It might just be a picture of your child saying "cheese" in front of your home, but posting photos of your private property can make privileged information public. Street signs, house numbers, and apartment addresses might seem like harmless background scenery, but once you post that picture, it could get around, making your child vulnerable to identity theft, digital kidnapping, where strangers lift the images and pretend the children are their own, or even actual kidnapping. (Check out the story of a heroic 15-year-old who stopped a kidnapping in its tracks.)
Your kid is holding up a hand-written sign on her birthday that says "I'm 6 today" in adorable letters. No big deal, right? Actually, giving away information such as your child's birth date or place of birth and full name isn't ideal, as those identifiers are used to reference many private accounts. You might think that a well-taken passport photo really capture your kiddo's smile and baby curls, or be so filled with exuberance that your new driver passed the road test that you snap a congratulatory photo of his or her license. Before you post to social, take a step back and think of the information you're giving away.
Any state of undressiStock/Vesna Andjic
Babies splashing around during bath time are definitely adorable, but posting photos of your children in any state of undress—even a teeny bikini—isn't smart. As sad as it is to imagine, these photos could fall into the wrong hands and be accessible to online predators. "Think of your kids as autonomous people who are entitled to protection not only from physical harm but intangible harm as well," says Stacey Steinberg, a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainesville, Florida, and associate director for the Center on Children and Families. Definitely avoid posting photos of other people's kids without their permission—because it's actually illegal in some states (Georgia and New Jersey, as of 2012). Check out the other types of photos you should never, ever post on social media.
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Vulnerability and embarassing momentsiStock/IPGGutenbergUKLtd
Posting a photo of your sick child might garner comments and compassion on social media, but consider how it could affect your child. What you consider a moment to cherish—and post—might be embarrassing to them. The next time your kid's in bed with a runny nose, being brave while getting a shot at the doctor's office, or sitting in a hospital gown, consider this question before you snap: "Would your child want to see this photo of themselves online in the future?" Same goes for "milestones" like using the potty for the first time, getting her period, or having a first kiss. Keep moments that might make your child blush from embarrassment offline and in the family scrapbook.
The "cute" tantrum that your child is throwing—or the bumper your teen ripped off the car last night—might seem sort of comical at the time, but documenting poor behavior could come back to haunt your child down the line. "The first children of social media are only now entering adulthood and the job market," Steinberg says. "While I respect the parents' right to share, it's important to consider the autonomy of the child and allow them to create their own digital footprint."
Social media isn't for child shaming. Whether it's an issue of wetting the bed or trouble learning to read, taking a photo and captioning it in a way that highlights your child's difficulties can be problematic. Exposing their weakness could open the door to teasing and bullying—and introduce labels that could stick. "It's important we invite older children into the conversation of what should or shouldn't be shared," Steinberg says. "We should ask them if something might be embarrassing." (You should know these red flags your child is being bullied.)
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Shaming your child online by posting that report card "F" is not smart. While it's understandable to reach out and ask for help, social media is not the place to do it. Not only will you be crowdsourcing advice—much of which might not be sound and is better reserved for a parent-teacher conference—but it could potentially come back to hurt your child. According to the online recruitment site Career Builder, roughly a fifth of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. More importantly, nearly 59 percent say they would be influenced by a candidate's online presence. Don't start your child off in the red.