Social media is the perfect place to share all the important and great parts of our lives. It's much easier to snap a picture and upload it to Facebook for loved ones to see than to individually text it to each person we'd like to share the picture with. But could this type of sharing negatively impact others? Some parents who share photos of their children online could be invading their privacy by doing so, according to NPR.
Researchers at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics conference last week encouraged parents and pediatricians to find ways to post online without invading the privacy of their children. They said that "sharenting" — when parents share information about their children online — poses unique challenges for families that need to be addressed.
According to the Wall Street Journal, parents in a recent survey revealed that, on average, they will each post almost 1,000 photos of a child online before the child turns 5. But there are a number of possible consequences of putting photos of children online. Kids can be bullied because of a parent's post, and their photos can be picked up, edited, and distributed on child pornography websites. Also, any information with children's names, locations, or birth dates makes them susceptible to identity theft and "digital kidnapping," according to the Atlantic. Private groups, private posts, and private accounts don't ensure that children's photos are kept protected from outside eyes or unfamiliar users.
But even aside from the potential dangerous consequences, posting photos of children online without telling or asking the child's permission has negative consequences. Sharing photos and other detailed information can undermine children's autonomy. Just as parents are now starting to ask children whether they want to be hugged or kissed to preserve their bodily autonomy and teach them about consent, it's important for parents to preserve kids' digital autonomy as well.
So how can parents reconcile their right to post and share information with their children's expectation of privacy? According to Real Simple, parents should give their kids "veto rights" on any photo of them before it's posted. This is a good way to teach children that consent goes beyond physical touch, and that their autonomy should extend into the virtual world. Parents should also think about whether the photo could be embarrassing or be frowned upon at any point in the child's life. And of course, parents should be careful to not include personal information about their child. Lastly, parents need to make sure their privacy settings are up to snuff so that strangers can't access photos of their children.
Parents have a right to post things about their lives, just like the rest of us do. But when those things involve other humans who are sometimes too young to make important decisions about themselves, parents have more to consider. And privacy should definitely be at the top of the list.