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Are You Violating Your Kids' Privacy Online?

It always starts with a cute picture here, a cute anecdote there, but when does what you share about your kids online cross the line into violating their privacy?

Once upon a time, a kid only had to worry about the occasional faded picture emerging from their parents’ wallets, or sitting through the umpteenth re-telling of an embarrassing family story.

These days, those photos and stories can go viral in seconds.

The Internet, blogging, and the social networks have forever changed how we tell the world about our kids. Parents have always loved to tell stories and share cute photos of their kids, but rarely has their ability to do so been so lightening fast, far reaching, and long lasting as they are today. 

Now many kids have entire timelines of their lives—first steps and missteps alike—complete with community commentary, often from their moment of birth.

Some people are increasingly concerned about that. I’m beginning to think I’m one of them. 

It is entirely up to us as individuals how much we share about ourselves. But, how much of your child’s life should you share? Do you have a right to share their lives in such a public manner before they themselves are capable of having a say about it?

Personally, this issue has been an evolving one for me.

I largely let the mommy blogger wave pass me by because I wasn’t comfortable sharing the daily lives of my family with virtual strangers, whether they lived down the street or across the planet.

Facebook, though, has been more problematic for me. With very few exceptions, my Facebook community is made up of people I directly know or interact with “in real life,” and so I have found myself to be more open overall about sharing things about my kids.

But lately, even that hasn’t felt quite right.

Worries about the ever shifting (and frankly, shifty) sands of the Facebook privacy settings, coupled with mindfulness of my son’s transition into his school years has made me more reticent to share. I’ve gotten more specific and cautious about how much, and with whom I share my sons' lives.

I’m still sharing about them, and keeping the modern virtual equivalent of the scrapbook. But more and more before I press “post,” I’m also putting myself in their future shoes to ask:

  1. Would I want my mom to tell people about this?
  2. Would I want my child's future boss/spouse/friends/children to know this?
  3. Is this about my kid, or is it really about me?

I also apply this standard to posts involving other people’s children. I now make it a habit to ask other parents about their preferences, and for their permission to post things involving their kids, especially photos.

How about you? Are you concerned about over-sharing about your kids? Do you have guidelines for what you post about your kids or others?

Jackie Care July 13, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Good point!
paul hoffman July 13, 2012 at 04:53 PM
This advice goes not just for minors, but for Adult Children too! I have 3 kids in their 30s, with ranges from constantly posting to never posting...and as much variety in how much each wants to allow me to post about them. (Never, in the case of one.) I try to honor those requests, sometimes I fail.
Kirsten Branch July 13, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Excellent point, Paul! Good to have those conversations.
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