Sharenting: 5 tips to keeps your kids safe online

By Cat Coode on

We all love to share our children’s quirky, funny and memorable moments online but have you thought about how to do it safely? Cat Coode, draws on her own experience and gives some practical tips to share safely.

Of all the jobs I have ever had, by far the most difficult, confusing, exhausting AND rewarding is as parent. Since it is often all consuming, it helps to be able to share the daily challenges and victories with others who can sympathize and who appreciate your pain or your pride.

The term “sharenting” was created to describe the burgeoning trend of parents online sharing the minutiae of their kids’ lives. We are not talking about major milestones like graduations and birthdays, but everyday images of kids eating, playing and sleeping. The ups and downs, but mostly ups, of a parent’s life. Studies show that 85% of online moms and 70% of online dads share pieces of their kids’ lives. You can find these photos and daily outtakes littering Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and personal blogs.

Is there a harm?

From a psychology perspective, there are many studies about the effects of comparison between parents. On one hand, the constant stream of images and statuses describing other kids’ accomplishments may make you feel badly about your own child’s successes. On the other hand, Tumblr posts like Why My Kid is Crying (which is now a website) that describes the “reasons” why toddlers cry is hysterical and make us all feel normal about our 3 yr old who wants the blue balloon…. but cries because it is not green. Pros and cons.

I’d like to focus on my expertise, the technology perspective. Every time you add a photo, story or status about your child, you are adding to their permanent online identity, or their binary tattoo. The latest reports say parents of kids under 16 are uploading an average of 208 photos per year! Judging by my Facebook feed I’d guess that’s a whole lot more for the infants and toddlers and less for the tweens/teens. By the time these kids are old enough to manage their own identities (currently 13 for most social networks) they are already dealing with an existing 2000+ photos that define them.

Then there are safety issues. A friend emailed me recently to ask about a blog she wanted to create. She asked me what I thought about her posting pictures of her kids to a public page. I told her this:

Best case scenario – only friends and family see your site. They admire your pictures and move on.

Worst case scenario – like really worst, some pedophile downloads your kids’ photos and reposts them to a kiddie porn site. Unlikely? Yes! But it has happened and so parents should at least be aware of risk.

Recommended tips

Privacy settings are a way to make sure you are only sharing with the people you trust. Most people I meet think their settings are set higher than they actually are. Facebook has the most complicated set. If you use Facebook, go through the privacy tool at least once. It is worth your time.

Profile and cover photos are always public, no matter how many privacy settings you have. By putting your children in your profile photos, anyone in the world has access to them. You are also allowing public photo crawlers to record your child’s image along side your name thus publicly identifying them. This can be coupled with facial recognition, which many companies have started to use.

Not every parent wants his or her kids to be online. Before posting pictures of your child’s birthday party or Christmas concert, look for other children in that photo. If you are unsure about posting or sharing it, it is always best to ask the other parent. This also goes for schools, clubs and camps.

Not every parent wants his or her kids to be online. Before posting pictures of your child’s birthday party or Christmas concert, look for other children in that photo. If you are unsure about posting or sharing it, it is always best to ask the other parent. This also goes for schools, clubs and camps.

Even with all the privacy in place, you are building your child’s online identity for them. Everything should be considered permanent and, technically, public since anyone in your network has the ability to share those posts outside your circle. Before you post, ask yourself if the 10 year old, the 15 year old, or the 20 year old version of this child may be embarrassed by this post.

top tip

Take a look at our top 5 sharenting tips to share your child's milestone moments safely

See expert tips