kids

We need to stop posting pics of other people’s kids on social media.

Five years ago at my son’s pre-school concert he and his fellow three-years-olds put on a performance. There were maracas shaken and tiny little drums beaten. There were triangles dingled and cowbells, well, jingled.

It was jolly little performance, some of the kids actually sang and a crowd of 40 plus parents stood beaming, watching our talented off-spring, each of us holding a device filming the moment to later upload on Facebook.

And upload we did.

Tagging our friends and neighbours, commenting on the sweet little girl on the front row crying, sharing the pics with grandmas and great aunts, with cousins in far away counties.

40 parents uploading numerous photos shared and tagged numerous times.

In his own little way my son went viral.

Five years ago at my son’s pre-school concert he and his fellow three-years-olds put on a performance. Via IStock.

Back then no one thought twice about whether other parents cared that their child was in the photo of your son.

Back then no one thought about privacy or safety we just uploaded masses and masses of photos expecting our friends to be thrilled to be presented with such a wonderful display.

Gee he's grown up.  How time flies. He looks so much like you.

Since then, and especially in the last year I have noticed a shift in the way we use social media.

We have become more circumspect, more cautious, more aware. At the very same pre-school where my daughter now goes the very same concert takes place yearly, but the parents are more hesitant to upload on Facebook, and the pre-school itself now has a social media policy forbidding the uploading of images of its charges.

Among parents though what I’ve noticed happening is an emerging unspoken social media rule.

Don’t post pictures of other people’s kids on social media.

I have noticed a shift in the way we use social media. Via IStock.

A US study last year found that 63% of mums use Facebook, and of these, 97% said they post pictures of their child and 46% post videos.

However a recent survey last year by the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of Facebook users with children under 18 said that people posting pictures of their children without asking permission first was something they strongly disliked.

In my circle of friends more parents have unwritten family social media policies than don’t.

“I’d be horrified if a school parent posted pictures of my child on Facebook without asking me first,” a mother-of-three tells me.

“No one has the right to invade your privacy like that.”

She tells me that at a recent birthday party her six-year-old attended the party parents included a “permission to publish images” consent form in the RSVP.

Yes, Johnny would love to come to Clown World for rainbow cake and party pies and yes by completing this form I give consent to the use of any digital photos of Johnny sliding down the big dipper or jumping in the ball pit on whatever forms of social media you deem appropriate.

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She didn't sign it.

“While most of them will be fine, some might take issue with it.” Via IStock.

The reasons why parents choose to keep their child off social media are valid. They vary from those concerned about creating a digital footprint, to those concerned about predators and privacy.

Stacey Steinberg, a legal skills professor and associate director of the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida Levin College of Law recently told The New York Times that as these children come of age, they’re going to be seeing the digital footprint left in their childhood’s wake.

“While most of them will be fine, some might take issue with it.”

She said that parents posting pics often “intrude on a child’s digital identity” not because they are malicious, “but because they haven’t considered the potential reach and the longevity of the digital information that they’re sharing.”

“I think it's a tad ridiculous to think that someone should get permission from 20 different families." Via IStock.

Other parents aren’t so concerned though and feel the request not to post pictures of other children over the top and affronting.

“I think it's a tad ridiculous to think that someone should get permission from 20 different families when there's no way those kids will even be identified. If people are that concerned about privacy they probably shouldn't participate in group activities” wrote one poster to a Reddit forum on the topic.

Another: "Obviously some parents do find it a problem but honestly that's their problem. You can't let your kid perform in a school play and expect no one to take pictures and share them.

But the overwhelming majority disagreed echoing this comment: “Out of respect, I do not post identifiable pictures of kids that aren't mine. I realise some people don't like having their kids' pictures posted online so I just try to respect that possibility when I don't know the parents/family. I feel like this is a kind of modern-day social media code of conduct.”

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It's a code of conduct that we all need to get familiar with. A code of conduct in this ever changing world of digital technology that shows respect for other people's beliefs.

A code of conduct that means at this year's pre-school concert we will all still take the photos. We'll just only upload the ones of our own little virtuoso and instead of sharing and tagging we will allow other parents to make their own decisions about public pics of their kids, their way.

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