Being intentional in what we post on social media about our kids is important
From before they were even born, my kids have had a presence on social media. I shared on Facebook about being pregnant, their gender ahead of time and photos of ultrasounds. I didn’t share their names until they were born, because my husband and I didn’t share names ahead of time with anyone else.
And I’m not alone. Most modern parents share about pregnancy, childbirth and their children on social media. Having a baby and being a parent is a huge part of our lives, so it makes sense that it would come up on social media, which is designed around people sharing what’s going on in their lives.
It doesn’t take long, however, for social media sharing about our kids to get a bit murky. For some moms it can start even before the baby is born when people weigh in on your pregnancy decisions. And then it can creep up when moms post about how they’re feeding the baby or share a photo of the baby in his or her carseat. Someone else has different opinions and feels welcome to share them on social media in a way they probably wouldn’t in real life.
While I’ve learned to filter some of what I post about my kids to avoid dealing with controversy, I’ve also become more and more aware about how what I share about my kids affects them. Some things are OK to share. Other things aren’t.
Asking ourselves a few questions before firing off a post about our kids, even our new babies, is important more than ever as social media continues to grow and expand.
1. How will the post make your child feel if he or she reads it in the future?
I have to start here, because I think this is the most important question to ask before posting something about your child. It may be easy when kids are babies to not even think about them one day reading or being on social media. But the fact is one day they will be. If your kids one day scroll through your old posts, how will they feel about what you’re saying about them and about your feelings as a parent?
The baby days are hard. In fact, I’d say my children’s newborn days were some of the most challenging times of my life, because it’s all encompassing and utterly exhausting. Babies challenge you to the core of yourself and then some. The first baby brings a whole new normal that takes some adjustment.
Posting on Facebook about how awful it is, how irritating your baby or toddler is or even wondering if you should have had kids is not something that your child is going to feel great about reading.
I have a friend who remembers her mother saying that she was so tired after giving birth that she didn’t even want to hold her new baby (my friend). While my friend understood her mom’s feelings, that also smarted.
Parents have a need to vent and need to find support. Doing so openly on social media isn’t the place for it. One of the biggest reasons that’s true is so one day your kids won’t read through posts and think, “Did my mom want me?” “Did she enjoy any of my childhood?” Those are not questions we want our children to ask.
2. Would you share the information with a random stranger?
Of course you have your social media accounts locked down. And you aren’t friending everyone and their brother, but you are still talking to a lot of people who you aren’t close to when you are posting on social media. If you are sharing information that you wouldn’t share with a random stranger, then it might not be social media appropriate.
As a parent, especially during the early years, you deal with all of your child and his or her parts. If you wouldn’t share with a random stranger about what’s going on in your child’s diaper in detail, then don’t share it on social media either.
3. Are you OK with your child knowing this information?
I’m not advocating having secrets from your children, but the fact is there are some things my kids don’t need to know. Right now that’s mostly because of their ages, but there are also other things they don’t need to be reminded of or know about in general.
If I want to share something in any way related to my children or our family then that I don’t want them to know now, then I shouldn’t be posting it on social media — even for the fact that someone might bring up the topic with my kiddos.
4. If your child’s teen peers found the post, how would/could they use it?
Kids can be cruel. And social media has upped that game immensely. I’ve got a whole other blog post coming about our kids using social media, but we have to think about these things as well. A Pew Research Center study shows that 59% of teen boys and 60% of teen girls say they have been cyber-bullied.
While a photo of your toddler sitting on a potty chair might be cute and mark a milestone for them, their peers might use such photo in a cruel way. Take the photo, but don’t post it on social media.
I know there are girls I went to school with who would have jumped on embarrassing photos of me to do things with if they had had access. Fortunately back then those photos only existed in photo albums or my baby book and weren’t readily available online. (My parents also did well at keeping all private areas well covered in photos.)
Aside from photos, sometimes just information can be hurtful and used against your kids. Posts about how they are still wetting the bed at an older age or are scared of the dark as a 12-year-old are just asking for the wrong kid to use that information in a hurtful way. We certainly don’t want to make cyber-bullying easier!
5. Could this post hurt your child’s chance at a scholarship or job?
While you should have your social media accounts well locked down (there is a whole other post about safety on the way), we also need to be aware that the information could somehow get out because breeches happen. And, along with that, 57% employers currently are checking social media accounts of their potential employees. That number will only grow. Posts and photos that you’ve tagged of your children could show up on their accounts.
So a post about how awful your teen is at cleaning their room, being on time or doing homework is probably not in their best interest in the long run. Not only could it hurt their feelings, it could also hurt their chances for success, which isn’t something any parent wants.
6. Could a child predator use this in an unsavory way?
Nobody wants to think about that. In fact, I debated about whether to even include this question, but it’s incredibly important. Unfortunately these things need to be taken into consideration before sharing photos.
And, again, even with having your account locked down, there are still some things that aren’t appropriate to share. Information dealing with a child’s bathing suit area is not OK to share in photographic or verbal form.
Another consideration is oversharing personal information that makes it easy for a child predator to find or engage with your child. While you might have your personal social media account locked down, consider what you are posting on public social media accounts as well. It can be very easy sometimes to piece together information and track down people just by what they post on other pages and accounts.
7. Will the post add pressure to your child to be perfect or brag worthy?
Social media brings the desire for perfection and showing your best face to a whole new level. (Check out my post on how social media impacts moms.) While that’s true for parents, it’s also true for kids. My kids have each told me at different times to take a photo of something they’re doing and share it on Facebook. I usually take the photo, but I don’t always share it. It just depends on what they’re doing.
I try to be real in my social media accounts. I don’t want to show a version of myself that is perfect and certainly doesn’t exist. I don’t want to do the same with my children either. However, that doesn’t mean I have to post all the negative things or all the positive things. I am so proud of my children for so very many things. I brag on them in front of them when I can. I tell them what I’m proud of them for. I encourage them when they are struggling.
But, I never want to put pressure on them to be perfect, because I know they aren’t. That means I don’t want to be posting only big things on social media. I can tell you things about my kids that would impress you, but that’s not what is most important about them. What’s most important is the people they are and how much I love being their mom, even on the hard days. I don’t want them to ever feel I have created a social media image or any image of them that they have to be perfect to live up to.
8. Does the post betray your child’s privacy or trust?
Our kids deserve a right to privacy with us. We should be their safe place they can count on and that means not always sharing everything about them. They have fears, shortcomings and stresses that may seem cute or funny to us at the time, but they are very real to our kiddos whether they are 5 or 15.
We shouldn’t ever share something on social media that our kids wouldn’t want us to. Once they are older, ask them before sharing things that seem even remotely private or personal. Even as babies, be careful to not overshare private information.
We also don’t want to betray their trust by taking to social media to make fun of our kids for something they are doing or struggling with. We have to be careful of poking fun at our children and inadvertently becoming a cyber bully!
This post is part of Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent. Check out these other posts from the series: