The Pros and Cons of Sharing Your Child’s Life On Social Media

Nov 25, 2014

Many of us have friends we haven’t seen in decades, but still somehow manage to know everything about them—their pets, their trips, and, especially, their kids. Parents clog Facebook timelines with postings of photos and videos of their children and home life. Sometimes, it’s harmlessly funny or sweet; in other cases, it’s over-sharing over social media.

Still, there are parents who have cut back (or cut out) family pics from their status updates. They keep anecdotes vague, and angle their cameras to obscure identifying details. The worry is about compromising their children’s privacy or safety by giving away too much information.

“I have a no-tolerance policy,” Scott Steinberg told the Globe and Mail in an article examining these concerns. But it’s important to note the piece mentioned the tech consultant has 4,800 Facebook friends. How different is the situation when your online community is far smaller and made up of only people you know?

Some parents worry they are leaving an indelible digital footprint of their kids online before the little ones graduate elementary school.

Regardless, you don’t only have to worry about what you are posting—you also need to ensure others are aware of your feelings when they innocently put up photos of your kids. After a conversation with my mom about why I wanted her to take down a pic of my then-toddler in a swimsuit, for example, she largely switched to e-mails for sharing images with family overseas.

Privacy settings are far from perfect, but there are steps you can take to improve your own peace of mind (including ensuring your photos aren’t linked to time/location information). However, some parents’ concerns go beyond personal safety. If people worry about facial recognition and identity information-collection algorithms now, it’s scary to think of the potential in a decade. Some parents worry they are leaving an indelible digital footprint of their kids online before the little ones graduate elementary school.

Of course, sharing can have positive impacts. For some, Facebook fosters a virtual community of parents who can share in successes, commiserate in challenges, and offer advice and support.

“Especially when you’re on maternity leave, parenting can be very lonely when your spouse is working full-time,” says Nicole, a mother of two from Peterborough, Ont. “With Facebook, I get to connect with old friends who are now parents and forge new relationships with them in a way I couldn’t physically. I find it a very valuable tool to create the ‘village’ that helps me cope with parenting.”

Privacy settings are far from perfect, but there are steps you can take to improve your own peace of mind.

However, she points out Facebook can also be rough.

“I had no idea breastfeeding, vaccines, pacifier use, potty training, and circumcision were so controversial until I had kids and spent time on social media. I am constantly blown away by the judgemental comments made by parents,” she says. “And then there’s the super-mom syndrome caused by some people posting Pinterest-perfect birthday cakes and home-made valentines. It’s a lot of pressure.”

This means some of the problems with sharing over social media come from within. “You create the picture of yourself and your family that becomes your social media presence, and it’s not always true,” Nicole says. “No one posts pictures of themselves after being up all night with a sick child, or talks about hiding in the closest from your kids just to get a moment of peace. We put forward our best selves and that can sometimes make our lives more stressful as we try to live up to the image we’ve created.”

Cartoonist Mike Dawson posted a ‘diary comic’ that nicely shows how we carefully select images and stories to present not only our kids, but also our flawless parenting style, in the best light. It’s a situation to which many parents can relate as we continue to try and work out this whole social media thing.

How do you approach social media tools like Facebook? Do you ever worry you share too much about your kids? Does it have any positive or negative impacts on how you see yourself as a parent?

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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