Kids say and do the cutest things, right? So why not go ahead and post it all online for the world to see? Sometimes that's fine, but you need to consider all the possibilities of what can happen later—particularly things that can go wrong. Remember that whatever hits the Internet can be there forever.
The birth of a new baby brings all kinds of soaring emotions that are so immense it's hard not to shout the event from the tallest building—which just happens to be social media. Where else can you tell hundreds—or maybe even thousands of people—with one single click of a button?
And then there's the onslaught of others confirming what you believed when you posted it. Comments like, "She's the cutest baby ever," or a simple congratulatory response lets you know that others are right there with you. All your "friends" and "followers" think your baby is wonderful.
Sometimes, even the best of children act out, and you don't know what to do. So you head for your favorite social network and share your experience, hoping someone will sympathize with you and maybe even offer some suggestions. Stop and think before you share with your social media group.
It's not a good idea to publicly post anything that can ever come back to haunt your child later. That temper tantrum might be seen by a teacher or another parent who may use that against your little one later. You don't want to plant a negative seed in someone's mind. And you certainly don't want to give others ammunition if there is ever a disagreement between your child and the person who sees your message.
Be careful what you mention about your children's friends. If you post something negative about someone else's child, you risk alienating her parents and being labeled a gossip. It's bad enough to trash talk other adults, but making a child the subject of gossip is even worse. It's wise not to post pictures of other people's children without their permission.
Good Times Turned Bad
Your child might have made the honor roll or won some sort of award, so you want to brag to everyone on social media. One thing you might want to consider, though, is how it makes other children and their parents feel. The child who barely missed might get her feelings hurt…or she might get angry and take it out on your child.
Obnoxious Parents and Grandparents
Don't make your social media page all about your children or grandchildren, or you may annoy some of your friends. An occasional cute picture or comment is all you need to let your network know how much you adore the little munchkins. Make sure that whatever you post is something that won't make your child want to hide.
Know and Consider the Audience
Before you start posting on any site, know who'll be able to see it. Even if you know everyone there, depending on the site, people may be able to forward pictures and messages. Even if you're part of a secret group, there may be one devious person who can hurt you and your child later.
Tips for Posting About Children
Posting about children (yours or someone else's) online can be a tricky deal, but it's okay if you're ultra-cautious and think before you click. Here are some tips:
- Never post "naked baby" photos or anything else that can be used by unscrupulous people, or that might embarrass your children now or later.
- Don't post a photo of your child that you snapped when she misbehaved. A pouty or angry face on your child might bring sympathy from your pals, but the lingering effects for your child can be bad. The same goes for anecdotes about your child's naughtiness.
- Remember that you need to be cautious about offering information on social media, even on mom blogs and forums, because all it takes is one person to create havoc. You might think everyone is there for the same reason you are, but there's a chance that's not the case.
- If your child has any behavior issue from infancy to the teen years, it's best to keep that off social media. You never know how far back her prospective employers will look when doing a background check.
- Use as many privacy settings as possible before posting a picture of your child. Although it's not guaranteed to keep strangers from seeing her photo, it decreases the risk.
- Avoid posting anything that shows vulnerability, like saying that your child is a loner or she's upset about something someone said. Strangers might use that to lure your child into a situation that can be dangerous.
- Turn off the geo-tag setting on your camera to prevent others from seeing your exact location. Most recent models of cameras have the default set to "on."
- Don't post your child's full name, social security number, birthday, address, or other information that can be used to steal her identity. A combination of any of the two bits of information is all an identity thief needs. Children are often the easiest victims because they may not discover that their identity has been stolen until years later when they try to buy their first car or rent an apartment.
- Use strong passwords that contain at least one capital letter and a symbol to prevent people from getting into your account. Change your passwords frequently.
- Always put your child's needs first. This includes present and future concerns that may come back to haunt you or your child later in life. A quick see-what-I'm-dealing-with photo is not worth what you might have to deal with if it comes back to haunt her in a few years.
As soon as your child is old enough to understand, ask permission before posting any photos. What may seem innocent to you might embarrass her if her classmates see it. The last person you should ever want to embarrass is someone you're supposed to protect.
Your Child's Social Media Account
If your child wants to get on social media, you need to know the password and set the account to the strictest level possible in the beginning. Monitor everything your child sends and sees. Before you allow her to get online, give her the rules in writing and make sure she knows that having the account is a privilege that can be taken away if it is ever abused.
A Parent's Responsibility
As your child's parents, it is your job to protect her until she's old enough to be on her own. This includes keeping her exposure on social media and identity safe.