By Smarty Guest Blogger Laura N Sinai, MD, Signature Pediatrics
How often have you been part of this conversation, “Awwww, did you see that picture of the adorable preschooler running around naked on the beach?” Or maybe you have been part of this one, “OMG did you see that picture of the 10-year-old who had to stand on a street corner holding a sign of apology?” Even if you haven’t heard of either picture, chances are you’ve seen plenty of other images of children on social media in surprising circumstances. Some are your friends’ kids, and many are pictures of strangers shared thousands or even millions of times. There is even a term coined for posting pictures of your children – Sharenting.
Sharenting is ubiquitous. According to The Wall Street Journal “A parent on average will post almost 1,000 photos of a child online before the child turns 5”. But this is incredibly new. Facebook came online in 2004 and the first iPhone was produced in 2007. Since then there has been an explosion of social media platforms including Snap chat, Twitter, Instagram and more. Our ability to document and share every detail, including photographic evidence, of our lives is entirely without precedent. We are without historical and cultural norms regarding how to manage and respond to social media.
Is there an upside to sharing pictures of your children on social media? Absolutely! It’s a way to connect with family and other parents. It’s a way to show pride and joy in your family. It’s a way to build community. Your picture may lift the spirits of someone in desperate need of a smile. And sometimes it’s a way to find much needed support. Sharing photos in a respectful, positive, community can be a lifeline; a way to spread and receive joy. But there is also a downside to sharing. Every parent should think through the following issues before clicking “post”.
When a picture is posted, you have created a permanent electronic image. Some call it electronic DNA in that it is permanent, linked to one person, and unchangeable. Deleting that picture later may, but equally likely may not, remove it from the internet. Once posted a picture is no longer truly yours. Once shared, either with or without your permission, that picture is “out there” and for better or for worse will follow your child’s electronic presence forever. A picture deemed adorable by parents could easily be found highly embarrassing to and fodder for teasing the child later. Worse, that adorable picture may represent illegal activity (e.g. underage drinking) requiring the child to explain and re-explain the situation for years to come. Posts may become the equivalent of branding, requiring your child to live up to the impossibly fabulous appearance of his/her life that has been created for all to see. Finally, seemingly innocent pictures can digitally kidnapped for nefarious purposes. An Australian study revealed that up to 50% of pictures on some child pornography sites were obtained this way. And while we as adults can take these risks for ourselves, we should ask ourselves – is it fair to take that risk for my child?
So how do we post in a way that is respectful to our children, while achieving the fun and positive outcomes listed above ? Here are some rules that may help you achieve that goal.
1. If your child is over 4 (and maybe even younger) ask if them to approve before posting each picture.
2. Confirm the privacy settings on your social media. Regularly. Limit those that can view your pictures. Select options that limit reposting and copying if available. You can even choose to post pictures only on restricted sites such as “kidslink”. You cannot completely eliminate wider sharing, but careful choices can limit the likelihood of that happening.
3. Think long and hard before posting any of these, or to be on the safe side simply don’t post pictures that fall into the following categories:
1) Nudity outside of infancy. Aside from the high likelihood of later embarrassment to the child, nude pictures can and do fall into the hands of child pornographers.
2) Group pictures of children. Confirm with the other families that they are agreeable to having their children posted on your account. Parents may react very differently to this request and you want to post with sensitivity.
3) Embarrassing moments. If the child was embarrassed at the time, I promise they will be embarrassed later too. We all deserve the opportunity to forget and move beyond our less than shining moments.
4) Shaming photos. While they may seem funny and even staged at the time, it can be trust destroying. No one deserves to be shamed for eternity. This rule includes even simple things like sharing bad grades.
5) Unsafe activities. While it could be a moment of hilarious “insanity” that ended safely, the context is missing from a photo. It opens you and your child up to enormous criticism and possibly bigger problems. For example, a picture of your child on your lap while you drive the car in the driveway can be mistaken for parental neglect with real legal consequences.
Awareness and thoughtfulness can keep your “sharenting” fun and safe. By being sensitive and sensible, while thinking through the consequences of pictures before you post, you can joyfully share your children with friends and family.
Why Concierge Pediatrics?
Concierge pediatrics is a better approach to health care because the focus is on the patient. Our goal is to allow you to meet with your pediatrician in a pleasant, relaxed and unhurried environment. This provides plenty of time to ask all of your questions and discuss your child’s specific needs. We want you to feel like family so we treat you like family.
With Signature Pediatrics you will always be able to bring in a sick child to be seen on the same day and can schedule most other appointments on the same day or within 24 hours. Wait times have been greatly reduced or eliminated and you will experience little or no time in the waiting room. Even more importantly, once you’re with the doctor, there’s no rush. We will take the time to truly understand your child’s unique needs and offer the most thorough care and follow-up possible.
Please contact us today and learn how Signature Pediatrics can mean the difference between your child living and living well.
6115 Park South Dr. • Suite 105
Charlotte, NC 28210