When it comes to showing off your new bundle of joy with friends and family, the internet is a fantastic tool, allowing our loved ones, many of whom are miles away, to stay connected and updated with our lives.
But while the internet has allowed families to stay closer together, we all know that sometimes, it can be a rather scary place. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of how to keep our children’s identity and privacy safe when sharing their lives online.
How we share the lives of our families online is of course totally up to us as parents, and while some of us love being a ‘sharent’ (the term to describe the generation of parents that frequently share photos of their children online), others prefer to hide their children’s faces when it comes to the internet, including some famous mums such as Jessie Ware, Ferne Cotton, Emma Willis and Holly Willoughby.
In an interview with the Mirror, Fearne Cotton previously admitted she's keen to maintain her children’s privacy for as long as possible, and wants to wait a few years before sharing images of her children’s faces online: "I want them to make the decision for themselves when they're older.
"I show the back of their heads so people never know what they look like or anything about them, but I still get to show parts of my family life, which is something that's really important to me."
Sadly, once an image is shared online, we should probably assume that that photo is totally out of our control. Even if you’re sharing on a private account, the photo can be screenshotted, shared and sent to several others you never intended the photo to be viewed by.
In the book Growing Up Shared, author Stacey Steinberg recalls a situation where a mum had shared a funny photo of her toddler on a beach online. This photo was then shared multiple times and was eventually turned into a viral meme. It’s likely the parents had no idea that an image had been shared of their child thousands of times, and what was once a humorous photo of their child turned into a meme for thousands to see and share online.
Of course, we don’t need to tell you what other harrowing ways a child's image can be exploited online, but this is just an example of how an innocent, private photo of a child can get totally out of our control.
Alternative ways to share your children’s lives online
It’s important to be clued up on the ways we can protect our child’s identity while still sharing them with our family and friends. Here are some helpful ways to use social media safely as a parent…
Having a private Instagram account just for your children
If your Instagram is public and you want to keep it that way without sharing too much about your children, it’s sometimes a nice idea to create a private Instagram account dedicated to photos of your children. This way, only your closest nearest and dearest will be able to see the account and you can trust that those photos should never get into the wrong hands, while still keeping your family in the loop with your little one's lives.
You could even write in the Instagram bio asking for the photos not to be shared with others (no matter how cute they are!).
Private family Whatsapp groups
If Instagram isn’t your thing, or your elderly relatives have only just discovered the internet, a private Whatsapp group is another good alternative. You can share images, updates and videos on there for your family to enjoy. Again, make it clear that what is shared on the group stays on the group.
Hide their faces
In her book, Steinberg mentions numerous cases where a child’s face was superimposed onto other, inappropriate pictures of a child. That’s why their identity, particularly their face, must not get into the wrong hands.
To protect your child’s face, you could always take some inspiration from some of the celeb mums mentioned above and keep your child’s face hidden in photos. Whether you’re popping an emoji over their face or waiting until they turn their head away to take the snap, there are many ways to keep your child’s face out of shot.
Although geotagging locations or having photos outside of school before their first day can be fun, there are sadly predators online who can take note of your family’s routine, favourite places to visit and other details of their life.
In some cases, this can lead to burglary, which is why it’s important to not share your location, especially if you’re away from home on holiday. You should also check your apps and smartphone settings to make sure they aren’t sharing your location by default.
Ask yourself - Is this embarrassing?
While it’s sometimes hard not to share the hilariously funny, if not slightly embarrassing, photos of our children with the world, your children will thank you later if you refrain from sharing these and save them for their 18th instead! After all, you don’t know what path your child’s life will take and if they one day become famous or even Prime Minister, you wouldn’t want the media to get their hands on a very embarrassing photo of them as a child!