COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A lot of parents who are now stuck at home with their children are turning to social media to share what life is now like. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents would share every moment of their kids actions on Instagram or YouTube. Some parents even create Instagram pages for their children from birth.
When it comes to children’s privacy online, the law is spotty. Leah Plunkett works with the interdisciplinary Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet Society at Harvey University. She also is the author of the book, “Sharenthood”.
“For parents that are worried about violating the law, I would say unless you’re doing something that would be criminal, you can share,” Plunkett said. “You are unlikely to violate a law with ‘sharenting’ but there’s a lot of room for us as parents as well as grandparents and coaches to do better than the law requires of us and make values-based choices around protecting privacy.”
Plunkett says there are some things for parents to think about while being stuck at home. She notes it’s important to find ways to connect and vent but to make sure it’s not on social media.
“If it’s online, even if they are three now, they’ll find it by the time they’re a teen,” She said. “Think about how they’ll feel with that kind of window into exactly how you were feeling when they whined for Disney plus for the 10th time.”
Gina McDowell is a clinical educator for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and she says that there is a struggle for a lot of people to know the balance between their right to share and their child’s right to privacy.
“They’re not really getting a choice as to what’s being shared,” explained McDowell. “Teens struggle because they’re trying to create their own digital foot print in that point and time. We don’t know where things will be at that point and time either.”
One thing she says parents can do to help with this tension between their teenagers is to ask them, “Can I post this online?”
She also notes that all parents should be mindful when posting online. She says personal information and photos are something that could potentially hurt their children down the road.
“If a college or a future employer were to see this picture, would there be any potential ramifications?” McDowell asked.
Columbus blogger Nicole Leffew says this is something she had to discuss with her spouse before their son was even born.
“Before I had Easton, Justin and I talked about it and discussed that we were both comfortable with me sharing photos and videos of Easton as its my job and obviously it makes me happy,” explained Leffew. “We did decide that we were not going to share anything that we thought would be embarrassing for him to look back on in the future.”
There are some questions parents can ask themselves before sharing content related to their children online:
- Why are you sharing it in the first place?
- Would you want someone to share it about you?
- Could your child be embarrassed by it now or in the future?
- Is there anyone in the universe who shouldn’t see this about your child now or in the future?
- Is this something you want to be a part of your child’s digital footprint?
Here are some recommended thing to do and not do when “Sharenting”.
- Try not to share news of your pregnancy online and that includes medical information, sonograms, details from a fertility app or bracelet. “One of the things we’re seeing is a rise in identity theft of minors and minors don’t really have many if any legitimate reason why their social would be attached to a line of credit. So their identity is attractive to wrong doers.”
- Be careful when sharing details of a baby’s birth online and on social media.
- Smart products are always taking your information so try and stay away from them if you can. Smart cribs, diapers, booties, cameras all have sensors and can record personal information. “Basic privacy hygiene is important. We’re not used to having so many different devices in so many different rooms actively connected in real time to other people and so working with everyone to say, invest in the little video shields, make sure anytime you’re not online, log out of video or other sharing platforms,” explained Plunkett.
- One major don’t from Leah is posting photos of children without clothing on. Don’t post photos of babies or children when they’re less than fully dressed. “Anytime you’re showing a child who is not wearing much clothing can be skewed as an invitation to potential predators and wrongdoers.” explained Plunkett. “Anything we can do to try and build protective features in our own life is really important.”
- Don’t use digital surveillance or tracking technology on your child. “You don’t have to know anything about the tech you’re using to make common sense values based choices like that.”
- Don’t share anything about your child that you wouldn’t have wanted your parents to share about you when you were younger.
- Do share about your experiences as a parent with a child who has a disability or an illness. This information can help do a lot of good things like raise awareness, help with research advancements and provide access to services.
- Share about your experience juggling parenthood and your professional life.
- If your child has an identity that is not mainstream, social media can be a way for them to connect with others across the globe