Take Two®

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The Brood: Should parents post about their kids online?

by Alex Cohen with Monica Bushman | Take Two®

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This January 30, 2014 photo taken in Washington,DC, shows the splash page for the social media internet site Facebook. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

For parents and non-parents alike, the internet can be a great place to share a cute photo, tell a funny story, or just vent.

But when it comes to parents posting about their kids, how much sharing is too much? 

It's an issue that can arise even before a baby is born. Should you post your ultrasound on Facebook? What about sharing something cute your toddler said? Or even making them their own Instagram account?

There's even a term for sharing every little thing your kid does with the world-- it's called "sharenting." And it raises all sorts of concerns about privacy and consent.

Stacey Steinberg, Associate Director for the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Dr. Bahareh Keith, a pediatrician at the University of Florida, have been sorting through some of those issues.

The two presented their research on the risks of sharenting last week at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Steinberg says that when she looked into it, she found very little in the academic literature that discussed balancing a parent's interest in sharing with a child's interest in privacy.

In reviewing the research that is out there, Dr. Bahareh Keith says, they identified some concerning potential risks. One is that photos parents post of their kids online can be taken and posted on child pornography websites. 

These photos can be "just normal daily things that we as parents post because we want Grandma to see it," Dr. Keith says. "But we don't realize that unfortunately it can get shared and reshared and it can get pirated and stolen."

There's also the potential for identity theft, bullies misusing information that a parent has shared, or "digital kidnapping," where someone takes an image of someone else's child and presents it as their own child.

So what should a parent consider when posting about their children online? Steinberg and Keith say there are ways for parents to share information responsibly:

  • Think about how your child might one day feel when they come face-to-face with the information that you've posted about them online. If they're a baby or a toddler, imagine them as a teenager and what they might have to say about what you're about to post.
  • Give older children veto power over photos or information that you post about them online.
  • Look at your privacy settings and make sure you're aware of where that information is going before you press share. 
  • If you do share something publicly, consider setting up an alert system that will let you know if that information is reshared across other media platforms.
  • If you're going to share something about a child's behavioral struggles, do it anonymously.
  • Consider the risks before sharing photos of your children in any state of undress.
  • If you do regret posting something, don't hesitate to take it down. Or if your child asks you to take something down, respect their wishes. 
  • Relax. In most circumstances, kids are going to be perfectly fine with the information their parents put out there. 

Click the blue player to hear the full interview.

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