Family, Parenting, Social Media

Why I Use Caution Posting Photos of My Family Online

Image by Carla Peroni via FREEIMAGES

I know this topic isn’t necessarily considered “health” related, but the more I researched why we should use caution when exposing our children via social media, the deeper connection I found to the wellness of our children. When I first decided to write this entry I wasn’t sure how I would portray my own opinion, because honestly, I was still unsure. Full disclosure, I have posted photos of my children on social media.

It’s one of those internal battles that you fight. You want to do something, but deep down there is something else telling you that you shouldn’t. That’s how I feel when it comes to posting photos of my family, especially my kids, on social media. My kids are too young to know what social media is, so this post applies to the parents deciding what goes on social media before their children are old enough to know what social media is, and decide for themselves.

As a blogger, and business owner, you want to share bits and pieces of your life with the world. But wait, how much is too much? A blogger’s goal is to generate a following of people that can relate to your content. There are events, photos and captions that will catch people’s attention. Of course the more you post, the more of an audience you’ll reach.

When it comes to your personal life, your kids specifically, where do you draw the line? And more importantly, why?

The sweet picture of my baby asleep in my lap, with her mouth wide open seems like a harmless picture to post.  On second thought, would you post a picture of yourself sleeping with your mouth wide open (it doesn’t count when it is posted by your friend as a throw back to your college days)?  So, the answer is, probably not. Now I get that a picture of an adult sleeping is a little different than a cute baby during this precious moment, so let’s consider the future.

Most (if not all) of what we post on social media stays on the world wide web, even if we think we delete it. Unfortunately, we live in an era where we have more to worry and be concerned about than our parents and grandparents ever did. With the ease of social media, our children face risks of all kinds and from various aspects; their future (or current) classmates, identity thieves and even pedophiles.

What kind of concern am I referring to when I mention classmates? When our kids are old enough to attend school, bullying becomes a factor. In fact, you may have heard about the devastating incidents that occurred among school age children when they used social media to antagonize one another. When I say school age children, this can range from elementary school to high school.

The influence of social media is now a “normal” topic of discussion that we as parents, are expected to have with our children. We teach our children to respect themselves, and that it is ok to deny an action that they do not want to engage in (within reason and with manners of course). So, shouldn’t we let them decide whether they want their picture posted on social media?

Honestly, I hate that when I post a photo of my family I have to worry about the possibility of someone impersonating me, or even one of my kids as their own. It happens more often than we think, or like to admit. Even with my Facebook settings set to private, and as secure as I can make them, this does not guarantee someone will not repost my photo without permission. Or what about that friend who updated their status stating their account was hacked? Ever wonder by who?

Let’s think about the person that reposted your photo… They’re privacy settings may not be as secure as yours. You don’t know their group of friends. This seemingly innocent act opens up an entire realm of possibilities that you are unaware of, leaving you (and your family) vulnerable. It is not that hard to trace a person’s photo back to the original, where an identity thief is then able to find the full name of your child, their date of birth, and even the area you live in. So, if you only take one piece of advice from this post, please let it be this – check your privacy settings, and set them as secure as possible. Do this if you enjoy sharing photos of your kids, your family and even your friends.

If you have a public profile on Instagram, which I do, you are undoubtedly more vulnerable. Instagram is huge when it comes to small business advertising. It’s great for finding unique items and apparel (I’m a sucker for unique kids’ apparel). I would love to show my support by posting pictures of my kids wearing their designs, but I rarely do because my profile is public. Having a public profile allows me to reach more followers, yet it also decreases the control I have over who follows me. Less control equals more vulnerability to those who are portraying themselves as someone you may know, or a shop you may be interested in, leaving the follower’s motive unknown.

There is the option of watermarking my photos with a logo, yet sometimes I feel like this isn’t enough with the ways that technology advances.

When I continued my research into why we should use caution when posting photos of our kids, pedophilia was at the top of my list. I know this is a sensitive topic that we would rather not consider, but it is real and we can’t turn a blind eye to it… although I wish we could. One website showed that most of the pictures on child pornography sites were taken from photos that were posted on social media, by the parents.

Am I paranoid? Probably. Have I watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds? Without a doubt. With my background in Criminal Justice, and knowing the abilities of computer hackers, I am not comfortable with sharing solo photos of my children where they are fully visible. Occasionally, I may, yet I do so cautiously, fully aware of the risk.