News & Views

Feature Story

Think Before You Post: ‘Sharenting’ Guidelines

March 21, 2017



mom with two children

You just introduced spaghetti and tomato sauce to your toddler, and he’s covered from head to toe. Thinking he looks like an adorable mess, you put it on Facebook.

Your middle-schooler is reluctantly accompanying you to an art museum. Her mood won’t brighten, and you snap a picture of her pouting in front of a Claude Monet painting. “What a fun companion” you tell your Instagram friends.

In under a minute, parents can share funny moments, adventures, or milestones with friends and family near and far. Parents create camaraderie and support by sharing the highs and lows of parenthood in what’s been called “sharenting.” Parents posting about their children online is common: More than 90 percent of American 2 year olds have an online presence.

But it also begs the question — are you potentially compromising your children’s safety as well as embarrassing them or violating their privacy, since as we know, online postings linger for years to come?

“When we post information about or photos of our kids online, we need to carefully consider the consequences by asking who our ‘sharenting‘ serves and how it may negatively affect our kids,” said mom of three teenagers, pediatrician Kate Land of Kaiser Permanente in Vacaville, California.

In this day and age of “sharenting” Dr. Land weighs in on what parents should and should not do online. Adapted from a 2016 legal paper on children’s privacy in social media, these guidelines are helpful to keep in mind before posting online about your children:

Sharenting: 10 things to consider:

  1. Before you post pictures, comments or information about your children, ask yourself who will benefit from the post. Are you posting for their benefit (like to help them bond and communicate with distant relatives)? If not, skip it.
  2. Before you share online, be sure you’d be just as comfortable sharing the same information in public.
  3. Do not post pictures of your school-aged kids without their permission. Asking first shows them respect and models for them the “digital manners” you would expect they will have when online.
  4. Do not discuss your children’s behavioral struggles online.
  5. Do not share information about your child’s location — doing so puts your young one at risk.
  6. Before posting about your children, ask yourself how they might feel in the future about what you are sharing.
  7. Never post pictures of children of any age in any state of undress. Such pictures can be copied and re-posted on sites used by pedophiles.
  8. Do not include their full name and birth date in your social feeds (i.e. with a birth announcement), doing so risks identity theft.
  9. Know the privacy settings on the platforms you use, but also understand that even posts shared with closed groups can reach a wider audience than intended.
  10. Set up an alert on Google for your kids’ names to track where information about them appears.