Are parents oversharing on social media?

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are full of parents’ posts of their children’s lives. Maybe too full...

Children may have very different views of what images of them are appropriate to share | Image: ING ImagesChildren may have very different views of what images of them are appropriate to share | Image: ING Images

Do you ever think back to your childhood and recall the things you said, did, wore and thought? And wonder how anyone, ever, took you for anything more than a fool?

For example, I can remember wearing our family dog’s collar to try to be a punk. None of the rest of the outfit, mind. Those were just my normal, everyday clothes. But, surely, slip on a dog collar and everyone would know what an alienated, disaffected youth I was?! Right…

I saw the photographic evidence a couple of months ago in a family album. It’s absurd and I can laugh about it now… No, I won’t be sharing that photo with you.

But what if everyone back then had been able to leaf through that family album, find that photo, point and laugh? That’s the situation many of our children find themselves in today.

Two out of three British children say their parents regularly post photos of them on social media. This has led to accusations of “sharenting” – when parents share too many photos and stories about their children online.

We do it because we think our kids are “funny”, “kooky” or “cute”. But how often do we ask the subjects if they are happy?

Because it turns out, that according to CBBC’s Newsround, at least 25% of 10-12 year olds really don't like it when parents post pictures of them. What we think is a really small, silly thing, can be of enormous significance to a child and very upsetting.

Would we take the same cavalier attitude to a photo of one our adult friends? Or if, heavens forbid, someone posts a photo of us that we don’t like?

Also, while we may feel pretty secure in our own personal security settings on social media, can we be sure our connections have similar robust settings? Images can spread pretty quickly. Which would be particularly annoying if it was something your mum put up there without your permission - and research shows mothers do tend to post more photos than fathers.

That’s why some lawyers think we ought to think very carefully before we upload that photo of our little one’s first time on a potty. Because what we like now, may not be what our children like later. Leanne Targett-Parker of the UK's Human Rights Association reckons it won’t be long before a British child launches a legal case to stop their parents over-sharing.

Does that sound ridiculous? It's already happened in Austria where an 18-year-old girl is suing her parents for posting embarrassing photos on Facebook of when she was a child.

Childhood is a time when we try things out, to see if we like them - clothes, haircuts, attitudes and so on. It’s a vital part of growing up.

I think of it as a child trying on different hats and seeing if they like the way it fits. Sometimes it feels just right, other times it’s a mistake. Like me and our dog’s collar.

We have to let children make mistakes without fear of the internet erupting into gales of laughter.

Family photos and the internet – this is one time when sharing and caring are very different things.

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Guest Tuesday, 23 May 2017