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"Crying, tantrums and potty time: The photos of our kids we need to stop posting online."

When it comes to parenting, I follow a “not my child, not my business” philosophy.

I understand that a one-size-fits-all approach has never and will never work. Each child, parent, and culture is so different that judging someone for parenting differently is a complete waste of your time and energy. And because of that, I like to keep my mouth shut when I see things that I don’t agree with.

That is, unless it involves posting images on social media. Then I become a dogmatic internet troll.

You see, I’ve spent my entire professional career working as a social media strategist. So when it comes to what parents should and shouldn’t be posting of their children online, I’m annoyingly opinionated.

So annoying, in fact, that I’ve decided it’s time we formalise what is and isn’t appropriate to share of our children online and burn the new law (yes, I’m talking to you ScoMo) into public consciousness.

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Before I attempt to do that, we have to agree on a few basics.

Firstly, consent. When we post photos of our kids to Instagram (the average parent will do so 1000 times before their child turns five), we are laying down the foundation of their digital footprint. And because most of us don’t ask permission before doing so, we’re effectively taking control of their online identity without their consent.

If you refused to circumcise your son or pierce your daughter’s ears because of consent, then you’ll definitely want to add “photos of their naked bodies” to that list.

Secondly, digital creeps. The internet is filled with them. Even if you’re cautious about sharing sensitive information, you’re likely to post photos from school drop-off or other places you frequent with location tags. This makes it much easier for strangers to track your whereabouts.

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And lastly, permanence. It’s easy to forget, but anything and everything you post online can be found by someone who wants it. The moment you hit send, the image basically becomes part of the public domain. Your decisions may not be malicious, but that photo of your naked baby in the bath will definitely live on past your memory of it.

Okay, now onto the list.

If you agree that the above information is true (or even partially true), then it’s time you stop sharing the following images of your children online:

1. Nudity

This may seem obvious, but nudity is a no-no on social. Nearly every platform has strict rules on nudity in their Community Guidelines, so it’s best that you stick to them. That means not showing bottoms (vaginas or penises) for both genders, and tops (breasts) for young girls.

Yes, I know. It’s unfair that we can show our sons topless but not our daughters. But the platforms have decided its best to avoid posting photos that people may inappropriately reuse.

Interestingly enough, I had a photo taken down from Instagram just two days ago. It showed my daughter topless at a waterfall. She is only two, so I didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I think it’s bullshit. But IG’s bots pulled it down instantly. So even if you disagree with this rule as I do, the social platforms won’t take that opinion into consideration before removing the content.

sean-szeps-daughter
This photo was removed immediately. Image: Supplied.

2. Crying/Tantrums

I think we can all agree that showing people at their lowest point online is not just cruel, but it’s unfair. It’s one thing for an adult to snap a photo of themselves in a vulnerable moment to highlight an important issue, but it’s another thing to share that same moment of your child without their permission.

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People are going to make judgements about your children based on how you choose to present them online. You don’t have to care about what people think of you, but that doesn’t mean your child won’t care about that in 20 years.

I’m not saying only share photos of pure positivity, but just ask yourself: if someone uploaded an image of you crying after a breakup without your permission, would you be happy with them?

3. Personal information

Even if you don’t think you’re actively giving information away, the simple act of posting from the hospital on the day of your child’s birth with an announcement that includes their full name makes it easier to fall victim to identity theft. Just to be safe, it’s best to keep your children’s full names, your licence plate number, your home address, and their school name off social media.

4. Group photos (without permission)

For those of us who grew up during the social media boom in the mid-noughties, we’re all quite comfortable posting photos of people without asking them first. It’s just what we do. Sadly, this carries over into parenting and it really shouldn’t. Not everyone has the same philosophy on posting images of kids. So if you take a photo of your child with a few of their friends, it’s best to keep that photo on your phone until you get permission from their parents.

5. Potty time

A bathroom is a private place, so really anything toilet-related should be off-limits.

When in doubt, ask yourself this: would you post this image of your adult friend without asking? Would you be comfortable with a stranger posting this image of you? If the answer is “no” and “hell no”, then simply don’t post it.

If you still can’t decide if the image is appropriate to share, then ask your children. According to Common Sense Media, five-year-olds have begun to develop a sense of self. Privacy will start to become a concern for them as they grow aware of how the world perceives them. They won’t be able to have their own social media accounts, but getting them involved with the decision-making process is an easy way to feel confident in your posting decisions.

Because at the end of that day, that’s what matters. Feeling confident that we’re not just doing what feels right to us, but doing what’s right for our children too.

Do you agree or disagree with Sean’s philosophy? What is your belief system when it comes to sharing images of your children online? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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