What racks up more likes and comments than an adorable social media post? Nothing. Lucky for parents on Instagram, they have an infinite source of lovable content: their children. Parents are posting about their children more than ever before. According to Forbes, "in the U.S., more than 90% of 2-year-olds and 80% of babies already had an online presence." The same article goes on to say that by the time a child is 13, their parents have posted an estimated 1300 photos and videos of their children. But what is the harm in posting about your children? My account is private, and everyone else does it! Do you really know every one of the viewers of your posts well enough to say with confidence that they have no secret intentions? I certainly do not. In fact, according to Forbes, the average Facebook user does not know 20% of their online friends.
Realistically, what is the harm of posting that enchanting photo of your two-year-old with cake on his face, documenting your daughter's first kiss, or posting your child's grade's as a form of praise (or shame, depending on the grade)? It turns out that there is much harm associated with these posts. The safest action is to not post about your children at all, but if a post is irresistible, there are some things a parent should always avoid.
There are several things a parent should never post about their children. First, never post your child's location. Whether they be at home, at school, or on some beautiful hike that you will probably never visit again, posting your child's location can be used by predators to learn your child's routine. There is another, less obvious, the threat presented by posting your child's location: digital kidnapping. Digital kidnapping occurs when a person steals your child's photo off the internet and posts it as if it is their child. Besides being creepy, digital kidnapping can be used to create completely new identities. Read more about digital kidnapping here.
Personal identifiers of your child should also never be posted. Personal identifiers include things like age, date of birth, location of birth, first school. Posts containing personal identifiers can be anything from a "Happy 6th Birthday" post to a post intended to show how cute your child looks in their first passport photo. These identifiers are often used to reference private accounts, like bank account information. According to a U.K. report, "Barclays has forecast that by 2030 "sharenting" will account for 2/3 of identity fraud, costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With just a name, date of birth, and address (easy enough to find in a geotagged birthday party photo on Facebook, for example), bad actors can store this information until a person turns 18 and then begin opening accounts."
Please do not post any photos of your children in any state of undress, as they could fall into the hands of predators. Even pictures of your children in their adorable bathing suit are valuable to predators.
Do not post a photo of your child in a state of embarrassment or vulnerability. Though a post of your sick child might illicit compassionate likes and comments containing advice from your friends, consider that everything posted on the internet could be around forever. In an increasingly digital world, social media can often serve as the first impression for a child's future peers, boss, or educational institution. Social media posts of embarrassing moments like bad grades, milestones like a child's first time using the toilet, or your child throwing a tantrum over something trivial can affect your grown child's reputation in the future, thereby violating their autonomy.