I have been a father now for five years, and Facebook has never been a daily habit for me. I remember the first time someone shared a photo of my son on Facebook without my knowledge. I got an email notifying me that I had been tagged in a photo, so I pulled up Facebook to check it out. But it was not me in the photo, it was my son – in the bath tub. A visiting family member had taken the photo, shared it on their Facebook account and tagged me in it. My protective instincts kicked in and I immediately started wondering who all could see this photo.
As you would expect, this photo was getting quite a few comments. But I had no idea who these people were. They were friends of the family member, not friends of mine. Every comment or like the photo received only meant more people could see it in their news feed. As a parent, it was an uncomfortable experience for me, and I know I am not the only one.
In the new age of sharenting, which occurs when parents over-share photos of their children on social media, it’s becoming even clearer how photos shared online can come back to you or your children. As if that is not bad enough, photos can also give away location through embedded data captions or recognizable landmarks within the picture making privacy a thing of the past.
I’ve read stories about mothers finding photos of children reused to create a Facebook profile or parents discovering images of their child used on an illegal website, or a family photo being used in advertisements overseas. And it doesn’t end there.
Nowadays, by the time a teenager is signing up for social media accounts and profile, they already have a public, digital identity because of all the information and images already shared through the years. Embarrassing photos or moments from their early childhood could be easily searched out by classmates or found by potential employers. Because of the permanency of the Internet, it is most likely a part of their online persona forever.
As parents it is our job to protect the privacy of our children, but how can we do that and still share photos and videos with family and friends? There are several good alternatives to social media. Photo-sharing services that do not operate as a standard social network are best suited for over-sharing parents or those who want to handpick the family and friends who can see their family’s images. While the idea of a free service may be intriguing, ad-free services with a usage fee offer the safest, most secure platforms.
Over-sharenting is more than just a privacy issue. It is a safety issue. There are numerous unintended consequences to sharing photos of your children online that should be taken into account when you are about to post one for the world to see. Seek out an alternative to traditional social media photo sharing to keep your child’s online presence safe.
Author: Jared Brown, CTO and co-founder Sherish.