Proud parents are increasingly posting content, especially pictures, concerning their children on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. But total strangers can potentially view social media content, so this raises a key question. By pursuing this action, are you damaging your child’s reputation online?
Parents on social media
Social media use is rising rapidly among many age groups. These sites are now popular with parents, who often use these platforms to share content concerning their children. According to a survey conducted by Nominet, a domain name company, the average British parent with a social media account has posted a huge 1,498 photos of their child online by their fifth birthday. The children of course may not always appreciate this when they grow up.
A recent BBC article on this subject, highlighted a divide between parents and their children. Psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy, a social media specialist, notes that by posting content relating to their child on social media, parents may be creating an online identity for them without realising it. Some children may welcome this, but others may not, seeing it as an invasion of their online privacy.
Illustrating this point, the BBC talked to 16 year old Lucy from Newcastle. Her dad has been putting pictures of her on social media since she was seven. Telling her story, Lucy said: “When I was 12 or 13 I started realising there were things [on Facebook] that I thought were a bit embarrassing… I asked him to take them down and he was happy to, but he didn’t quite understand why. If I had been asked [at the time], do you want these photos out there for all to see, I would’ve probably said no.”
Lucy admitted that these pictures don’t “necessarily represent who I am now.”. Elaborating, she noted: “It was never a big issue or anything bad, just stuff I preferred people didn’t see… There were photos my dad posted of me in Year 6 and Year 7. Back then I was quiet and shy, I didn’t really have lots of friends. … It isn’t [sic] the best memories, which is [sic] the way you’d like to portray yourself on social media.”
In addition to this, today’s younger generation has grown up with social media. Most platforms set a minimum age limit of 13. However, data indicates that three quarter of UK children aged 10 to 12 now have social media accounts. Therefore, children are increasingly sharing personal information in the public domain. Some younger users engage in thoughtless, irresponsible behaviour on social media, which many access via smartphone, posting content quickly on the go. Around a quarter of British 16 to 18 year olds, for instance, have posted “rude” or “unkind” content to other people via these sites.
Engaging in irresponsible behaviour on social media now can have serious consequences for your child later in life and can impact their education and career. With each passing day, more recruiters, teachers and university admissions officers are vetting students and candidates by researching them online. Should they find inappropriate content concerning your child on social media, they may develop doubts concerning their character and decide to reject their application.
When discussing your child on social media, you could be influencing how they are viewed by others later in life. You cannot be sure that your child will be like Lucy and view your social media activity as benign when they grow up. What if they enter a career where privacy and discretion are paramount? The content you post now could come back to haunt them later, by impacting their online reputation.
Google views social media platforms as trusted sources of information. Therefore, content posted on sites like Facebook will rank highly on Google searches for their name. Data indicates that the first page of Google accounts for 92% of search traffic. It is a good idea when posting content relating to your child on social media, to refrain from naming them. With this strategy, you will ensure that any content you have placed online, will be unlikely to appear highly in Google searches for their name.
It is crucial that if you post about your child on social networking sites, you act responsibly. You must safeguard their reputation. In turn, it is also essential to educate children on using social media safely to protect them from any future negative consequences. You can find advice on posting responsibly on social media by reading Igniyte’s Guide to Managing Your Teenager’s Personal Information Online
It is also important to utilise the privacy controls on your social media profiles. You can advice on this subject in this guide. On Instagram, for example, you should set your profile to private. This means that only your approved followers can view all your posts – including those relating to your child. As they grow older, regularly talk to your child about social media. With this strategy, you can ensure they are well informed about what to share publically and what they should leave offline so as to best protect them into the future.