tough to explain to little ones — even if they do rightfully deserve the right to decide which images of them go online and which ones stay in the family photo albums.

Luckily, there are other ways to share family photos that don't involve putting kids at risk for such "digital kidnappings." As The Guardian's Ian Tucker suggested, parents can step into their time machines and go completely analog; To stay in the 21st century, harness the wonders of DropBox, iCloud, or iPhoto, or even just restrict Facebook privacy settings so only friends can see your photos.

After all, parents want kids to be just as happy and safe as they look in these photos when they're older, too — and making sure they are practicing responsible photo sharing is an important part of ensuring that happens.